Wellness 17th May 2023 by Grace Mollaghan
Do Celebrity Wellness Brands Actually Offer Us… Anything?
Or is it too Goop to be true?
From Goop to Poosh, every time we log in to Instagram there seems to be another celebrity ‘health’ brand popping up promising rejuvenated looks, improved health and ultimately a better way of life.
The question is, between their alternative therapies and outrageous price tags, are any of their claims legitimate? It all seemed to begin in 2008 when Goop burst onto the health scene citing the rejuvenating effects of detox diets and vaginal cleansing. Founded and run by Oscar-winning actress Gwyneth Paltrow, the company has grown from a weekly newsletter to a multi-million-dollar e-commerce business, with a valuation of over $250 million in 2020.
From vagina-scented candles (the $75 ‘This SmellsLike My Vagina’ candle can be found on the Goop website if you’re curious) to vaginal steaming and so-called ancient Asian traditional medicines, Goop has thrown every pseudoscience marketing angle at us since its inception.
In more recent years, Kourtney Kardashian has dived in the deep end of the wellness industry too, launching her own lifestyle company, Poosh. The eldest Kardashian sister claims that her brand is a “modern guide to living your best life”, but when you delve into some of Poosh’s articles, this becomes an increasingly questionable way to position the company.
With article topics ranging from body gua-sha to ‘how to acclimatise to a partner with a larger penis’, some people have grown sceptical of the company’s health-centric ethos. A recent example hit headlines recently. The website’s ‘How to move energy to calm triggers’, where Poosh writers suggest doing push-ups and visualising the person triggering you watching cartoons, to calm triggered feelings, raised a few eyebrows.
Many found that the advice given in the article encouraged avoiding legitimate emotions, rather than offering medically-founded advice to cope with serious emotional responses. Whilst one may be an Oscar-winning actress and the other, a reality superstar, one thing these women do have in common is privilege. Born into extreme wealth, these women have grown up in a position of immense security, power and privilege that has allowed them to experiment with these oftentimes wildly expensive rituals, products and treatments.
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With the global rise in the cost of living, a $66 vagina-healing jade egg (Goop … who else?) is out of the budget and out of the question for the average woman. The reality is these women are their own target audience. One thing people find troubling about many celebrity wellness brands, is the lack of representation in their content. Not only do they financially isolate women from their ‘health’ claims due to the price tag they associate with wellness, but when you look through their website, their images feature prominently white, thin women.
The chances of seeing a plus-sized model or person of colour featured in their content, are slim. Considering both women’s privilege, it leads many to believe that their interpretation of health may be very different from the average person’s.
Gwyneth and Kourtney are not the only ones promoting their detox, juice-cleanse, jade egg ideology, with a rising number of prominent, privileged females turning to health businesses as another source of income. Consider supermodels ElleMcPherson or Kate Moss as they operate WellCo and COSMOSS respectively, promoting supplements, elixirs and teas.
Kathryn Stewart, a registered dietitian from the Dublin Nutrition Centre has observed two common themes; “promoting detox diets and recommending their own specific supplements.” She goes on to say that “detox diets will not detox your body; your liver, lungs and kidneys will. Moreover, cutting out foods such as dairy which is often promoted in detox diet regimes could run the risk of calcium deficiencies if not replaced with fortified plant alternatives.”
With an apparent lack of medical and nutritional background from these founders, the question must be asked, is the polarising effect of these companies and their content all a strategic marketing ploy? Is the clout these companies gain from controversy profitable? Some might argue that people must use their own judgement to decipher the issues in this kind of content, with the old adage ‘you can’t believe everything you read’.
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However, some of these firms and their counterparts have landed in hot water for making false medical claims, leading to ethical concerns regarding their advertising. It was only in 2018 that Gwyneth Paltrow’s Goop was sued by the Consumer Protection Office in California on the grounds of false advertising regarding their vaginal eggs and essential oils.
The company decided to settle the lawsuit for $145,000 to avoid a public trial and altered the product descriptions associated with the case. Goop’s not the only wellness brand swimming in murky legal waters, with actress Jessica Alba’s wellness and lifestyle brand The Honest Company, also forced to settle a lawsuit regarding false advertising in 2017. Is this trend of making unfounded medical claims for the sake of promotion, being normalised?
Nutritionist Isabelle Spellissy commented that “nutrition and health advice can feel very confusing, and even more confusing when trying to choose the right one for you! For most people, minor and consistent adjustments to their nutrition, exercise, sleep, and stress can have a greater impact on their health in comparison to jumping from trend to trend.”
It’s clear that this is only the beginning of the fight against pseudoscience in all its forms. As these e-commerce companies are operating online, the regulation and legislation regarding their activities have yet to catch up to the exponentially expanding trends, particularly in the health space.
With their promises of rejuvenated health, are the wellness claims from the likes of Goop and Poosh just too good to be true?
Maybe the key here is about personal choice – if you can afford it and want it, go for it! But it’s important not to be led by privileged celeb-run wellness companies when it comes to your overall health and wellbeing.
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