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Honest Shampoo and Body Wash Review

Honest Shampoo & Body Wash ReviewThis 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






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 Nmethyltaurine.



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



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.



Lauryl Glucoside



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.



Caprylhydroxamic Acid



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).



Caprylyl Glycol



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.



Sodium Benzoate



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.



Sodium Phytate



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).


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40 thoughts on “Honest Shampoo and Body Wash Review”

  1. Oleic acid is a fatty acid, also known as Omega 9. Not harmful at all, it is found in oils like olive oil. If you have ever gotten oil in your eyes, you know it is definitely an eye irritant! I cant imagine why it would be considered an environmental toxin, though….

  2. I started using this about a week or so ago and I really love this product, however, I have started to develop itchiness all over my body and even rash like redness where I have not been itching and I am not sure if it is from this product or not. I have not changed anything else like my laundry detergent or anything so I am sadly going to have to stop using this product to see if my itchiness/rash subsides..Any suggestions? I was using Dove unscented body wash for years up until this product, should I just go back to that?

    1. Hi Jes, how do you feel about bar soap? In my research, I found that they are the best for your health and for the environment. The ones I use and recommend are made with organic plant oil – so good for your skin! Check out my list here. Let me know what you think.

  3. We recently switched to this shampoo/body wash for our two year old. She has been dealing with a irritating rash for the past week and a half and I think I finally realized it could be this soap. I feel terrible for using a product that has made her so uncomfortable. Do you have any recommendations for baby wash?

    1. Hi, Amanda! I would switch to true castile bar soap by Valenti Organics. How do you feel about using bar soap instead of liquid wash? This is what I have been using for my son and never had to use any moisturizer. You can read about the soap here as well as about other options. I hope your daughter will feel better soon! ~Irina

      1. Thank you so much for your quick response! I’m totally up to trying bar soap for her body wash, but what about shampoo? Do you use it as shampoo as well for your son?

  4. I really enjoy reading your blog and have gotten quite a few products thanks to your research.
    Currently I use baking soda to wash my hair and although it doesn’t suds the way shampoo does it seems to leave my hair clean. Have you ever tried this method? I still use shampoo once in a blue moon but the baking soda just seems to work.
    Would love your input

    1. Hi Batya, yes – I have tried this method and I really wanted it to work. Unfortunately, baking soda has high pH, which means that it is drying for the hair. After a month of use, my hair got dry and brittle. How long have you been using it?

      1. I did it for about 6 months and my hair started to fall out. I am not sure if it was my thyroid or the baking soda but my hair got dry at the ends as well. The fullness has now returned yet but the falling out has stopped.
        I am now using herbaliz shampoo.
        I will see how it goes.

  5. Have you ever analyzed the ingredients in the Whole Foods brand shampoo, 365? I love the big jugs that it comes in. Thank you for analyzing and recommending John Masters. It’s easy to find. I’m switching to that based on your recommendation.

  6. I’ve been doing it for about 6 months. I only wash my hair once a week or twice maximum if it’s hot out or if I workout hard. I haven’t found it to be drying even though I have dey skin to begin with. I use trader joes tea tree hair shampoo once in a while. Seems to work ok.

  7. Hi dear
    What is you opinion on the honest co multipurpose cleaner? How many bad ingredients? It works well thouhg on everything

    1. Hi Mehnaz, I like that there is glucoside cleanser and that there are no artificial fragrances in it. My concern is that there are two ingredients that are concerning to me: PPG-4 Laureth/Myreth-5 and Methylisothiazolinone. PPG-4 Laureth/Myreth-5 is a cleanser initially derived from coconut oil, somewhere in a chain of chemical reactions carcinogenic ethylene oxide is added, which means that if the company does not use vacuum process the by-product of this reaction – carcinogenic 1,4-dioxane – may remain in the product. The other concerning Methylisothiazolinone is banned in the European Union from the use in cosmetics. What’s interesting to me that the EPA says that the only uses of methylisothiazolinone that come in contact with food they tolerate and regulate are paper, paper products, and adhesives. So I would not use the Honest company multi-purpose cleaner on the surfaces that come in contact in food. Most cleaning products have some concerns about them. I recommend using homemade cleaners if possible. And use commercial cleaners only if you have to. Here is a post where you can find some of my recipes.

  8. Thank you for the in depth review! Even for someone like me who has researched body product ingredients a lot, I always learn something new from your reviews. I agree with your recommendation that we should not use adult products for babies and children. Their skin is more sensitive and we should try to limit exposure to toxins as much as possible. I am very careful about the products we use on our toddler. We stick with natural soap for our son’s hair and body. He is clean and his hair looks great!

    One thought that came to mind when reading your assessment of the ingredients is the “processing” method for extractives. The process to come up with the extractives or derivations of plants/herbs/etc. could include toxic chemicals that might be left over in the final product. Do you have any insight on how the extracts above are manufactured?

    1. Nice to hear from you, Katie! You are absolutely right about the fact some extractions are done with solvents and thus their trace amounts may remain in the products. I wish I had more information about that. Unfortunately, my communication with Honest co. is limited. For that reason I prefer to buy from smaller business where I can get in touch with people who make products directly.

      1. Thanks Irina! I always make a note about the extractions with solvents in my reviews of beauty products, so I thought I would mentioned it.

        I prefer to buy from smaller businesses also! 🙂

  9. Thank you for this insightful post. I’ve ised the Honest Company shampoo/body wash on my one year old daughter since she was born. I recently bought a new bottle and she has developed an irritating rash since using it. I will be purchasing the Valenti True Castille bar soap for her, but am wondering if you have any recommendations for a safe shampoo to use on her? Thanks so much!

  10. Hi Irina

    Thanks for your helpful reviews. Do you have a list of products you recommend for use during pregnancy? I need shampoo,conditioner, body wash and moisturiser and face wash and face moisturiser. Thank you

  11. Thank you for such a wonderful article dear and from my side I want to say that i am using multivitamin shampoo for my hair Because this antioxident rich shampoo helps to perfect and renew vibrancy to dull, lackluster hair. When used in our 10-IN-1 RENEWAL SYSTEM it provides Sulfate-free cleansing, anti-aging benefits, color protection, hydration, nourishment, rejuvenation, anti-stress, manageability and softness without build up.

  12. I recently bought the Honest sweet orange and vanilla and used it on my 4 month old. The first day we used it to bath him we noticed that his eyes got irritated but didn’t pay to much mind to it considering that it says tear free on the bottle. By the third day one of his eyes got red and really irritated. I stopped using it on him and the irritation in his eyes cleared up. I wanted to give the wash the benefit of a doubt and used it on my special needs kid who is 12 and the same exact thing happened to him too. I’ve since stopped using the product and have gone back to using Aveno.

  13. I have been researching for days for a good shampoo. I came across Honest shampoo. But you left out one ingredient in your post, Honest uses sodium chloride (table salt) which is a thickener but also causes dryness and hair loss. I have had little luck finding one shampoo and conditioner which doesn’t have at least one bad ingredient. Honest was close but the table salt added makes it not good either (at least makes me skeptical of buying it).

  14. Vanessa Leigh Perry

    Thank you for helping to make the tricky task of buying safe products easier for families!

    I recently joined with Beautycounter, a company dedicated to getting safe, clean products in the hands of everyone. They have strong values with what they will not include in their products, and have banned more than 1500 harmful chemicals from use in their products!

    I’d love to know what you think about their products and their mission to change the unregulated beauty industry! Check out the products and mission.


  15. Thanks for the article and thank readers responses. I’m having a 2nd round of “eczema” flaring up right now. I have the unbearable itchy rashes on my face and arms and upper body. I use Honest Face and Body wash. I’ve never doubted about the product and thought it was save until now. I thought it might be the fabric softener. I thought about food too. I’ll stop using it right away and see. I went the dermatologist and allergist when I first had this without much help. It went on for months. I might be allergic to a combination of things. It’s hard to tell.

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