05/30/2019 12:08 EDT | Updated 05/30/2019 14:39 EDT

Goop Is Getting Into Men's Wellness Now

The company recently launched the men's podcast "Goopfellas."

Phillip Faraone / Getty Images for goop
Goop CEO Gwyneth Paltrow poses with Dr. Will Cole, left, and Seamus Mullen, the co-hosts of the new "Goopfellas" podcast, at the In goop Health Summit Los Angeles 2019 on May 18.

What’s the male equivalent of a jade egg you put up your vagina in order to “cleanse,” “clear” and “have better sex”? Gwyneth Paltrow is hoping you want to find out.

Last week, her lifestyle brand, Goop, launched the podcast “Goopfellas.” It’s the first step towards establishing Goop in the male marketplace, along with a men’s newsletter debuting in early June.

Goop also plans to launch a men’s clothing collection in the next few months, and is also considering an events series for men, Fast Company reported. Up until now, Goop has been a largely women-focused brand.

Elise Loehnen, Goop’s chief content officer, told Fast Company the brand wants to grant men the confidence to take care of their own physical and emotional health without feeling that self-care is “unmanly.”

“It feels like we’re at a point in the culture where men are rejecting that sort of toxic masculinity,” she said, citing Dax Shepard’s successful “Armchair Expert” podcast as a measure of the desire men have to talk about complex, vulnerable issues. 

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Goop's Chief Content Officer Elise Loehnen speaks onstage at the In goop Health Summit in Los Angeles on May 18.

Wellness has traditionally been considered a largely female-focused industry, but that’s starting to change, according to Prof. Timothy Caulfield, research chair in Health Law at the University of Alberta.

Caulfield is the author of “Is Gwyneth Paltrow Wrong About Everything? When Celebrity Culture and Science Clash.”

“We’re seeing more and more wellness brands emerging for men,” he told HuffPost Canada. “I think the market is there.”

He cited Tom Brady’s TB12 program as an example. The controversial New England Patriots’ star quarterback’s self-help brand involves a strict exercise and nutrition program that involves “targeted muscle work” and avoiding tomatoes. The New York Times called it “hefty, but short on science.”

Silicon Valley, too, has its share of men hawking scientifically health advice. Fasting all weekend and drinking “salt juice” are often presented under the masculine but misleading veneer of “biohacking.”

“I would say the biggest impact of pseudoscience is in health, without a doubt,” said Paul Benedetti, a retired journalism professor from Western University who’s written extensively about alternative medicine and health fraud. “And I would say that Gwyneth Paltrow currently holds the number one spot for the purveyor of bullshit when it comes to health news.”

A Goop representative told HuffPost Canada that the company’s goal was to try to “empower women (and men) by offering information and encouraging open-mindness relating to health and wellness.” This story will be updated if Goop comments further.

Phillip Faraone via Getty Images
Drinks on display at the In goop Health Summit in Los Angeles 2019 on May 18.

Benedetti told HuffPost Canada that he’s surprised it took this long for Goop to get into the men’s wellness space.

“Men are a great target audience,” he said, “for the same reasons that women are a great target audience. People have a lot of trouble distinguishing real health advice from bad health advice.

“I think men are really ready for this, to be exploited in this way,” he said. 

Benedetti also said he’s seen a significant increase in messaging targeting men that relates to body image, muscularity and gym culture. 

Wellness, a field that’s ambiguous in definition and often unregulated in terms of health claims, is now worth $5.6 trillion, according to the Global Wellness Institute. And there’s money to be made in selling wellness to men. The male personal care industry alone — defined as hair, skin, shaving, oral health and cleanliness products — is expected to become a $223-billion industry by 2022.

I think men are really ready for this, to be exploited in this way.Paul Benedetti

Like any successful industry that claims to accomplish things that are relatively subjective, there’s a danger that wellness can veer into snake oil sales — or worse (Goop once recommended a “sacred snake ceremony” for better sex, for what that’s worth).

The real tenets of healthy living are things we already know, Benedetti said — don’t smoke, get some exercise, eat good food. But that’s a much less appealing narrative than a miracle cure.

Some experts have argued the vagueness of “wellness” can turn into a dangerous ideology, where fitness accomplishments can turn into moral superiority.

Will Cole, the functional medicine practitioner who co-hosts the “Goopfellas” podcast, told Glossy that he sees the show as the “proverbial dinner table.”

“Men are more private, so this podcast and other Goop initiatives are designed to help them understand that they can get in on the wellness conversation,” he said.

The podcast’s first episode features former NFL player Keith Mitchell talking about how yoga and mindfulness helped him after a spinal injury. Along with Cole, the show is co-hosted by celebrity chef Seamus Mullen.

The second episode, released Wednesday, tackles a discussion about addiction with chef Andrew Zimmern. 

This is certainly a noble goal, as there are few outlets for men to express vulnerability. But is Goop, champion of “affordable” yachting, a $20,000 24-karat gold dildo, and walking barefoot to cure insomnia and depression, prepared to address this problem?

Phillip Faraone via Getty Images
Director Kevin Smith at the In goop Health Summit in Los Angeles on May 18. He spoke openly about the lifestyle changes that have led to his dramatic weight loss.

Caulfield takes some issue with Cole being presented as a “functional medical practitioner.” His website indicates that he is not a medical doctor, and that his training is as a chiropractor. “Whenever you see the word ‘functional,’ you know science not a big priority,” Caulfield said.

Benedetti, who co-authored a book called “Spin Doctors: The Chiropractic Industry Under Examination,” points out that Cole’s training is in fact as a chiropractor. “He’s using the term ‘doctor’ legally, but not entirely appropriately,” he said. “That should set off alarm bells all over the place for you.”

Cole did not respond to HuffPost Canada’s request for comment.

Caulfield said it’s likely “Goopfellas” and other male-focused wellness initiatives will focus on different areas than businesses aimed at women.

“Goop has very much positioned itself as a brand for women, as a brand that’s there to solve the problems that women have faced with the health-care system,” he said. “That’s a legitimate concern: women have been ignored by the health-care system. But of course, they’re exploiting a real problem to sell products. So it will be interesting to see how they position themselves with men.”

Male wellness is often preoccupied with “this idea of overcoming obstacles,” Caulfield said. “There’s this masculine language about extreme approaches to living, extreme approaches to maximizing your potential.”

Without exception, all of that stuff is wrapped in a blanket of pseudoscience.Prof. Timothy Caulfield

The idea of marketing preventative health approaches to men is a good one, he said — but he doesn’t have much faith that “Goopfellas” is the answer.

“Without exception, all of that stuff is wrapped in a blanket of pseudoscience,” he said. “It’s never just ‘eat your fruits and vegetables.’ It’s ‘eat this special kind of fruit, and eat according to this very specific schedule.’ So globally, the overall effect is almost always harmful.”

The real tenets of healthy living are things we already know, Benedetti said — don’t smoke, get some exercise, eat good food. But that’s a much less appealing narrative than a miracle cure.

Phillip Faraone via Getty Images
Model-turned-CEO Giorgos Tsetis at the In Goop Health Summit in Los Angeles on May 18. Tsetis runs Nutrafol, which uses "nutraceutical science" to improve hair growth.

The same criticisms that have been levelled at Goop in the past are likely to be applied to “Goopfellas” and other initiatives focused on men. The most common complaint is that many of the the company’s expensive suggestions are ineffective at best, sometimes veering into harm.

Last fall, the company was forced to pay more than $190,000 in penalties in a California consumer-protection case over — you guessed it — the vaginal egg. The ruling forbid Goop from “making any claims regarding the efficacy of its products without possessing competent and reliable scientific evidence.”

Goop “believes there is an honest disagreement about these claims,” the company’s chief financial officer Goop Erica Moore told HuffPost at the time.

The vaginal egg is still for sale, in both jade and quartz.

Bryan Bedder via Getty Images
Gwyneth Paltrow at the In Goop Health Summit in New York on March 9.

Controversy has never stopped Goop, worth an estimated $330 million, from expansion. In fact, Paltrow has always used criticism to her advantage. In a Harvard business class she was invited to in 2017, she framed incidents where people get angry at her as “cultural firestorms.”

I can monetize those eyeballs,” she told the Ivy League students, according to the New York Times.

Caulfield said Goop’s continued success despite the frequent debunking of its methods by doctors and scientists is due to many different factors — people want to hear their ideas reinforced, and celebrity culture continues to grow in significance in our social landscape.

“It’s not a battle that we’re going to win in the near future,” he said. “I think this is going to be ongoing.”

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