"Honest" Soap Scandal Deepens: A Chemist Speaks

Personal care products manufacturer Honest Co. has recently been exposed as dishonestly labelling their products, as reported in The Wall Street Journal (paywall) (archived). Qntra's chemistry correspondent is here to set the deception straight.

The honest company had labelled its laundry soap as "SLS free", preying on the misguided belief of some consumers that SLS, or sodium lauryl sulfate, is a hazardous chemical. However, when the product was measured by two independent labs, a significant amount of SLS was found in the product.

The underlying confusion seems to be a lack of chemical understanding by the business people at Honest Co.: they use a product, sodium coco sulfate, which is a mixture containing roughly 50% SLS, and they did not understand the nature of the product they used.

The general counsel of Honest Co., Amber Enriquez, even went so far as to show a fundamental misunderstanding of the science behind these measurements:

"Conducting testing to break up molecular chains to show that one substance 'contains' another creates an inaccurate representation of the science."

Analytical chemist Peter Lambert of Impact Analytical, one of the scientists who conducted the measurements, responded by saying "These measurements were done using liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry. The measurements were made of the whole lauryl sulfate ion, it was taken from a mixture, not broken out of a larger molecular chain."

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