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Gwyneth Paltrow
YouTube/Gwyneth Paltrow’s Guide to Everyday Skin Care and Wellness

No, Gwyneth Paltrow that isn’t how you use SPF

TextAlex Peters

Skin experts are calling out the star’s ‘dangerous’ sunscreen routine

Gwyneth Paltrow has received widespread criticism from the skincare community for her flippant approach to sunscreen in a new Vogue tutorial. As we all know, it is very important to wear an SPF all year around to protect your skin from the damaging effects of UVB and UVA rays which can cause skin cancer as well as premature ageing including pigmentation and age spots. In order to benefit from the protection SPF gives you, it is important to apply it thoroughly and in the correct quantity. From what we see in the tutorial, Paltrow’s use is woefully inadequate.  

After taking us through her morning routine of protein-infused smoothies, dry brushing, and transcendental meditation, the Goop founder turns to her skincare regime which, as expected, involves many Goop products. Following exfoliating and moisturising, GP moves on to apply what Vogue describes as a “surprisingly minimal touch of sunscreen” which she delicately dabs on her nose and the high points of her cheeks as if it were a highlighter. “I’m not a head-to-toe slatherer of sunscreen but I like to put some on my nose and the area where the sun really hits,” she explains, before applying another layer of moisturiser on top of the SPF.

This cavalier attitude to sunscreen has garnered widespread backlash from the skincare community, with dermatologists, estheticians and even the British Skin Foundation criticising the actress for spreading dangerously inaccurate claims. “SPF IS NOT A HIGHLIGHTER,” New York-based dermatologist Dr Shereene Idriss wrote on Instagram, while celebrity esthetician Renee Rouleau said that Paltrow’s use of sunscreen was “completely ineffective” and “useless”. Caroline Hirons posted to say the SPF section was “horrifying” and the BSF wrote that it was “concerning” to hear Paltrow’s thoughts on sunscreen application, while facialist Andy Millward wrote that the sun catches all of your exposed skin and SPF “needs slathering on, not dotting on.”

To clear up the misinformation, many of the experts shared the correct quantity of SPF that should be applied. Both Dr Idriss and consultant dermatologist Dr Thivi Maruthappu recommended followers to use half a teaspoon, which works out to about three finger lengths worth, on your whole face, neck, and ears. Rouleau also warned against putting another moisturizer on top of the SPF. “Oils and moisturisers can dissolve away sunscreen and make them less effective,” she wrote on her stories. 

In addition to the amount and placement of the sunscreen, many in the community also criticised Paltrow’s use of terminology in the video including discussion around ‘clean’ and ‘non-toxic’ beauty. While applying the SPF, she explains that she uses a “clean mineral sunscreen” because “there are a lot of really harsh chemicals in conventional sunscreen, so that’s a product that I really want to avoid.” Many pointed out that there are no FDA regulations on marketing terms like “clean” and “non-toxic”, with Hirons saying they didn’t mean anything. “‘Clean’ is what your bath will be after you’ve applied cleaning products and given it a scrub,” she wrote. Dr Barry D Goldman, a clinical instructor at Cornell New York-Presbyterian Hospital, told USA Today he can’t support Paltrow’s claims of a “clean sunscreen,” explaining he’s “not aware of a medical definition of a clean sunscreen.” “I wouldn't want somebody who's such a major influencer to be telling people not to use sunscreen because it’s maybe not the right sunscreen – the right sunscreen is the one you use.”

This is far from the first time the medical community has taken issue with advice given by Paltrow and Goop. In February, the medical director of NHS England urged the star to take long COVID-19 seriously and stop spreading misinformation after she suggested “intuitive fasting,” infrared saunas, and herbal cocktails as treatments.

In 2018, Goop settled a $145,00 lawsuit with regulatory authorities in California over a vaginal detox jade egg sold on the website which it claimed could balance hormones, regulate menstrual cycles, and prevent uterine prolapse. Prosecutors from the California Food, Drug, and Medical Device Task Force said the claims “were not supported by competent and reliable science.” While in 2017, The New York Times reported that Condé Nast ended their relationship with Goop in part because of the wellness company’s lack of fact-checking.

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