Filed under: What’s Inside
What is Bisphenol-A (BPA)?

What is BPA?

This is part of our ongoing series helping consumers better understand chemicals, chemistry, and product formulations. We translate the science, bust the myths, and give you an honest assessment, so you can make informed choices for your family!

Ingredient: Bisphenol-A (BPA)

What it is: BPA is a carbon-based synthetic compound belonging to the group of diphenylmethane derivatives and bisphenols. It’s been in commercial use since the 1940s to make rigid polycarbonate and epoxy resins. It is still one of the highest volume industrial chemicals produced, with approximately 6 billion pounds manufactured annually. It was one of the 62,000 chemicals presumed safe and “grandfathered in” when Congress passed the Toxic Substances Control Act in 1976.

What it does: BPA is most commonly used as an epoxy resin and to harden plastics. And it’s found in a stunning array of products: medical devices, dental sealants, water bottles, the lining of canned foods and drinks, cash register receipts (!!), and many others. With this kind of environmental prevalence it should come as no surprise that almost everyone has some amount of BPA in them. Detectable levels of BPA were found in 93% of 2517 urine samples from people six years and older.

Why we’re featuring it today: BPA is included in our Honestly Free Guarantee and despite its recent reappearance in headlines claiming maybe it’s safe after all, we believe the evidence against BPA far outweighs the small handful of studies (many industry funded) demonstrating “safety.”

A long and complicated history, it’s easy to get lost in the overwhelming amount of studies that have been conducted on BPA. First synthesized in 1891, BPA did not set off a wave of controversy until the late 1990s, when an animal study linked low-dose BPA exposure (the amount the National Toxicology Program deemed safe in the 1980s) with reproductive damage. This was followed by an Food & Drug Administration (FDA) study showing BPA contamination in samples of canned infant formula and Consumer Reports reporting BPA leaching from baby bottles when heated.

A wave of studies then ensued that confirmed reproductive damage along with early puberty, behavioral and brain defects from a low-dose of BPA. Then in 2003, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) hired an industry contractor to lead an evaluation on the safety of BPA. While eventually the contractor was fired for ties to the chemical industry, it was not before a preliminary report was released stating that BPA was “safe.”

NIH then funded a panel in 2007, known as the Chapel Hill panel, who reviewed all the literature on BPA and concluded that our current levels of exposure posed risks to human health. Following this, the National Toxicology Program (NTP) released its own report linking BPA to early puberty, breast cancer, prostate effects and behavioral problems. The NTP also highlighted that pregnancy and early life are especially sensitive periods due to higher exposure and limited ability to metabolize the chemical.

It was then revealed in 2008 that one of the FDA’s Science board members accepted a $5 million donation from a retired medical device manufacturer with links to BPA manufacturing. While the FDA has issued updates on its stance, including amending food regulations to require no BPA in baby bottles or sippy cups in 2012,  it still believes that BPA is safe at very low levels. Meanwhile, the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) and the NTP teamed up to assess the growing body of research and they believe there is cause for concern.

While everyone hashes out the toxicological details, we’re erring on the side of caution and are committed to avoiding it.

Want your home to be Honestly Free of BPA? Here are the most important steps you can take:

  • Avoid canned foods and beverages. This is the number one exposure source for most people, so by taking this one simple step, you go a long way towards protecting your family’s health.

  • Avoid polycarbonate plastic, especially for food and beverages. Avoid plastics labelled with the number 7 in the chasing arrows symbol and the letters PC. (Not all #7 plastics are polycarbonate, so ask the manufacturer if you’re unsure.) When possible, opt for glass, porcelain or stainless steel containers, particularly for hot food or liquids.

Have any questions about BPA? Let us know in the comments. We’re always happy to help!

Learn more:

Works Cited

“Federal Register, Volume 77 Issue 137 (Tuesday, July 17, 2012).” Federal Register, Volume 77 Issue 137 (Tuesday, July 17, 2012). Web. 09 Apr. 2014. <>.

Palanza, Paola, Laura Gioiosa, Frederick S. Vom Saal, and Stefano Parmigiani. “Effects of Developmental Exposure to Bisphenol A on Brain and Behavior in Mice.” Environmental Research 108.2 (2008): 150-57. Print.

Palanza, Paola, Kembra L. Howdeshell, Stefano Parmigiani, and Frederick S. Vom Saal. “Exposure to a Low Dose of Bisphenol A during Fetal Life or in Adulthood Alters Maternal Behavior in Mice.” Environmental Health Perspectives 110.S3 (2002): 415-22. Print.

Saal, Frederick S. Vom, Benson T. Akingbemi, Scott M. Belcher, Linda S. Birnbaum, D. Andrew Crain, Marcus Eriksen, Francesca Farabollini, Louis J. Guillette, Russ Hauser, Jerrold J. Heindel, Shuk-Mei Ho, Patricia A. Hunt, Taisen Iguchi, Susan Jobling, Jun Kanno, Ruth A. Keri, Karen E. Knudsen, Hans Laufer, Gerald A. Leblanc, Michele Marcus, John A. Mclachlan, John Peterson Myers, Angel Nadal, Retha R. Newbold, Nicolas Olea, Gail S. Prins, Catherine A. Richter, Beverly S. Rubin, Carlos Sonnenschein, Ana M. Soto, Chris E. Talsness, John G. Vandenbergh, Laura N. Vandenberg, Debby R. Walser-Kuntz, Cheryl S. Watson, Wade V. Welshons, Yelena Wetherill, and R. Thomas Zoeller. “Chapel Hill Bisphenol A Expert Panel Consensus Statement: Integration of Mechanisms, Effects in Animals and Potential to Impact Human Health at Current Levels of Exposure.” Reproductive Toxicology 24.2 (2007): 131-38. Print.

Saal, Frederick S. Vom, Susan C. Nagel, Benjamin L. Coe, Brittany M. Angle, and Julia A. Taylor. “The Estrogenic Endocrine Disrupting Chemical Bisphenol A (BPA) and Obesity.” Molecular and Cellular Endocrinology 354.1-2 (2012): 74-84. Print.

What is Helianthus Annuus (Sunflower Seed) Oil?

What is Helianthus Annuus - Sunflower Seed - Oil

This is part of our ongoing series helping consumers better understand chemicals, chemistry, and product formulations. We translate the science, bust the myths, and give you an honest assessment, so you can make informed choices for your family!

Ingredient: Sunflower Seed Oil

Botanical name: Helianthus annuus

  • Helianthus = Helianthus comes from the Greek helios anthos, meaning “sun flower.”

  • annuus = The species name annuus means “annual.”

What it is: Sunflower seed oil comes from (drumroll please…) sunflower seeds! The sunflower oil we use is extracted using a cold press expeller method, which is essentially squeezing raw materials (e.g., sunflower seeds) under high pressure until all the oily goodness is squished out.

What it does: Sunflowers are like sunshine for the soul and have a long history, beginning as a common crop among Native American tribes. Full of edible and medicinal benefits, sunflower seed oil has only grown in popularity and has many uses from creating cosmetics to cooking dinner. It’s external body benefits include the following:

  • Essentially odorless, when the oil is made into butters, balms, salves, or kept as an oil and applied directly to the skin, it helps in preventing your skin from drying out, retaining moisture and softness.

  • Sunflower oil has a high concentration of Vitamin E, which is an antioxidant that may help protect the skin from sun damage.

  • In addition, sunflower oil provides protection against nosocomial infections in preterm, very low birthweight infants.

Why we use it: In addition to the skin care benefits mentioned above, sunflower oil is also an amazing carrier for essential oils. This wonder oil is extremely versatile and, as far as natural resources go, sunflowers are a great choice because they’re drought tolerant, tough, and easy to grow.

Why we’re featuring it today: We’ve had customers ask about whether sunflower oil is safe to use on children (and adults) with related food allergies. While only eight foods (milk, egg, peanut, tree nuts, fish, shellfish, wheat, and soy) account for approximately 90 percent of all food-allergic reactions, a person can be allergic to almost anything. Seed allergies are uncommon and there is little research documenting the prevalence of a sunflower seed allergy, but they do exist. As with any new skin care product, always do a patch test on the skin first and consider discussing specific products with your family physician.

Please let us know if you have any other questions or comments — we love hearing from our community!


Albert A. Schneiter, ed. “Sunflower Technology and Production.” The American Society of Agronomy 1997: 1-19. Print.

Nachbar F and Korting HC. “The role of vitamin E in normal and damaged skin.” Journal of Molecular Medicine Jan 1995: 7-17. Print.

Danby SG, AlEnezi T, Sultan A, Lavender T, Chittock J, Brown K, Cork MJ. “Effect of olive and sunflower seed oil on the adult skin barrier: implications for neonatal skin care.” Pediatric Dermatology Jan 2013: 42-50. Print.

What is Triethyl Citrate?

What is Triethyl Citrate?

This is part of our ongoing series helping consumers better understand chemicals, chemistry, and product formulations. We translate the science, bust the myths, and give you an honest assessment, so you can make informed choices for your family!

Ingredient: Triethyl Citrate

What it is: Triethyl citrate is a chemical naturally present in cherries and wine, but for commercial uses it’s made through the the metabolic fermentation of plant-based ethyl alcohol and citric acid.

What it does: This colorless, odorless liquid is commonly used as a food additive to stabilize foams (like whipped creams and egg whites) and as a pharmaceutical and supplement coating. For our purposes, it acts as a solubulizer to help blend the essential oils in our product. You know how oil and water separate when left standing? Our vanilla and citrus oils would do that, too without the addition of triethyl citrate. It helps keep everything nicely mixed together.

Why we use it: Triethyl citrate is safe (it’s never shown any signs of sensitizing potential and in product formulas it’s non-irritating to skin and eyes), naturally sourced, biodegradable, and effective. It’s really tough finding gentle preservatives, so we were ecstatic when this one worked for our formulations! On top of all that, it’s in The Handbook of Green Chemicals and it’s Whole Foods Premium Body Care approved (whose standards, developed by a team of scientists over the course of years, are some of the strictest available). If these credible sources give it a thumbs-up, we do too.

Why we’re featuring it today: Some online sources question the safety of triethyl citrate because it’s used as a solvent and plasticizer for things like plastics and lacquers. And, certainly to the average consumer, words like “solvent” and “plasticizer” can raise red flags. You might think, “What’s a plasticizer doing in my natural shampoo?”

Here’s what you need to know:

  • Just because an ingredient is included in a product you consider toxic, doesn’t mean that ingredient is toxic.

  • A solvent is a liquid that dissolves a solute. Do you know what’s “the universal solvent”? Water. There are many toxic solvents, and there are many non-toxic solvents. Triethyl citrate is a non-toxic solvent.

  • A plasticizer is something that increases the fluidity of a material. They’re used in plastic to make it flexible. But, again, there are toxic plasticizers (like phthalates) and non-toxic plasticizers (like triethyl citrate).

Still have questions about triethyl citrate? Let us know in the comments. We’re always happy to answer!


What is Fragrance?


This is part of our ongoing series helping consumers better understand chemicals, chemistry, and product formulations. We translate the science, bust the myths, and give you an honest assessment, so you can make informed choices for your family!

Ingredient: Fragrance

laboratory equipment

What it is: The term “fragrance” (aka “parfum”) can be used for any number of aromatic chemical concoctions. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, over 5,000 different fragrance chemicals —  in countless combinations — are used in products today.

What it does: As you can probably guess, fragrance is added to products to make them smell better. Sometimes it’s to add a sense of luxury or personality. Sometimes they’re used to create a more “natural” aroma. And sometimes they’re used to cover up an offending odor. Scent sells and manufacturers know it, so novel fragrances are not only used in cosmetics, care products, and cleaners, they’re also increasingly found in hard goods like diapers, garbage bags, candles, tissues, toys, and more.

Why we’re featuring it today: Fragrance is listed in our Honestly Free Guarantee of ingredients we will never use. Why?

First, while every other specific ingredient used in personal care products must, by law, be listed on the label, fragrance is considered a trade secret. So, the dozens or perhaps even hundreds of chemicals used to create them are kept confidential from inquiring minds. We don’t agree with the practice of ingredient secrecy; it’s simply not Honest.

Secondly, there are serious health issues associated with these classified compounds.

How you can avoid it: Simply put, read the ingredients label on products and if “fragrance” or “parfum” is listed, put that product back on the shelf. For the more persistent shopper who prefers something scented, contact the manufacturer to see if they’ll spill the beans on what’s inside. If not, keep looking.

Be aware: “unscented” and “fragrance-free” are not as they seem. According to Dr. Joseph Schwarcz, chemist, author, professor, and director of McGill’s Office for Science & Society:

Unscented products are formulated to have no smell but can contain ingredients that have a smell but the smell has been neutralized by other components. A fragrance-free product cannot contain any ingredients that have been added to impart a smell but may contain ingredients that have a scent but are not added because of their scent. For example if a cream is made with an oil that has a smell, it could still be labeled as fragrance-free because the purpose of the oil is to act as an emollient, not as a scent. But it could not be labeled unscented. However, if a product is formulated with lavender, for example, but some chemical is added to mask the smell, the product can be labeled as “unscented.”

Again, read the actual ingredients label! If there’s no ingredients list, contact the manufacturer.

And, to clarify Honest’s position, we will never use artificial fragrances or hide ingredients from you behind the term “fragrance” or “parfum.” But we do use essential oils in many of our products to give them a pleasant, natural scent. You’ll always be able to identify exactly what we use, so, if you have allergies or sensitivities, you can easily avoid any triggers.

Still have questions about fragrance? Let us know in the comments — we’re always happy to help!



“Campaign for Safe Cosmetics : Fragrance.” Campaign for Safe Cosmetics : Fragrance. Web. 19 Mar. 2014. <>.

“Campaign for Safe Cosmetics : Phthalates.” Campaign for Safe Cosmetics : Phthalates. Web. 19 Mar. 2014. <>.

“Fragranced Consumer Products: Chemicals Emitted, Ingredients Unlisted.” Fragranced Consumer Products: Chemicals Emitted, Ingredients Unlisted. Web. 19 Mar. 2014. .

“In Vitro and in Vivo Antiestrogenic Effects of Polycyclic Musks in Zebrafish.” – Environmental Science & Technology (ACS Publications). Web. 19 Mar. 2014. .

Maekawa, A., Y. Matsushima, H. Onodera, M. Shibutani, H. Ogasawara, Y. Kodama, Y. Kurokawa, and Y. Hayashi. “Long-term Toxicity/carcinogenicity of Musk Xylol in B6C3F1 Mice.” Food and Chemical Toxicology 28.8 (1990): 581-86. Print.

Position Statement on The Chemical Identity of Fragrances.” American Academy of Dermatology.



What is Choline?


This is part of our ongoing series helping consumers better understand chemicals, chemistry, and product formulations. We translate the science, bust the myths, and give you an honest assessment, so you can make informed choices for your family!


Ingredient: Choline (Bitartrate)

What it is: Choline is an essential nutrient found at high levels in eggs and, to a lesser degree, fish, meats, and some whole grains. Choline bitartrate is the commercial source of this nutrient and is made from tartaric acid (from grapes) leftover at the end of the winemaking process. (Waste not, want not!)

What it does: A relative newbie to the supplement scene, choline was classified as an essential nutrient by the Food and Nutrition Board of the Institute of Medicine in 1998. Since then, the body of evidence has only grown, demonstrating the vital role choline plays in human health and development. Fundamentally, choline is essential for the normal function of every cell in your body. Some of the more specific functions choline has been associated with include:


Why we use it: Choline clearly plays a critical role in our health, yet an analysis of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) showed 90% of people are not taking in enough choline through their diets. This is concerning for absolutely everyone, but especially so for pregnant woman and small children — and that’s why we included choline bitartrate in our Prenatal Multi-Vitamin and Baby & Toddler Multi Powder. And we chose choline in the form of bitartrate because the tartaric acid makes it easier to absorb.

Why we’re featuring it today: Choline is not a standard nutrient found in all prenatal or children’s multi-vitamins, yet it’s clear most people are not getting enough from their diets and it’s incredibly vital to health. In fact, with the growing body of research, some experts are saying choline may some day soon be universally recommended for all pregnant women just as folic acid is. We pride ourselves on staying abreast of the latest science and public health recommendations and this issue was a real no-brainer for us (pun intended!). Choline is great for your mind and body!