- Goop, the beauty and wellness company founded by Gwyneth Paltrow, will pay $145,000 in civil penalties for lying to customers about the benefits of its "vaginal egg" products.
- The company will also reimburse any unhappy customers who bought the eggs between January 12, 2017 and August 31, 2017.
- A district attorney in California argued that the company used misleading, inaccurate information to convince customers that the eggs might help their hormone levels or increase bladder control.
- Goop says the products will continue to be sold on its site.
A "vaginal egg" will not balance your hormones, regulate your menstrual cycle, or help with bladder control.
For Gwyneth Paltrow’s beauty and wellness company Goop, those scientific facts have come with a fine. On Tuesday, Goop settled a lawsuit brought by the Santa Clara District Attorney’s office and others that alleged the company's claims about its "vaginal eggs" were hogwash.
Goop agreed to pay $145,000 and will continue selling the eggs online with updated language describing the products.
The eggs are each about the size of a narrow ping-pong ball — around 1.2 inches wide and 1.7 inches tall (a bit smaller than the colorful, plastic kind at an Easter hunt). There are two varieties: a rose quartz crotch egg that costs $55, and a jade version for $66. Both are non-returnable.
Prosecutors alleged that the company’s false advertising about the eggs was "not supported by competent and reliable science," as district attorney Jeff Rosen said in a statement released Tuesday.
Those claims suggested the eggs could help prevent a woman's uterus from sagging, make her menstrual cycles more regular, balance hormone levels, and keep her from wetting her pants.
"While goop believes there is an honest disagreement about these claims, the company wanted to settle this matter quickly and amicably. This settlement does not indicate any liability on goop’s part," the company said in a statement emailed to Business Insider on Wednesday.
The statement added: "Goop provides a forum for practitioners to present their views and experiences with various products like the jade egg. The law, though, sometimes views statements like this as advertising claims, which are subject to various legal requirements."
Because of the settlement, Goop will refund any unhappy consumers who purchased the eggs or its "Inner Judge Flower Essence Blend" between January 12, 2017 and August 31, 2017. (Refund requests can be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org or phoned in at 1-844-WTF-GOOP.)
Goop's claims aren't based on science
Goop says its site is simply passing on messages from practitioners who claim that the eggs "harness the power of energy work and crystal healing" that promote spiritual detox.
But the company has also said the eggs have some physical, muscular benefits.
On a page on Goop's website that describes the benefits of the "jade eggs for your yoni," the company calls them a "strictly guarded secret of Chinese royalty" that once helped queens and concubines keep their nether regions in shape. (It's tough to find any evidence for that historical claim, though other jade-egg salespeople make similar statements.)
As Paltrow told Jimmy Kimmel last summer, "women insert the jade egg in their lady parts... to help tone the pelvic floor."
When Kimmel asked exactly how the eggs worked, Paltrow's answer became a little murkier.
"I don't know. I need to start my jade egg practice," she said with a laugh. But she added that the company has sold "tons" of the eggs, and that "women, actually, have had incredible results."
Misleading people about their health can be dangerous
The problem with putting unproven health claims on a website trafficked by around 2.4 million people every month is that it can lead people to engage in risky behavior.
Jen Gunter, a California-based obstetrician and gynecologist, wrote a widely cited blog post in 2017 about why Goop's vaginal jade eggs are a bad idea.
While there are science-backed tools you can get to strengthen your pelvic floor, Gunter said, inserting an egg is a "load of garbage."
"Jade is porous, which could allow bacteria to get inside," Gunter wrote, adding, "it could be a risk factor for bacterial vaginosis or even the potentially deadly toxic shock syndrome."
Plus, she said, pelvic floor muscles aren't built to contract for hours on end. Walking around or sleeping with the egg inside your body could cause pelvic pain and pain during sex.
Those looking for ways to strengthen their pelvic floor should instead consider kegel exercises, which are a scientifically-proven treatment for incontinence and urinary stress. Those require no equipment at all.
Gunter also wrote that if you want help boosting vaginal strength, there are specially designed vaginal weights. The weights are often cone-shaped, made with medical grade silicone or plastic, and built to be safe for women. But even those shouldn't be worn for long periods of time.
This was not the first time Goop got into a sticky situation with false advertising
Goop, for its part, said it has not gotten any customer complaints about the eggs.
But this case was far from the only time the $250 million company has gotten into trouble for false advertisements, since there’s simply no science behind much of what Goop sells to its devoted following. Paltrow's team promotes everything from potentially infection-inducing vaginal steams to painful colon cleanses, and the company has promised to help consumers treat depression, infertility, cancer, and insomnia.
Health law and science policy expert Timothy Caulfield even wrote a book about celebrities peddling junk science, titled "Is Gwyneth Paltrow Wrong About Everything?" (Answer: when it comes to your health, probably.)
In 2017, Truth in Advertising found more than 50 instances of factual errors on Goop’s website — not just for the vaginal eggs, but also soaps that purported to treat acne, un-scrutinized vitamins and supplements with names like "Why am I so effing tired?", an oxygen bar that could be rented for corporate events, and a romance mist for everlasting love.
The company also came under fire in 2017 for saying stickers it sold were made with NASA spacesuit material and could "rebalance" your energy and reduce anxiety.
NASA said it doesn't use the "conductive carbon" material that Goop was referring to in its spacesuits at all, as Gizmodo reported at the time.
Earlier this year, Paltrow told The New York Times that hiring a full-time fact-checker for Goop was a "necessary growing pain" for the company. The Times also reported that Goop was hiring a lawyer and a professor of nutrition science to vet the site.
But those efforts weren't sufficient for Rosen, the district attorney.
"We will vigilantly protect consumers against companies that promise health benefits without the support of good science…or any science," he said after the settlement was reached.
In general, it's best go with doctors' recommendations when it comes to sticking things in and around your crotch.
As Paltrow said herself to Jimmy Kimmel, "I don't know what the f--- we talk about."