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Posted at 11:02 AM ET, 04/13/2009

Gwyneth Paltrow and Celebrity Pseudo-Science

By Liz Kelly

Does Gwyneth Paltrow perhaps regret pooh-poohing shampoo? (Getty Images)

One reader in Thursday's Celebritology Live chat brought up Gwyneth Paltrow's recent claims that shampoo may be toxic to children, and that the shampoo industry would come down on her like a ton of Breck for publicly acknowledging that fact. Lucky for you and me, I didn't dash off a pithy answer during the chat and instead saved the question for deeper consideration. Today, in the interest of achieving maximum truthiness, we'll talk about Gwyneth's assertion and then review past celebrity pseudo-science claims.

Here's what Gwyneth said:

A couple of years ago I was asked to give a quote for a book concerning environmental toxins and their effects on our children. While I was reading up on the subject, I was seized with fear about what the research said. Fetuses, infants and toddlers are basically unable to metabolize toxins the way that adults are and we are constantly filling our environments with chemicals that may or may not be safe. The research is troubling; the incidence of diseases in children such as asthma, cancer and autism have shot up exponentially and many children we all know and love have been diagnosed with developmental issues like ADHD. Perhaps it is a coincidence, but perhaps we can do things to reduce illness in our children and ourselves. Below you will find some of the most prevalent facts and also easy, affordable ways to reduce exposure to substances which may be harming us.

Paltrow then bolstered her argument with articles from a pediatrician on environmental toxins, the executive director of on creating a non-toxic life ("breathe clean air," he recommends) and a Q&A with Jesse Johnson, co-founder of an "eco-friendly and nontoxic line of baby bedding and furniture."

As a GOOP subscriber, a copy of the newsletter was nestled away in my inbox just waiting to be thrown back in the insouciant one's face. And that's a good thing since the newsletter has quietly been removed from, perhaps for the very reasons cited above and because of the immediate refutation of her claims by British scientists. One told the Sun, "It’s a load of nonsense. Shampoo is perfectly safe, unless you drink it in large quantities."

I'll reserve judgment and let Gwyneth hash this one out with the shampoo industry. In the meantime, let's review two other high-profile celebrity scientific claims:

Madonna on Nuclear Waste: In 2006, the Paltrow pal claimed that Kabbalah water could neutralize radioactive waste at sites like the Ukraine's Chernobyl. At the time, then-husband Guy Ritchie was on-board, helping Madge lobby the U.K. government to take their claims seriously. We can only assume he has since changed his mind. One of the final set-tos between the couple was allegedly Madge's desire to fill a swimming pool with Kabbalah water.

Tom Cruise on Post-Partum Depression: In a now legendary "Today Show" clip, Cruise launched into an irate anti-anti-depressants rant when host Matt Lauer brought up Cruise's criticism of Brooke Shields for taking anti-depressants to treat post-partum depression. "You don't know the history of psychiatry, said Cruise. "I do." Cruise later apologized to Shields.

Did I mention that reading Celebritology on a daily basis makes you skinny? And smart. And perspiration-free.

Comment of the Week
Lilo's Tara Reidification has begun: 1. Get reputation for partying - check 2. Start getting barred at LA clubs - check 3. Be unemployed - check 4. Claim "the media" has spun your reputation out of control - check

The only thing missing is an E! cable show and foray into bad plastic surgery. Lindsay, my condolences. -- Anonymous commenter in Thursday's Celebritology Live chat.

By Liz Kelly  | April 13, 2009; 11:02 AM ET
Categories:  Celebrities, Comment Box  
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Next: ScarJo Defends Her Right to Tone Up; Gibson Headed for Divorce; Spector Convicted


I will be neutral on this one. There is some truth to what Gwynnie has said but per usual she does have to goop up her occasional flashes of intelligence with sprinkles of pure nonsense. However, that being said, you know that there will soon be a scientific warning about the dangers lurking in your bottle of Pantene just like recently happened with plastics.

Posted by: hodie | April 13, 2009 11:41 AM | Report abuse

Jenny McCarthy is the queen of celebrity pseudoscience. There's actually a Jenny McCarthy Body Count website in response to her wacky anti-vaccination claims.

Posted by: moonwatcher13 | April 13, 2009 11:43 AM | Report abuse

Everything in moderation is my motto.

And sometimes I even listen to me.

Posted by: memphis1 | April 13, 2009 11:53 AM | Report abuse

Marilu Henner preaches, has even written (ghost-written?) books re the evils of dairy foods. Owe the humanity!

Posted by: Nosy_Parker | April 13, 2009 11:58 AM | Report abuse

Word up, memphis. My aunt has always been a health nut, never drinks, never smokes, eats organic, walks on the treadmill a few times a week. The only "bad" thing she does is drink diet soda and coffee. And she's undergoing chemoembolism for an agressive form of liver cancer (yes, the liver is the primary tumor). Maybe if she had a drink once in a while, the cancer wouldn't be so bad, or maybe if she had gone with regular sugar instead of aspartame. Or maybe she was going to get it no matter what she did because that's what her DNA said.

I always go on the understanding that anything synthetic is potentially harmful, but in this day and age, it's hard to avoid synthetics, so our bodies adapt. I'm not going to live in fear if my shampoo has a certain artificial scent or if my body wash is dyed a certain color.

I'm going to stop there because I have a whole soapbox looming. I don't have kids, don't plan on having kids, so I shouldn't tell people how they should raise their kids. I'll go back to my Cadbury Creme Eggs now.

Posted by: eet7e | April 13, 2009 12:22 PM | Report abuse

Ok now there's a subject I can get into, Cadbury Eggs!!

Oh the joyous feeling I get when they sneak those babies out in Feb.

Kaballah water can neutralize nuclear waste...hmmm...wonder if Kaballah water can neutralize those pesky thetans, they could have a huuuuuge crossover appeal going there & sell twice the amount!

Posted by: wadejg | April 13, 2009 12:31 PM | Report abuse

I'll go back to my Cadbury Creme Eggs now.

Posted by: eet7e | April 13, 2009 12:22 PM | Report abuse


Posted by: jezebel3 | April 13, 2009 12:35 PM | Report abuse

I'll go back to my Cadbury Creme Eggs now.

Posted by: eet7e | April 13, 2009 12:22 PM


I hope those are free-range Creme Eggs. You should see the living conditions of Cadbury's creme egg laying rabbits.

Posted by: MStreet1 | April 13, 2009 12:59 PM | Report abuse

eet7e, here's hoping for a good outcome for your aunt. It's possible that, but for her generally healthful lifestyle, she would have become ill sooner, and that her good habits delayed the inevitable, but there's no way to know for certain.

Posted by: Nosy_Parker | April 13, 2009 1:01 PM | Report abuse

free-range Creme Eggs

SPLOOT! Thanks for the humor, I needed that.

Posted by: Nosy_Parker | April 13, 2009 1:02 PM | Report abuse

The Madonna Kabbalah Water story (from August 2006) is a big pile-o-crazy.

Madge, if "meditating" over water gave it "mystical" healing power like neutralizing nuclear waste, drinkers worldwide would recover faster from hangovers when lying on the bathroom floor with their heads above the toilet.

More Madonna: "I can write the greatest songs and make the most fabulous films and be a fashion icon and conquer the world, but if there isn’t a world to conquer, what’s the point?" Indeed. Road trip to Mars, anyone?

Side note: Just as I was beginning to type this comment, the radio station I am listening to began playing Madonna's "Take a Bow." She's everywhere!

Posted by: td_in_baltimore | April 13, 2009 1:05 PM | Report abuse

Pretty soon, all of these celebrity scientists (as compared to me, a real scientist) will discover that ANYONE who has or is now breathing air will or has already died!

Just think of the shock in the in the general populous when Wee Tom & Jenny make that joint announcement!

Posted by: elias_howe | April 13, 2009 1:08 PM | Report abuse

Here's what The Guardian had to say about Gwyneth, et al.

Posted by: Chasmosaur1 | April 13, 2009 1:09 PM | Report abuse

HAHA! MStreet, you're awesome. I can only hope that the Cadbury bunnies are treated better than the numbered Dharma bunnies (sorry for the Lost reference, Wednesday's far away).

Thanks, Nosy. Who knows if/when it could've been avoided. She's getting good care at Hopkins now, so we're hoping for the best.

Aaaannnnnnyyway. Back to the pressing topic. What do you think Gwynnie or Madonna would do if they caught their kids eating Cadbury Creme Eggs/

Posted by: eet7e | April 13, 2009 1:14 PM | Report abuse


I think it would be like that scene in the "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory", where Willie Wonka comes home to find it's been removed from its' foundations...

Posted by: Chasmosaur1 | April 13, 2009 1:25 PM | Report abuse

Where does one start with this? Do Gwynnie's fear seizures stem from a reality in which diseases like measles, flu, tetanus, and smallpox do not exist, thereby giving her reason to search for harmful "toxins" lurking in her shower? I suppose in the absence of these actual horrors, a shampoo bottle will have to do for someone with far too much time on her hands.

My own witchdoctory theory is our too-clean environment causing problems. Our bored immune systems don't have enough to do. Can hodie expand on the virtues of helminth therapy? As an asthma/rhinitis/contact dermatitis sufferer, I'm ready to swallow some worms.

And for the record--I could eat the a$$ end out of a box of Cadbury Creme Eggs, with a topping of Peeps thank you.

Posted by: jelo | April 13, 2009 1:35 PM | Report abuse

Gwyneth or no Gwyneth, there are some valid concerns about the chemicals that are in our cosmetics - shampoos, conditioners, creams, etc. There are many things banned in the EU and Australia that are still allowed in the US, and the FDA does not require companies to test the products for safety, which is, in my opinion, asinine. If you would like to see more reliable research that has been done on this (aside from Gwyneth's comments), visit

Posted by: mdsails | April 13, 2009 2:01 PM | Report abuse

Does this also mean those maps I made for my own Journey To The Center Of The Earth are no damn good? I even paid the extra $1 to watch the 3D version.

Curse you, Brendan Fraser!

Posted by: byoolin1 | April 13, 2009 2:21 PM | Report abuse

As a point of interest mdsails--checkout --Paula Begoun's site. Pretty straightforward info on cosmetics/beauty products.

Posted by: jelo | April 13, 2009 2:27 PM | Report abuse

jelo, i agree w/you. as children we made mud pies, and not being very bright children, actually ate part of them. not everything was scrubbed to within an inch of their lives. as a consequence, i rarely get sick. and i've even been to india - for a month. badda boom, badda bing. :)
as to madonna and filling the pool w/kabbalah water, does that qualify or disqualify her from adoption? doesn't that seem a little crackerdog on her part?
speaking of crackerdog, did everyone get a look at the new occupant of the white house? how cute is he? and i don't believe he's farted once.

Posted by: frieda406 | April 13, 2009 2:30 PM | Report abuse

I just saw on your home page that Mrs Gibson has filed for divorce from Mel citing "irreconcilable differences" after 28 years of marraige.




Posted by: bmschumacher | April 13, 2009 2:57 PM | Report abuse

1. There's few things scarier in this world than a celebrity who thinks they understand science.

2. A good rule to live by is to immediately dismiss the musings of anyone who uses the phrase "toxins" with abandon. Allow these people to earn credibility back, ask them questions "what toxins? what do they do? why are they bad? etc" but discount their position to start.

The phrase "toxins" is a tool of hucksters and snake-oil salesman.

Posted by: VTDuffman | April 13, 2009 3:10 PM | Report abuse

Mudge, that means that if Mel wants to marry someone else in his church, he'll need an annulment from the mother of his 7 children, making them basturds. Lovely.

Posted by: Nosy_Parker | April 13, 2009 3:10 PM | Report abuse

We'll definitely be concentrating on Mel tomorrow. What should it be?

Single-again dating advice?

Posted by: Liz_Likes_Celebs_Not_Baseball | April 13, 2009 3:23 PM | Report abuse

I don't know about toxins, but if you have curly hair you might consider avoiding shampoo anyway. The detergents in shampoo strip your hair of natural curl-defining oils.

I don't need to live forever. I just want to look cute.

Posted by: Roxie1 | April 13, 2009 3:24 PM | Report abuse

I don't know about toxins, but if you have curly hair you might consider avoiding shampoo anyway. The detergents in shampoo strip your hair of natural curl-defining oils.

Do you also belong to the Matthew McConaughey school of deodorant non-use? Ewww!

Posted by: Nosy_Parker | April 13, 2009 3:30 PM | Report abuse



The detergents they put in shampoos are because people think that soap-suds equal clean, when really it's the action of your hands that's doing the cleaning. So it's not really necessary. At least not for me. Mr. Roxie has oily hair and he uses shampoo. So, whatever.

FWIW Matthew McConaughey grosses me out. Imagine the character roles he's going to be able to play in another 10 years when all that overtanned skin turns to leather!

Posted by: Roxie1 | April 13, 2009 3:36 PM | Report abuse

All this Cadbury Egg talk has got me thinking I need to stop by Walgreens on my way home and pick up some half off candy.

Posted by: milesdy | April 13, 2009 3:36 PM | Report abuse

I don't know about yewns, but after a hard day o' snarkin', there's nuttin' better than sittin' back and enjoying a free-range Cadbury hard boiled egg, washed down with a mug of Pantene Pro-V.

Sympathies to eet's aunt. I hope she got to enjoy at least some pleasures of the flesh during her life.

Posted by: sasquatchbigfoot | April 13, 2009 3:36 PM | Report abuse

helminth therapy is still a pretty investigational treatment for the treatment of inflammatory bowel disorders such as Crohn's disease and Ulcerative colitis (which are autoimmune diseases-where like jelo says, a bored immune system attacks its own body). And frieda, you are on the right track too. It was noted that people in third world countries have less of these diesases and it is thought to be due to the presence of these worms that can make a substance that has the ability to affect our body's regulation of T-cells. This will be on the quiz.

eet7e, I'm with you. Moderation is the key. Now I prefer a nice stale peep.

Posted by: hodie | April 13, 2009 3:37 PM | Report abuse

Can't wait for Gwynnie to appear as an expert witness at a Congressional hearing.

Posted by: mediajunky | April 13, 2009 3:57 PM | Report abuse

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Mel Gibson's wife of 28 years filed for divorce Monday, citing irreconcilable differences.
Robyn Gibson filed the petition, which offers no details of the breakup, in Los Angeles Superior Court.
The couple have seven children, but only one under 18. Robyn Gibson has requested joint custody of their son who turns 10 on Tuesday.
Details of how the couple's assets will be divided were not spelled out in the court filings. Robyn Gibson is seeking jewelry and earnings and assets she accrued after the couple separated, and a share of the money and assets Gibson, 53, has earned during his nearly three decades as a Hollywood hitmaker.
She wants the actor-director to pay spousal support and her attorney's fees.
The Gibsons released a joint statement Monday, seeking privacy.
“Throughout our marriage and separation we have always strived to maintain the privacy and integrity of our family and will continue to do so,” the statement read.
The couple were married in June 1980, court records show.

Posted by: otherliz | April 13, 2009 4:15 PM | Report abuse

LTL unlurks long enough to say

"forget shampoo, demand REAL poo"

I confess, I haven't used shampoo in about 10 years (except on the occasion when I have been somewhere smokey and want to get the scent out)... Don't need it and it only makes my curly hair dry and frizzy. And trust me I am no Nekkid Bongo Drummer!

Posted by: LTL1 | April 13, 2009 4:23 PM | Report abuse

doesn't real poo attract flies?


Posted by: memphis1 | April 13, 2009 5:05 PM | Report abuse

Chiming in as a "curly girl".

Each head of curls is different. Some can go without shampooing (this doesn't mean you don't clean it, you just work water through), some of us with oilier hair and softer curls have to use light shampoo, but don't use it every day.

It's all the luck of the genetic draw ;)

Posted by: Chasmosaur1 | April 13, 2009 5:27 PM | Report abuse

Uh, Liz, sorry but you're going to have to back-pedal a little on this. There are quite a few chemicals in shampoo and it's not entirely clear that chronic exposure to these chemicals in children is safe.

I mean, the reality is that we are exposed to a lot of chemicals and there's good reason to think that some of them, at low but chronic levels, induce serious health problems. However, it's very difficult to know which are safe and which are not because we don't require those kinds of studies.

Posted by: rlalumiere | April 13, 2009 6:54 PM | Report abuse

I think it's worse what she and the trainer she endorses have said about women never lifting more than 3 pounds or else they bulk and sag. Add the starvation diet they both bring up every now and then, and you basically set women's fitness back 30 years.

Posted by: sarahabc | April 13, 2009 7:14 PM | Report abuse

I've been aroung long enough to remember when the experts, doctors and "real" scientists said that things like cigarettes, thalidomide and DDT were not only perfectly safe, but even good for you. The chemical stew that is shampoo consists of chemicals that haven't been in existence long enough for anyone to know if they're safe. So I don't daily pour them on my hair, which is uncomfortably close to my brain.

Daily hair washing didn't begin to happen until the introduction of the blow dryer. Women washed their hair once a week at most, and it was common for girls to turn down dates they didn't want by saying they had to wash their hair that night. My mother never washed her own hair, she had it done at the salon once a week.

After stripping your hair of essential oils with shampoo then frying it with a blow dryer, of course you need gloppy conditioner, which means you have to wash your hair again the next day. Try this: wash your hair, don't use "products" (don't you just love that phrase) after, and then don't wash it for a week. Rinse it if you must, but no chemicals. Dry it if you must, but no conditioners, gels, mousse, etc. Your hair will thank you & you'll have saved a lot of money.

Posted by: kabuki3 | April 13, 2009 8:50 PM | Report abuse

Over 30 years ago, I asked an allergist in San Francisco why my head felt bloated, my muscles weak, my mouth dry, and my facial skin oily, for up to 12 hours after washing my hair. She told me it was a chemical sensitivity and that there was only one doctor in the SF Bay Area who saw patients with them.

I was surprised recently when my internist could not refer me to any other Dr. in the Washington, DC area who treats patients with chemical sensitivities.

For a long time, I thought my problems involved skin or hair contact with the chemicals. But by accident, I learned that I react to the smell of the chemicals. When I have paid barbers to wash my hair with my head back, I don't have any symptoms.

Of the many shampoos I've tried, a prescription shampoo, KETOCONAZOLE, reduces the intensity of the symptoms. But the barbers can use any standard shampoo on me, with no reaction.

I hope that Ms. Paltrow's psuedo-science will get the attention of the scientific community to come up with some better answers about what's going on for many of us. If instead, it scares off Drs. and scientists from helping us, then please don't belittle her concern, but help us who are reacting to the chemicals in shampoo.

Posted by: Instructor5 | April 13, 2009 9:57 PM | Report abuse

Sorry to have spun this conversation further down the hair care rabbit hole.

Let's get back to discussing celebs. I think in a few years Matthew McConaughey will be the new Randy Quaid. Discuss!

Posted by: Roxie1 | April 14, 2009 9:56 AM | Report abuse

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