For some, wellness means a $300 week long juice cleanse followed by $85 “revitalizing” capsules. For others, it means posting daily Tik toks, starting with a workout in a $190 matching Alo Yoga set, and ending with a close-up debloating ritual using a $28 guasha. For few, it means subscribing to the Goop philosophy; a wellness and lifestyle brand that promotes "clean living" at a high price point.According to Business of Fashion, Goop made somewhere between $15 and $20 million in 2016 and between $45 and $60 million in 2017. While these stats are from a few years ago, Goop has remained successful since and is not your average beauty brand that sells simple cleansers and moisturizers. The company was founded by actress Gwenyth Paltrow in 2008, and is well-known for carrying outrageous and overly priced products, including 18k gold dumbells, vampire repellent, a coffee enema, and “sex dust” for your morning smoothie. While the demand for these seemingly eccentric items is definitely there, Goop has faced plenty of controversy for the way it portrays the idea of wellness. It speaks to a greater trend amongst so-called wellness brands to perpetuate the narrative that someone must spend a specific amount of money and buy certain products in order to look good, which translates to feeling good. But are the two truly synonymous?
Toxic wellness culture gives in to the common misconception that internal wellness must come from superficial factors. Sure, greater strength from exercise and clearer skin from a cleaner diet can limit insecurities and anxieties, which can contribute to an increase in self-esteem. However, the $1.5 trillion wellness industry positions itself as the solution to feeling better both physically and mentally, when in reality motivation must come from within. Achieving wellness means achieving the best version of oneself, not securing pricey supplemental solutions that “cure” flaws. Criteria for what wellness should look like is generated by the wellness industry itself, and promotes a paradoxical diet and workout culture. This can create a path for a healthy lifestyle, until it suddenly becomes a toxic one. Brands like Goop contribute to this concept of toxic wellness by establishing a gold-standard of "wellness and environment," geared towards an impossible standard of perfection, pushing people to focus on their flaws and look to creams, pills and tools to “fix” them.
This past March, Goop’s former Chief Content Officer, Elise Loehnen, posted a video to her personal Instagram account bashing the brand’s cleanse culture. She recalled developing the eating habits of a teenager as a 42-year-old woman with two kids. She condemned Goop’s values that push employees and customers to be critical of themselves and partake in punishing behavior. Instead of conforming to her surroundings, she left the company in October 2020 and swore off weighing herself.
Loehnen’s exit only points to the tip of controversy surrounding Goop. Another common complaint is how Paltrow exploits customers by using pseudoscience for profit. With the release of Netflix’s six-part series The Goop Lab, various segments of the wellness industry are explored, from psychedelics to sexual healing. The show received backlash from the medical community regarding its legitimacy, bringing light to the idea that big-time brands like Goop, (valued at over $250 million) as well as celebrities and social media influencers make claims about ingredients while promoting products with no true expertise. As the wellness industry continues to grow, brand giants and influencers need to walk a fine line between marketing products and speaking on behalf of their effects, both physically and mentally.