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Last updated on March 29th, 2019
This is a review of the ingredients of the Honest Shampoo and Body Wash, called Purely Simple Fragrance Free.
I can tell you right away that Honest Shampoo and Wash is safer than a lot of shampoos. You can read my review of Head & Shoulders’ shampoo ingredients for a comparison.
So if you recently switched from a shampoo scented with artificial fragrance, colored with petroleum dyes, and containing carcinogenic ingredients to Honest Shampoo and Body Wash, give yourself a pat on the back.
However, I do not recommend using the Honest Shampoo and Body Wash as a body wash, especially on the babies. Read on to find out why.
Let’s go over some ingredients of the Honest Shampoo and Body Wash called Purely Simple Fragrance Free so you can see for yourself what I am talking about.
Honest Shampoo and Body Wash Ingredients
PURELY SIMPLE – FRAGRANCE FREE
Water (Aqua/Eau), Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Juice*, Sodium Laurylglucosides Hydroxypropylsulfonate, Cocamidopropyl Hydroxysultaine, Sodium Methyl Cocoyl Taurate, Sodium Chloride, Sodium Lauryl Glucose Carboxylate, Calendula Officinalis Flower Extract*, Chamomilla Recutita (Matricaria) Flower Extract*, Anthemis Nobilis (Roman Chamomile) Flower Oil, Glycerin, Hydrolyzed Jojoba Protein, Chenopodium Quinoa Extract, Cocos Nucifera (Coconut) Oil*, Guar Hydroxypropyltrimonium Chloride, Lauryl Glucoside, Caprylyl Glycol, Coconut Acid, Disodium Coco-Glucoside Citrate, Sodium Citrate, Caprylhydroxamic Acid, Citric Acid, Sodium Benzoate, Sodium Phytate
I accessed these ingredients in January of 2019. If you are reading this much later, click on the link and make sure that the ingredients are still the same.
In the spirit of saving you time, we will go over three building blocks of a typical shampoo: surfactants, conditioners, and preservatives. These are the groups of ingredients that normally have some concerns.
Surfactants (aka foaming/cleansing agents) in Honest Shampoo and Body Wash
Every shampoo, with very few exceptions, lathers. The ingredients that produce lather are called surfactants. They are normally listed at the beginning of the ingredient list.
Some surfactants have health concerns. Others have not been sufficiently studied for safety or studied at all. That’s why in an ideal world it is better to use all-natural shampoo bars.
114 shampoos are rated and described so you can choose a shampoo that you truly want !
Sodium Laurylglucosides Hydroxypropylsulfonate
The first surfactant is rated 1 (on a scale from 1 to 10, with 10 being the most toxic) in the Skin Deep Database powered by the Environmental Working Group, but it has no safety data – in other words, there simply isn’t data out there to assess how safe the ingredient may be. Under these circumstances, the EWG assumes that the ingredient is safe, something I do not do. In other words, if you use the Skin Deep database, pay attention to data availability.
I also always check whether the Cosmetic Ingredient Review Expert Panel issued a report on the ingredient I am researching and whether there are independent studies that have not been mentioned in the report. Yes, I do lots of research to determine a product’s safety. The reason I can do that is that it is my full-time occupation. Please subscribe to my weekly emails to make your life easier.
Now back to sodium laurylglucosides hydroxypropylsulfonate. The Cosmetic Ingredient Review Expert Panel has not reviewed it, and I have not found any independent scientific studies on it, no information at all.
It looks to me that one of the components of sodium laurylglucosides hydroxypropylsulfonate is glucoside. You can read more about glucoside surfactant a bit later in the discussion about surfactants used in the Honest Shampoo and Body Wash.
Sodium Methyl Cocoyl Taurate in Honest Shampoo and Body Wash
It is the sodium salt of the coconut fatty acid amide of N–methyltaurine.
This is another surfactant that has not had any data for a long time. And the Skin Deep database has not been updated to reflect that now there is some safety data. In 2015, the Cosmetic Ingredient Review Expert Panel issued a report on its safety. Here are the main points of the report:
- It has been found to be genotoxic.
- It has not been assessed for carcinogenicity.
- At 20% concentration, it is predicted to be a severe eye irritant. (I do not have information as to how much is used in the honest shampoo but my guess is that it is less than 20%.)
- A human patch test of sodium methyl cocoyl taurate (40% in distilled water) on 11 subjects showed no reaction in 9 of the subjects.
- Sodium methyl cocoyl taurate may enhance the penetration of other ingredients through the skin. The Expert Panel cautioned that care should be taken when formulating cosmetic products that contain sodium methyl cocoyl taurate in combination with ingredients whose safety was based on their lack of dermal absorption, or when dermal absorption is a concern.
Other than this CIR report, I have not found any other information on it. All in all, I believe that it is one of the safer surfactants.
Cocamidopropyl hydroxysultaine is rated 1 with limited data on the Skin Deep database. However, I do not agree with their rating. Cocamidopropyl hydroxysultaine is related to cocamidopropyl betaine that was named the allergen of the year in 2004 by the American Contact Dermatitis society. Like cocamidopropyl betaine, cocamidopropyl hydroxysultaine has a sensitization potential mainly due to the impurity shared by both. The impurity is called DMAPA. To read more about it, head over here.
Sodium Lauryl Glucose Carboxylate
This is another surfactant with no data at all, and is not even listed in the Skin Deep Database. Moreover, the CIR Panel has not reviewed it. I have not found any independent studies either.
This is a glucoside family surfactant. The glucoside is mild and only slightly irritating to the eyes.
In 2013, the Cosmetic Ingredient Expert (CIR) Expert Panel concluded that lauryl glucoside is not sensitizing. But the CIR Expert Panel indicates that there is a low potential for dermal irritation, and products should be formulated to reduce risks of irritation.
There are recent reports of allergic contact dermatitis cases caused by lauryl glucoside and/or other glucoside surfactants.
Belgian dermatologists reported that 30 people out of 11,842 (0.25%) tested had allergic contact dermatitis to one or more glucosides. They concluded that allergic contact dermatitis caused by glucosides in cosmetics does occur.
Also, US dermatologists at the Columbia University Medical Center reported in 2017 that out of 897 patients, 48 patients (5%) had reactions to decyl glucoside and/or lauryl glucoside.
Thus, lauryl glucoside is not as harmless as previously thought. However, considering the alternatives, I believe that it is still one of the safest surfactants.
Disodium Coco-Glucoside Citrate
This is another surfactant that has no safety data. It is a disodium salt of the ester of citric acid and coco-glucoside. Since its components have data, we can assume that it is okay. According to the Cosmetic Ingredient Review Panel, like lauryl glucoside discussed above, coco-glucoside is safe when the product in which it is used is formulated to be non-irritating.
Conditioners in Honest Shampoo and Body Wash
Here we will skip botanical conditioners and talk about synthetic conditioners since they are the ones that may have health concerns.
Most shampoos have synthetic conditioners that enhance the beauty of our hair. The immediate results are achieved by coating the hair. As with surfactants, normally these coating agents have little or no safety data about them.
Guar Hydroxypropyltrimonium Chloride
Initially, it is derived from beans. But there is a synthetic part to it. 3 chloro 2 hydroxypropyl trimethyl ammonium chloride is added to convert bean-derived guar into guar hydroxypropyltrimonium chloride.
In 2015, the Cosmetic Ingredient Review Expert Panel reviewed data pertaining to guar hydroxypropyltrimonium chloride and its relatives called galactomannans.
It was determined that guar hydroxypropyltrimonium chloride was not genotoxic. While there is no data on the risks of cancer, birth defects, allergic reactions, and endocrine disruption per se, the Panel determined that the data on its relatives is enough to assume that guar hydroxypropyltrimonium chloride is safe, too.
In short, guar hydroxypropyltrimonium chloride does not have enough health data to determine its safety. The good news is that its molecules are too big to penetrate the skin.
From my study of numerous shampoos, I can say that guar hydroxypropyltrimonium chloride is a very common ingredient included in the safest shampoos. Despite its common use, I have not found any reported cases of allergic reactions in the medical literature. The American Society of Contact Dermatitis does not list it as an allergen. And that’s good news.
In conclusion, I believe it is okay to use guar hydroxypropyltrimonium chloride. It imparts a “slippery” feeling to the hair so you can comb your hair more easily and spread your conditioner better all over your hair. It also helps control frizz and has an antistatic function.
114 shampoos are rated and described so you can choose a shampoo that you truly want !
In other words, it is okay to use the Honest Shampoo and Body Wash as a shampoo but I would warn against its use as a body wash, especially for babies. Plus, as we discussed above, there are surfactants that either lack data or may cause irritation.
Preservatives in Honest Shampoo and Body Wash
All liquid shampoos have to have preservatives because they are mostly water – a breeding ground for mold and bacteria. We can usually see if a product is moldy. Unfortunately, bacteria are not visible to the human eye.
The Honest Company uses four preservatives that together protect the product from growing mold and bacteria.
This is an amino acid derived from coconut oil. (Amino acids are organic compounds that are essential building blocks of life.) The CIR Panel has not rated it for safety yet.
While it sounds innocent, apparently it is possible to have an allergic reaction to it. In 2016, Finnish dermatologists determined that caprylhydroxamic acid is a new contact allergen that caused a widespread allergic reaction to a lotion containing it (source).
It is rated 1 with limited data in the Skin Deep database. In 2012, the CIR Panel reviewed the safety data and determined that it is not genotoxic, and does not have irritation or sensitization potential, even in high concentrations.
This report prepared for the Environmental Defense Fund passes caprylyl glycol on all criteria as a safer chemical.
The other preservative, sodium benzoate, is rated 3 in the Skin Deep database. It is a very common preservative in baby wipes and in so-called “green”, “natural”, and “organic” skincare products.
It may cause an allergic reaction in some people if used in concentrations over 5% (source). I do not have information how much is used in the Honest Shampoo and Body Wash. Considering the alternatives, in my opinion, sodium benzoate is one of the safer preservatives. You can learn more about how to avoid the worst preservatives and other ingredients and gain a superpower to know in a few seconds if a product is harmful here.
In the 2018, the CIR Panel issued a report and determined that it has no sensitization potential. The report concluded that even in concentrations as high as 50%, it was non-irritating, and was not genotoxic.
Conclusion About Honest Shampoo and Body Wash
As you can see, Honest Shampoo and Body Wash has no obvious red flags. I believe it is one of the safest shampoos. However, Honest Shampoo and Body Wash has some concerns – concerns most clean shampoos have – ingredients that lack safety data and that can cause irritation or an allergic reaction. Check out what position it takes among other 112 brands on my Shampoo and Conditioner Rating Lists.
Thus, as a shampoo for adults and kids who have long hair and actually need chemicals for their hair to look good, I believe it is a good option. However, I do not recommend using the Honest Shampoo and Body Wash as a body wash, especially for babies.
As a body wash, I believe the safest product is a natural bar soap (see my post here).
Your Superpower To Read Ingredients
Imagine looking at the ingredients of any shampoo, conditioner, lotion, or cream and in a matter of seconds being able to decide if it is safe to use!
With this easy unprecendented method, you will be able to spot potentially harmful personal care or skincare products that may cause irritation, an allergic reaction, or increase the risk of endocrine disruption or cancer.