As a child, actress Jessica Alba was plagued with chronic illness. “I was always sick,” the 37-year-old has said. “I had really severe allergies. It wasn’t until I got older that I realized some of that was caused by toxins in things like detergent.” That discovery led to a major change in her life.

Studies conducted over several decades on household cleaners report that synthetic chemicals in things like fragrances, kitchen and bathroom cleaners and furniture polish have been linked to asthma, reproductive issues, hormone imbalances and cancer. These everyday chemicals are in our shampoo, cookware and carpets.

In 2007, during her first pregnancy, Jessica felt forced to confront the issue. “I took allergy medicine every single day,” she explained, “but when I got pregnant, I was like, ‘I can’t do this anymore.’”
So she cleaned house, tossing all products that contained unhealthy chemicals.

jessica alba
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After replacing them with costly, nontoxic versions, she had two realizations. The first, she said, was that “I don’t have to have a sore throat every day.” Then she shifted her concern to others, explaining, “You shouldn’t have to be in a certain tax bracket just to afford safe household cleanser.”

In 2008, the actress began developing an idea for an all-natural household-product line. “Everything that touches you and your family in your home needs to be nontoxic, needs to be effective and beautiful to look at and needs to be affordable,” she decreed. By 2012, Jessica had developed The Honest Company. The brand launched online with
17 products, including personal-care products, cleaning solutions and baby provisions like nontoxic diapers.

Naturally, Jessica knew
she was entering an industry dominated by multibillion-dollar companies. “These companies have been doing the same thing
for decades,” the Sin City star said. “It just needed to be done differently … three years later, they asked if they could invest.”

A year after debuting her company, Jessica released her book on eco-conscious living called The Honest Life: Living Naturally and True to You. “I wanted to write it because when I was first trying to
figure stuff out, there was no all-encompassing guidebook to help me make better choices,” the mom of three said. Alba shared her experiences in child-rearing, nutritious eating, home cleaning and creating her company. The book became a bestseller.

“If I can prevent my children from getting cancer, I will do absolutely anything,” Jessica said. “If I can keep them healthier by using more natural products, then of course I will, and I’d encourage every parent to do the same.”

Jessica alba in orange dress
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Jessica launched Honest Beauty in 2015, an 83-product makeup and skincare line. Her companies currently have 100-plus items. “I’m not against chemicals,” she’s said. “Everything is a chemical. It’s about making healthy choices and making eco-friendly choices, but [also] realizing you can’t and shouldn’t pressure yourself to be perfect.”

The public seems to agree. As of 2015, The Honest Company was valued at more than $1 billion. Although the company recently relaunched some of its products and formulas, the brand is set to expand to Canada and Europe in 2019.

“It’s a very rigorous process of quality assurance,” Jessica’s said. “I want the best options that work for me without feeling like I want to compromise on health or safety.”