‘The Honest Life’: Jessica Alba on the pursuit of a more natural lifestyle

Actress Jessica Alba explains her approach to parenting in ‘The Honest Life’ with an accent on health and affordability that, as the same time, doesn’t skimp on style. Here’s an excerpt.

I’ll be honest:

This is a book about how you can live a healthier and more sustainable lifestyle. But at the same time, it’s really not about that at all–because this book is not about why you need to become a vegan, use cloth diapers, or grow all your own food.

  • I eat (organic) meat.
  • I don’t have time to wash cloth diapers.
  • I have a total black thumb–if I had to grow our food, we’d starve.

I decided to write this book because I was sick of being told that “healthy,” “safe,” and “eco” means “boring,” “beige,” and “blah”–not to mention, crazy expensive and hard to find. Which really doesn’t add up, right? So let me explain. Over the past five years (ever since I got pregnant with Honor), I’ve been on a quest to create a healthy environment for my family and myself. But I also want our life to be authentic, stylish, and fun, because that’s who we are. The problem was that whether I was decorating Honor’s nursery, testing out eco-friendly disposable diapers, or ping for the perfect red lipstick, everything felt like a compromise. Somehow, it was a given that you had to sacrifice performance–and style–to be healthy.

You could either have stuff that looked and worked great but was filled with toxic chemicals, or you could have the not-so-cute, more-expensive eco-alternative that didn’t get the job done . . . not both. I found this very frustrating. I’m a busy person–even more so since I became a mom–and I’m betting you are, too. We don’t have time to waste on products that don’t work.

I knew there had to be a better way–doable, more fun, no compromises–and figuring out how to do this has become my mission. It’s one of the main things I talk about with my friends (both single and with families)–we’re all working to make healthier choices without an extreme lifestyle overhaul, and we share tips and strategies. It’s the reason I created The Honest Company, so we could all have a single, trustworthy destination for nontoxic household essentials that are also extremely effective (and super cute). It’s also the reason I wrote this book. Because with the help of friends, family, and experts, I’ve figured out a few things along the way. I wanted to share my version of a healthy, natural lifestyle–I call it Honest Living–with you.

But First, the Back Story

So how did I get so passionate about Honest Living in the first place?

Well, it all started with a load of laundry.

It was the spring of 2008. I was pregnant with Honor–which is to say, I was hot and exhausted, had swollen ankles and an enormous belly, and (of course) was feeling excited, terrified, and a million other emotions all at once. I couldn’t wait to be a mom, but I also was completely overwhelmed by how much we had to learn about being parents and creating a safe and nurturing environment for our child to thrive in.

Like any mom-to-be, I called my mother for advice. A lot.

'The Honest Life'

My mom has raised two kids, and I have a lot of cousins, so she really knows babies. If you want to know what to do about colic or how to make the best lasagna to feed 40, seriously, just call my mom and she’ll tell you. Which is why, when she told me that I had to use a special brand of baby detergent to wash all of the onesies and little outfits I got at my baby shower, I didn’t question it. Sure, this particular brand of baby detergent comes in a super-small box and costs a fortune (frankly, I couldn’t believe my parents had sprung for it when we were little, because we were always on a budget), but my mom insisted it was worth every penny! “Everyone uses this detergent,” she reassured me. “It’s what I used for your baby clothes. It costs so much because it’s the best stuff out there.”

So I loaded up the washer with my first round of baby stuff and the recommended dose of that fancy detergent. I noticed the fragrance and thought it was kind of strong. In fact, I started sneezing uncontrollably. I was used to my fragrance-free “eco” detergent, but my mom said this was the bees’ knees of detergents, so I kept it moving.

Until I folded the first load of clothes–and my hands broke out with itchy red welts. Meanwhile, the sneezing hadn’t subsided.

I mean, my poor mom. I called her immediately and started ranting: “Are you crazy? I can’t believe you wanted me to use this stuff–there’s no way it’s safe for babies!” She thought I was the crazy one. “We used to use that stuff all the time,” she said. “If you don’t want my advice, then don’t ask for it. But don’t call me and get mad at me when I’m just trying to help you.”

I took a moment, realized she was right, and resolved to Google it.

I figured that would be the end of the story.

Except, as it turns out, that was just the beginning.

Reprinted from “The Honest Life” by Jessica Alba. Copyright (c) 2013 by Jessica Alba. By permission of Rodale Books. Available wherever books are sold.