Lunch at my desk has always presented something of a conflict for visitors: You might score a free beauty product or two (I've been a beauty editor for most of my career), but the taste of your salad or sandwich might be sent in an odd direction by the billion or so fragrances in various stages of consideration around my office. Lunch at the desk of my current boss, beauty-wellness-lifestyle guru Gwyneth Paltrow, is, today, much in that vein: We're surrounded by sample bottles, all candidates for Goop's next "clean" perfume. Every one of the possibilities is free of the toxins common in conventional fragrances, but jam-packed with incredible-smelling plant essences.
Gwyneth's been spraying her favorites on the wrists of fellow Goop-ers (there are 72 of us) all morning, gauging reactions, considering and reconsidering. Her office, accordingly, is a cloud of earthy-spicy-fresh-woodsy scent. "I'm in perfume-testing hell," she sighs, happily. Gwyneth, or GP, as my coworkers and I generally call her, is entirely undisturbed by the intensely fragrant air around us. It could be because she's coming off an eight-day, goat-milk-only cleanse and practically any food that's not goat's milk would taste good to her. Or it could be that the stew she's sprinkling Maldon salt into is indeed, as she says, "f-cking delicious."
"Let's see, it's got butternut squash, chicken sausage..." she fishes around in it. "Chickpeas! Japanese turnips, chard, carrots..."
Fresh from Goop's new test kitchen, the stew may very well end up on Goop's Instagram, in one of GP's three-and-counting New York Times best-selling cookbooks, or in a food story on the site. GP doesn't so much drink the Kool-Aid (or goat milk) as live it, eat it, wear it, and share it with the world. (Learn how bone broth can help you lose weight with Women's Health's Bone Broth Diet.)
If her full-throttle approach to beauty, wellness, and life in general initially struck some as simply dabbling, the multimillion-dollar business she's built around that approach speaks for itself. Even in the realm of beauty editing, GP can run circles around me when it comes to discovering amazing makeup artists, hairstylists, and dermatologists, not to mention the best body treatments, shamans, and healers (okay, she absolutely blows me out of the water in the latter categories). Her sense of adventure about trying new things includes a willingness to bring them to the public's attention, PR consequences be damned. When the subject of jade eggs for the vagina (stones said to be the orgasm-improving secret of royals and concubines in ancient China) came up, I thought she'd laugh. She did laugh... but also insisted on trying one. In fact, she was the only Goop-er who was game at first. The resulting article—and the fact that Goop sold out of eggs within three hours and now has a waiting list of over 4,000 people—was a testament to her Spidey sense for the wellness trends people are going to care about next.
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"When I find something I think works, I like to share it with people," she says plainly. Today, she's here to share her latest passion project: Goop Wellness. The new brand of nutritional supplements sits on the table between us, and each of the four color-blocked boxes contains a month's worth of daily-portion sachets of four to seven pills. The regimens address the most common health complaints GP hears from women, and those she says she's suffered from herself: "Why am I so effing tired?" is the one that instantly resonates with me. "I mean, what woman do you know who doesn't have that problem?" she asks.
"There are so many options for vitamins out there. Which ones work? How much should you take? Are they going to interact with each other? It’s almost impossible to navigate,” Gwyneth says. With her new supplement packs, “we wanted to take the work out of it for you,” she s GP picked doctors she trusts, like Alejandro Junger, M.D. a New York-based functional medicine specialist, to get the nutrient mix right, “so you don’t have to worry you’re just making your pee more expensive,” she says.
I start mentally ticking off friends and colleagues: tired, tired, tired, exhausted. She has a point. "Godfrey!" She straightens up in her chair and laughs, back on task: "It's time to ask me some questions!"
You've been a thought leader in wellness—alternative health, exercise, diet, beauty—for years. How did you get interested in that in the first place?
When my father was diagnosed with cancer in 1998, I really started to think about the link between environmental toxins and cancer. What's the impetus behind the way our bodies are no longer able to overcome all these skyrocketing diseases, from immune disorders to autism to diabetes and cancer? What is going on? I started asking questions, and the answers were and are horrifying: You look at, just for example, graphs correlating pesticide use with just about every kind of disease. It's devastating. That exploration definitely started me down the path. I want to be healthy, to feel as good as I can.
Related: The Surprising Reason Most People Get Cancer
How do you trust that your readers and customers will go where you go—cupping, vagina steaming—without judgment?
They're not without judgment. When you're at the forefront of something that's new, people can get really reactive: "This is crazy! Why are you doing this?" Then, five years later, everyone's fine with it. So I have a bit of pattern recognition in hand at this point—which is helpful. Also, when someone doesn't like something you do, or doesn't share your interest in something, that doesn't have anything to do with you. One of the best things someone ever said to me was that the only time criticism hurts is if you have a judgment about yourself about that very thing. If someone's like, "You dick, you have red Hair!" and you've got brown hair, it doesn't bother you. It's a blessing to be liberated from the chains of other people's perceptions of you. It's part of wellness, working at that. I've gotten to a point where I like myself. I do my best as a person. I also have nothing to hide.
What interested you in making Goop-label items in the first place?
It started with my wanting luxurious, effective skin care without toxins. I mean, I'm an aging actress, I wanted that! Yes, it's harder and more expensive to make creams and scents and lipsticks without harmful ingredients, but without all the fillers and texturizers, you get pure, powerful actives on your skin.
I love perfume, so we made a clean, nontoxic one, meaning it has an ingredient list we're fully transparent about. We're introducing a new one with each season. The unexpected thing I love about them is that, because they're made with natural essences and essential oils, they have homeopathic, Ayurvedic, and even mystical properties: There are ingredients for clearing energy, for staying strong, even one for getting rid of old lovers...
Where do the supplements fit in?
I think women in modern society don't feel very well. The number one thing women say is "I'm exhausted and I don't know why!" I want to get to the bottom of why that is. The supplements were born out of that impulse: I want to feel well, I want my friends to feel well, I want my readers to feel well. I've always experimented with supplements. And I believe the combination of toxic load, the modern environment, and nutritional deficiency makes our bodies more vulnerable to breaking down. “There are so many options for vitamins out there. Which ones work? How much should you take? Are they going to interact with each other? It’s almost impossible to navigate,” Gwyneth says. With her new Goop Wellness supplement packs, “we wanted to take the work out of it for you.” GP picked doctors she trusts, like Alejandro Junger, M.D. a New York-based functional medicine specialist, to get the nutrient mix right, “so you don’t have to worry you’re just making your pee more expensive,” she says.
Related: Do You Have a Vitamin B12 Deficiency? Answer These 5 Questions to Find Out
Isn't a good diet enough?
For me, it's a combination of what I'm eating and what I'm taking. I have a pretty healthy diet, so when I'm eating processed foods and not watching my alcohol intake, I feel it. But at the same time, you want deliciousness, you want a fun life—pleasure! You're going to have a baguette-and-cheese-and-red-wine frenzy sometimes—but you want it to be a choice you're awake to: "I know this might not make me feel great, but today I'm choosing it anyway."
The idea is to boost a (most of the time) nutrient-dense diet with high-quality supplements. We're low in so many nutrients. Even if we're careful about going organic and nontoxic, because we've degraded our soil, the nutritional value of the food we do eat, however healthy, is less than it was 100 years ago.
What weird emerging things are you most curious about now?
I'm really interested in the impact of heavy metals and parasites on our bodies. [Editor's note: The aforementioned goat-milk cleanse was meant to fight the latter.] I think they're two of the biggest culprits in terms of why we feel bad. I'm knee-deep in figuring out ways to clear them from the body, looking at all sorts of potentially weird modalities.
Related: What Happened When I Tested Out 7 Different Hair Oils
You famously exercise almost every day. Do you like working out?
I like feeling good, and I know I feel my best when I exercise. But it depends on the day—I definitely don't always feel like doing it. I've made it a habit, just like brushing your teeth. That's how you have to look at it. I've been a Tracy Anderson fanatic for over a decade, I'm an investor in her company, so yeah, I go every morning. I drop the kids at school, work out, go to work. I've been supplementing it a bit with lifting heavier weights lately, to deal with some lower-back-pain issues. You can't bottle a great workout.
For more on Gwyneth's workouts and her new supplement line, pick up the April issue of Women's Health, on newsstands March 14!