You probably know Jessica Alba as the star of Dark Angel, Fantastic Four, and Little Fockers. But the Golden Globe-nominated actress and mom of 4-year-old Honor and 18-month-old Haven is equally passionate about a new role: healthy living entrepreneur.
In January 2012, she launched The Honest Company, a natural products line of home cleaners, body washes and lotions, and baby items like non-toxic, plant-based diapers. Next up: The Honest Life, a book packed with tips on how to create a more natural, non-toxic life for your family (she'll hold the preaching, she promises).
Alba sat down with WebMD Magazine and told us about her new business, her new book, her top tips on living more naturally, and which fast food restaurant she hits when she wants to treat herself.
You've said that your daughters Honor and Haven inspired you to launch The Honest Company. Was there one moment when the whole concept all came together for you?
"When I was pregnant with Honor, I tried to find the healthiest versions of everything. I knew I wanted one brand that I could trust, because there was so much confusion in the marketplace. I felt like the more I read, the more confusing and difficult it was to find the best-quality products. So much is marketed to parents and I just felt like, “Do you need this blanket and that blanket, this thing and that thing?” I did so much research and hit a lot of walls and was so frustrated, so I decided I had to do it myself."
How hard was it going from actor to business owner?
"It took three and a half years to put this together! I hadn't ever tried to start a company before, and it took a year and a half to even write a business plan and flesh out a concept. Many times I thought, 'There's no way this is going to happen and maybe I'm crazy.' But every day I wanted this for my family, so I knew I had to keep on keeping on. I have a great partner in Christopher Gavigan, who's the former CEO of Healthy Child, Healthy World and a leader in environmental health. We've homed in on what we would want, what is convenient, and making it accessible and affordable. If you make a high-quality brand but no one can afford it, you're not really affecting anyone."
We all want to live more healthful and non-toxic lives, but it seems like a lot of work and expense to shop organic, buy locally, and so on. How can we make it easier?
"That's why I wrote The Honest Life.Look, you don't have to be perfect at it. I'm not! I just wanted to give all the information in the simplest version, and you take what you can. You can't do everything, that's crazy. Say you really rely on your microwave because it's easy, convenient, and fast. Okay, you don't have to give it up, but choose one that gives off the least radiation, and keep your kid's head away from it when it's running. I just hope that people think about things they might not have thought twice about. Everything isn't safe, and there really isn't legislation in place to protect us from many of these toxic things. We have to protect ourselves."
What would you say are the top three changes parents can make so that their families' lives will be more natural and healthy?
"Read labels. Take your shoes off before you enter your house. Get an organic allergen cover for your mattress. Every mattress is basically a solidified gas tank. They're made out of petroleum. A cover allows you to avoid that exposure to petroleum off-gassing while you sleep."
Was it hard giving up products that you loved to go greener?
"It's actually not that bad! I gave up a bunch of lipsticks that have lead in them, because I don't want to kiss my girls with lead on my lips. I swear I tested every lipstick out there. But it turns out there are great alternatives that you don't have to compromise. I use Youngblood, 100% Pure, and Hourglass."
It seems like you must be the healthiest-living woman on the planet. Do you have any secret health vices or guilty pleasures?
"I am not the healthiest! No, not at all. Honestly, I don't think there are absolute 'shouldn'ts.' Have your Fritos sometimes if you want them. I like an In-n-Out burger once in awhile. And I wear high heels, which is not good for my feet."
What's the best health advice anyone has ever given you?
"Read labels. Know what you're buying and what you're bringing into your home."
When you're choosing a doctor for yourself or the girls, what quality is most important to you?
"Someone who is not patronizing or condescending and who will engage in a conversation with me about things as opposed to just saying, 'This is how it is and how it's done.' I like to know about the process, why something has been done in a certain way, how many studies have been done. Because I was sick so much as a kid, I'm always asking, 'What is this going to do?' I'm in awe of scientists and doctors, but it's good to ask questions."
Of your five senses, which one do you value most and why?
"Sight. I just love looking at my kids!"
Who is your health role model?
"Really, my girls. Even though they do have snotty noses more than I'd want them to, I do look at them for how to live, because they're just so in the moment and they put everything in their mouths. It's a lesson that you don't have to be so sanitized. It's good to have dirt. When the babies at baby class are sharing a chew toy, I'm not freaking out. I figure go ahead, you're going to share saliva with someone at some point in your life."
Where did you get your passion for the environment?
"Maybe my grandmother. Everything was homemade and upcycled. She was like, 'I lived through the Depression. This is called survival.' She always had such a great way to glamorize it all, too. She was very creative in the way she reused things. If a shoelace was broken on one shoe, then she'd use the other shoelace as a ribbon for my ponytail. And it was cute!'
Did having children change your relationship with your own body?
"Oh, for sure. I didn't really have a relationship with my sexuality at all before I had kids. Not a fully comfortable, confident relationship with it. I was always ashamed or embarrassed or didn't know what to do with it. I was just kind of, like I'd rather just wear baggy clothes or all black. I found my groove as a woman after having them!
"I didn't even realize that I had a cute figure before. I wouldn't change anything at all. I love the way it all has fallen into place. I've done some interviews and the way they worded it was -- I'll never be that 90-pound hardbody, or whatever, but the thing is I never want to be that. I never cared to be that. I care to be who I am and I love what's happened. Now, I wear short skirts once in a while, don't know how much longer I can do that, but I'll wear sexy clothes when I go on a date."
What three things are always in your purse?
"My wallet, my phone, and usually hand sanitizer. We have a little purse-sized one, just because it's so handy. The kids do put their hands on everything. And usually ChapStick, too."
What does a perfect day off look like?
"I'd probably take the girls for a hike. We live near a nature preserve, and we'd go hiking and have a picnic. We have this ridiculous double stroller that's way too heavy, and on the long parts of walks Honor will sit in there. There's also a little duck pond and you're not supposed to feed the ducks but we break the rules. And there are turtles!"
What music do you have to have when you work out?
"Hip-hop. Like Dr. Dre, Lil Wayne, Nicki Minaj, Kanye West. I did a hip-hop dance movie when I was 20 and I still love it!"
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