Life

What happened when I tried Goop’s weirdest treatments

Just as intrigued as everyone else by the weird, wild and wonderful suggestions on GOOP, I spent five days trying some of their most ‘out there’ promises. Am I converted?  

I do believe I received the first ever Goop email back in September 2008. I, like many other people, wanted to hear what an Oscar-winning actress had to say. In the days before Twitter was big, an email felt like an incredibly intimate conversation with someone you wouldn’t normally have access to. But I’ll be frank, I never expected Gwyneth Paltrow to have quite so much to say. And on every topic, from dildos to divorce to cannabis.

Today Goop is reportedly worth $250 million and every month the site is read by 1.8 million people. It’s certainly attracted its fair share of headlines over the years for its price points - dildos selling for a mere $15,000 - and, of course, for its big fat dose of bonkers. The type of bonkers that recommended placing a jade egg inside your vagina “to increase sexual energy” which ended with Goop paying a £112,000 settlement for unfounded claims. So bonkers it created the phrase youve ‘out-Gooped yourself’. 

Last month, Goop landed in the UK with a pop-up store in Notting Hill (there is a permanent Goop shop in Los Angeles) where it’ll live until 27th January, selling Goop-endorsed products and offering treatments and talks from their most trusted experts.

No doubt I too have raised an eyebrow at Goop’s content and take much of it with a pinch of salt. But I always open the newsletter to see how far they’ve gone this time and I’m always intrigued to see whether these weird and wonderful suggestions have substance to them. Despite the media’s tendency to mock both the former actress and Goop’s output, I actually like both.

Everyone I know who has tried the more atypical beauty treatments sold on the website and now in the pop-up shop really rates them and I always look at her travel recommendations and gift guide for inspiration, even if they’re out of my price range. I also think she’s started some really interesting conversations about female sexuality and emotional health, way before others felt bold enough to do so. And yes conscious uncoupling has a ridiculous name but it’s actually a pretty healthy concept… ish.

But still, Shamans and Earthing Therapy and mushroom water…? And thousands of pounds for a sex toy? What would a normal person, a natural-born sceptic, make of this madness? I decided to spend a week trying some of Goop’s wildest suggestions to see. 

Day one… Sex Bark

I’m not much of a confessional journalist but for the sake of this feature I shall try to be as candid as possible. So, I have three children, I work, I clean up Weetabix off the floor, I try to see my friends and I try to keep up-to-date on popular culture. All of which leaves me feeling like I could take it or leave it. It’s not on the to-do list. Which Gwyneth thinks is awful. To her, sex is so important she once suggested buying a 24 karat-gold dildo for Christmas. 

Goop has produced two Sex Issues which have discussed issues like orgasm equality and desire and how to ask for better sex – all genuinely important topics and ones rarely discussed in a frank and unapologetic way. Goop also sells a pretty healthy array of sex toys including vibrators called The Fireman, The Tennis Coach, The Millionaire and The Frenchman (because these are the men that all women want to have sex with, obviously) and a tickle ring for $673. Goop is very pro sex.

One of the many suggestions for improving your sex life on Goop is eating sex bark. That’s correct. A bark (a sort of pretend piece of chocolate, really) which, upon eating, will make you want to mount something. Its magic ingredient is Sex Dust made by the Moon Pantry in LA (Sex Dust, £39, cultbeauty.co.uk) which is described on their website as an “adaptogenic blend of lusty superherbs and Shatavari that helps combat the effects of stress to ignite your creative energy, in and out of the bedroom.” Goop recommended this sex bark in their Valentines newsletter, calling said bark an “aphrodisiac warming potion that will send waves of blood to all the right places.”

So, in the name of journalism, I strap on my pinny and bake me some sex bark. Here is the recipe:

SEX BARK (taken from GOOP.com)

¼ cup coconut oil

¼ cup ghee

1 cup Moon Pantry cacao

3 teaspoons Moon Pantry Sex Dust

2 teaspoons ashwagandha

¼ cup raw honey or several drops stevia

1 ½ tablespoons Moon Pantry cacao nibs

Combine coconut oil and ghee in a glass bowl set over a simmering pot of water, and stir until completely melted. Remove from the heat and whisk in cacao, powders, and the sweetener of your choice. We like this very chocolaty and not too sweet, but feel free to adjust with more stevia or honey. Pour into an 8×8 glass or metal baking dish, sprinkle with cacao nibs, and freeze for about 20 minutes, or until firm. When ready, pop the bark out of the dish with a butter knife, and break into pieces.

It turns out sex bark is incredibly easy to make. It’s also incredibly expensive. In total the ingredients cost just under £100 which is not far off a night in a nice hotel. The Sex Dust has quite a formidable smell and I spend most of the cooking process trying to keep my breakfast down. The biggest issue is - it really does not taste sexy. It’s kind of tastes like the back of a health food shop. Not sexy. 

So I offered my bark up to three visitors just in case this was about personal taste… all them made equally disgusted faces. Comments included: “That’s the worst thing I I’ve ever put in my mouth”and “It’s the after taste… I worry it might never leave me”. The bark might work wonders, those herbs might be just the key to getting you in the mood, but when you feel instantly sick from eating it and your mouth tastes of dog I’m afraid that’s a passion killer for me. At best I could say I didn’t feel as tired after eating it? But that could just be the assault on my nasal passageway… it’s a no from me.

Day two… Vaginal steaming

Just kidding. I couldn’t do it to myself. Goop may say it “treats you to an energetic release” but on the website of the one salon that offers this ‘unique’ treatment in the UK it states that the ‘steamer’ is cleaned after each patient in a tone which made me question whether that was actually true. I’m sorry, not for me.  

Day three…Body Vibes Stickers

So, we have accepted that there are some far out suggestions on the Goop website including vagina eggs, vaginal steaming, shamanic energy medicine practitioners… But Body Vibes stickers are definitely reserved for those who are willing to believe. For the uninitiated, Body Vibes stickers (Body Vibe stickers, 12 pack, £58, freepeople.com) are “programmed to deliver beneficial frequencies that restore energy imbalances in the body. When you are vibrating at the correct frequency, life is good.”

Goop admitted to “geeking out” about these stickers which “come pre-programmed to an ideal frequency, allowing them to target imbalances” such as issues with anxiety, focus and energy. Now I’m all for solutions to issues that are as easy as sticking on what is effectively a plaster so I decided to give them a try.

I got six stickers in my packet, each with a different promise. I was instructed to place the stickers to the left side of my heart or above it and that I could wear multiple stickers at the same time for a three-day period. I went for “focus” (to liberate guilt and fear); energy (to facilitate change) and self-love (to restore spiritual order) and stuck them on my left shoulder, above my heart and my left arm.

As everyone is different, you can expect to see a difference immediately or within a few days. As with the sex bark, I wait. And wait. And wait. Eventually I forgot I was wearing them and so had a lot of, “They do what now?” from incredulous friends enquiring why I let my daughter plaster me with her sticker book. 

Three days later, I can report that I do not feel flooded with self-love, or more centered. I feel much the same. Obviously claims such as these are so subjective that it’s very tricky to measure… some people may experience real changes but I’m afraid to say I do not. They’re an interesting novelty item though and definitely a good talking point but I wouldn’t spend the money on them. 

Day four… LED light mask

Beauty and wellness are the biggest sources of wackiness in general on the Goop website. Vampire facials, cupping, coffee colonics are all enthused about and LED light facials are offered up to try at the In Goop Health conferences. 

Keen to try this popular treatment myself I borrowed the SpectralLite FaceWare Pro LED face mask by dermatologist Dr Dennis Gross (£430, cultbeauty.co.uk) which you can use at home. The mask – the first of its kind - emits three type of lights: red & blue to smooth wrinkles, and clear acne; red to stimulate collagen production; blue to reduce redness and inflammation. 

Firstly, this is the most impressive piece of at-home kit I’ve ever seen. The mask is like something out of Star Wars and charges easily and charged for days. It’s very straightforward to use, you simply press it on and it beams bright blue, lilac or pink light from the mask onto your (freshly cleansed) skin for three minutes. It’s so fun to use and my husband was very amused by my nightly ritual.

I used it twice a day for a week and the recommended time to see results is 10 weeks, so I didn’t give it much of a chance… But, my skin has had two weird red patches since the beginning of September and they’ve both cleared up. My face also feels tighter and my foundation goes on more smoothly. I don’t have acne so can’t comment on its effect on that but I actually really like this product and although it’s super-expensive, if you commit to using regularly it I think it could be cost effective and far more time-efficient than visiting a dermatologist. This one is yes from me. 

Day five… a visit with a Goop guru

One of the most appealing and successful facets of Goop is the recommendation section, where Gwyneth and co recommend the people, places and things that work for them. These trusted experts (and celebrity friends) often pop up at the Goop summits – In Goop Health - where people share their wisdom on everything from tantric sex to hormones to cannabis to a captive audience.

One such expert is Anastasia Achilleos, the renowned facialist whose clients fly her all over the world for her The Anastasia Achilleos Method (available only at The Lanesborough Club and Spa; a 90-minuted appointment costs £250) which she claims will not only improve your skin but offer an ‘emotional release’. 

She first started working with Goop after treating Gwyneth personally and along with teaching her unique technique at the Goop conferences, she worked with Goop on their beauty range and does sessions at the Goop pop-up store in Notting Hill. Safe to say she is a Goop guru. 

I meet Anastasia in the beautiful waiting area at The Lanesborough Spa. Anastasia tells me her technique is completely bespoke to each client, how she works on the fascia (a band or sheet of connective tissue beneath the skin) throughout your body, massaging and moving it to redistribute built up pockets of negative energy. It’s a technique, she tells me, she has spent 20 years honing and which she wants to teach people to perform at home so they too can reap the benefits. 

She believes that targeting ageing is passe and its treating the stress and tiredness which is plaguing our generation that she wants to help women (and men) deal with. She hasn’t placed a finger on me but I’m completely sold - and believe me when I say I was a cynic aged two - on whatever it is she’s selling.

I lie on a hot liquid blanket in our treatment room and she begins. For the next two hours, as we chat about her background and mine, I feel so completely relaxed I fall asleep a few times. I feel like that during a treatment. But I’m not just relaxed, I’m also aware of the strange pulls of, well, energy I feel as she pushes and massages around my body. Bear with me because the next statement sounds like I’ve ‘out-Gooped’ myself but: I can actually feel my face de-puff during the treatment, like water is draining away and my jawline is becoming stronger. 

She talks about energy, about the right hand ‘positive’ side of my body and the left hand ‘negative’ side of my body, which is, if I’m honest, where I would normally turn off. But I feel so convinced by whatever it is she’s doing that I listen intently. She finishes by working on my TMJ (a condition that makes my jaw extremely tight) by inserting her finger inside my mouth and massaging. This part does hurt but she shows me how to breathe through it and by the end I can feel my mouth move without tension.

After 2 hours of Anastasia I am a complete convert to this Goop recommendation. My skin is so soft, my face looks noticeably younger (I’m actually not kidding… four people told me over the next 24 hours) and I just feel lighter and happier. It makes me think how passionately you believe in things when they make a difference to you, regardless of whether the ‘science’ is there, or whether it makes sense when you say it out loud. I couldn’t really tell you what went on in that treatment room other than it made me feel brilliant and look a heck of a lot less tired.

She’s incredibly expensive, so expensive that it’s out of reach for most of us but she’s hoping to remedy that with demonstration videos or shorter sessions at the Goop pop-up. If I could gift this facial to all of my friends I would. 

Day six….Vitamin B12 shot

Along with adaptagen-enhanced chai lattes and mushroom tea, you can be sure to find Vitamin B12 shots at every In Goop Health conference. Goop has written extensively about the benefits of this vitamin and how we’re chronically deficient. B12 is found in meat and fish and eggs so can be lacking in a vegan diet, although Marmite and many cereals are fortified with it. Genuine deficiencies need to be treated by a doctor but if you’re feeling tired or run down, apparently it can help. Hmmmm.

It’s ironic the day of my treatment falls when I’m on night three of four hours sleep thanks to late nights out followed by early waking children. I. AM. KNACKERED.

I walk, sloth-like, to Harvey Nichols Beauty Lounge (which stocks Fenty beauty and The Ordinary) in the hope of a quick-fix miracle but fear only a giant shot of Adrenalin will wake me up. 

The treatment room is littered with IV drips and latex gloves making this feel decidedly more medical than superficial treat, which is part reassuring and part scary. I’ve opted for the Reviv Signature Booster Shot of B12 (£29, Revivme.com/london) which promised to: improve energy levels; help regulate sleep, mood and appetite cycles; boost the immune system. Apparently my energy levels would feel better for around a week. You can also get IV drips of things like MegaBoost and Vitaglow or vitamin shots of Slimboost which all claim varying benefits. 

You can have the shot in your ‘rump’ or arm – I went arm because I’m a prude and I wasn’t prepared to get my bum out so early in the morning. It hurts a tiny bit but is as quick as a flu jab. And that’s it, off you buzz like a Duracell Bunny into the real world, presumably rising at 5am to run a marathon while simultaneously writing a book.

So, did I have more energy? Yes, I think I did actually. I was extra productive last week at work, despite some tight deadlines which saw me working at night. I also had less trouble waking up - although don’t get me wrong, it’s not magic, it didn’t mean I wouldn’t rather have slept another 2 hours! And overall I felt a bit ‘bouncier’ than usual. Weirdly my iPhone tells me I did way more ‘steps’ than usual too, which is either coincidental or because I genuinely did have more energy. I’d certainly be up for trying this one again.

The verdict

The week I went Goop was pretty fascinating. A mixture of the slightly ridiculous - I can’t see the stickers catching on - and the really rather good. The wellness sector is a giant and no doubt Gwyneth and Goop have played their part in propelling it forwards. But wellness has a real role to play in making sure we take time out to invest in ourselves and our health, its claims do have to be taken with a pinch of salt and investigated thoroughly. I remain a cynic about most things but am more willing to try than I was before. Although if I ever see that sex bark again… 

Images: Getty and Alix Walker 

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