With the wellness industry worth nearly $4 trillion, it’s no surprise that many people are trying to jump on board. We’ve watched different companies try new concepts — from airlines offering healthier in-flight food to corporate mindfulness programs ― and have seen an explosion of trends and products accompanied by promises to improve our health and well-being.
But for every trend or product that actually helps us get healthier, there are hundreds that are simply a flash-in-the-pan fad. Some may just put a big dent in your bank account with no reward, while others may actually harm you. Below, we reminisce about the most ridiculous trends that caught our eye this year — and figure out whether any of them hold (good, old-fashioned, plain) water.
The ‘Penis’ Facial
We bet we weren’t the only ones whose jaws dropped after hearing Hollywood A-listers like Kate Beckinsale, Cate Blanchett and Sandra Bullock talk about the benefits of the “penis facial.” Turns out, the skin-care treatment doesn’t actually have anything to do with the actual male anatomy — thankfully.
Instead, it gets its NSFW name from an ingredient that uses a synthetic form of a molecule derived from circumcised foreskins, as Georgia Louise, a New York-based facialist who gave the treatment to Blanchett and Bullock, told Entertainment Tonight. It’s called epidermal growth factor, or EGF, and “it does not include the original extract itself,” Louise said. While it is somewhat controversial, the treatment is approved by the Food and Drug Administration and generally safe, according to experts.
Although the goat yoga trend seems to be holding on strong, there’s a new farm animal on the wellness scene. A farm in upstate New York offers 90-minute therapy sessions with cows (and other countries are hopping on the trend, too). Supposedly, their higher body temperatures can help people feel warmer, calmer and more relaxed, according to the farm’s website.
Here’s the thing: While animals of any kind are certainly cute ― and research does show that being around furry friends comes with a host of health benefits ― some experts say distractions like animals during yoga goes against the point of mindfulness-based practices.
“Yoga is a practice where you turn inwards,” said Jenni Bourque, a registered holistic nutritionist and founder of Naughty Nutrition. “For most of us, this involves removing as many distractions as possible, including unnecessary thoughts. Being around cute animals may be fun, but ultimately incredibly distracting from our intentions.”
Chances are you’ve seen Instagram “influencers” hawking diet or detox teas, claiming they’ll help you shed pounds and shrink your stomach. Sure, they’re tempting to try — after all, tea is healthy for you, isn’t it? Well, definitely not these types of tea.
“There are no magic ingredients in these teas, and any success can be attributed simply to the added water consumption from drinking all that tea,” said Jeffrey Davis, a certified personal trainer and owner of NextLevel Strength & Conditioning. The only magic in these weight-loss miracles is how they will downsize your wallet.
Plastic Surgery Inspired By Social Media
While “dog-ear implants” inspired by the famous social media filter may not be a thing quite yet, experts did see some plastic surgery requests inspired by photo and video tuning.
“In 2018, I have absolutely seen an increase in patients getting procedures that are motivated by social media,” said Dr. Norman M. Rowe, a board-certified plastic surgeon. Thanks to apps like Instagram and Snapchat, people are spending more time than ever comparing and analyzing their appearance to a heavily filtered version of themselves and other people.
“While this has happened in the past thanks to Photoshop, what’s changed is the sheer number of times that we look at our faces in photographs these days,” Rowe said. “The desire for plastic surgery to match our filtered perception was bound to happen.”
If you find yourself wanting to look more like the filtered face in your screen than your own beautiful self, step back from social media. And if you’re experiencing any struggles with body image that affect your day-to-day life, don’t hesitate to reach out to a mental health professional.
Appetite Suppressant Lollipops
In May, Kim Kardashian sparked an internet firestorm after she posted a photo promoting “appetite suppressant lollipops” on Instagram — and for good reason. There’s little (if any) validation that sucking on a lollipop will curb your hunger.
“Not only is the claim that a lollipop will destroy your appetite and lead to weight loss extreme, but it’s pretty irresponsible of celebrities to promote weight-loss products on their social media accounts,” said Dr. Clare Morrison, a general practitioner and nutrition expert at MedExpress, an online pharmacy. And Kardashian’s not the only one who supports this brand — over 1.6 million people follow Flat Tummy Co, the brand that makes the lollipops, on Instagram.
To be clear: Any sort of flat-tummy candies are another health fad that does not work, Morrison said, adding, “It’s just another way for brands to make money through influencers — and not a sustainable or safe way to lose weight.”
Toward the end of 2018, drinking celery juice as a health fix started to trend on Instagram (a search for #celeryjuice turns up more than 50,000 posts). Celebrities like Maria Menounos and Miranda Kerr also jumped on board. Proponents of celery juice say it can help with conditions such as acne, anxiety and depression, migraines, digestive issues and more. The originator of the “Global Celery Juice Movement,” author Anthony William, even claimed that “celery juice can save your life.”
While drinking celery juice may be healthy — or at least not harmful — downing a glass every morning probably won’t live up to these grandiose expectations. There is no scientific evidence to support the claims from William and those on Instagram, as there have not been any large-scale human studies done using celery juice as a treatment for chronic conditions. If you like the taste of celery, or want some added nutrients, feel free to drink up — but don’t count on any miracles.
This is another fad that has taken off in the wellness world, in part due to celebrities like Gwyneth Paltrow and Madonna swearing by the procedure. The idea that a colonic ― a procedure that uses water to flush out your colon ― can help with bloating, constipation and even weight loss.
Sounds great (albeit a little gross), right? But of course, there’s a catch: It’s completely unnecessary to “remove toxins” or waste from your body, Morrison said. “Your liver, kidney, stool and urine naturally remove toxins and waste from your body, and the colon itself is a very dynamic, hardworking organ that does its job naturally,” Morrison added.
Clean eating ― or the idea of eating as close to nature as possible (think: minimally processed foods like fruits, veggies, whole grains, and animal and plant-based protein) ― is a popular term that we’d like to see retired in 2019.
While this is certainly a healthy way to eat, here’s the problem with the phrase: “When you say that a food is ‘clean,’ it implies that other foods are dirty, shameful and bad for you,” Morrison said. “This can lead to categorizing food into ‘good’ and ‘bad’ and make you fear certain foods, which harms your relationship to food overall.”
Rather than subscribe to a rigorous “clean eating diet,” or any other restrictive diet for that matter, focus on healthy eating habits overall instead of depriving yourself. There’s no need to eliminate entire food groups or only focus on one. “This will do just as good a job at helping you stay healthy as ‘clean eating’ can,” Morrison said.
Apple Cider Vinegar As A Cure-All And Fat Blaster
The online wellness community has been abuzz about apple cider vinegar for the past few years. While research has shown the ingredient does have some antiviral, weight-loss and antibacterial benefits, it’s not a magic tonic that will yield massive results, according to Maya Feller, a registered dietician and owner of Maya Feller Nutrition.
“If you want to add it to your routine in moderation, do so as part of a mostly whole foods and minimally processed balanced diet — that seems more reasonable to me than drinking shots of it daily and hoping for a miracle,” Feller said.
Activated Charcoal Products
It’s a bizarre sight to scroll past on Instagram: people brushing their teeth with black toothpaste, drinking a dark black liquid or rubbing a black mask all over their face. This is all to harness the power of “activated charcoal,” in hopes of whitening their teeth, detoxing their body or clearing up their skin. But does it really work?
Turns out, there is one legit use for activated charcoal: It is used in emergency medicine when someone has life-threatening toxins in their body, Men’s Health reported. Charcoal binds to the poison in the digestive tract and prevents it from being absorbed into the bloodstream.
Although there are popular claims that it can brighten your teeth, detox your body or help clear up your skin, many experts are cautious of recommending it for daily use. Worse, charcoal actually prevents nutrients from being absorbed and may interfere with certain medications, like blood pressure meds — so it’s probably a good idea to skip those black drinks for now (not that they looked all that appealing to begin with!).
There is no shortcut for sun care. In May, the FDA made an announcement calling out several companies for “putting people’s health at risk by giving consumers a false sense of security that a dietary supplement could prevent sunburn, reduce early skin aging caused by the sun or protect from the risks of skin cancer.” The companies in question had to revise their marketing claims and stop marketing them as sun protection.
For example, one company, Sunsafe Rx, had claimed that “just one capsule per day provides natural, healthy, anti-aging protection from UV rays,” according to Women’s Health. Just in case you needed a reminder: No pill or capsule can protect your skin from sun damage.
Jade Eggs For Your You-Know-Where
While this particular wellness trend popped up several years ago, it’s still worth mentioning for good measure. Actress Gwyneth Paltrow’s lifestyle website Goop has come under fire for a number of bogus health claims, but none garnered quite as much attention as the Jade Egg, which is intended to be inserted in a woman’s vagina. A now-removed page on the Goop website claimed that the Jade Egg would “increase vaginal muscle tone, hormonal balance and feminine energy in general.” This outlandish claim was one of several that garnered the Goop brand a lawsuit, which Paltrow’s company settled in September after agreeing to pay $145,000 in damages.
“If you really want to ‘balance’ your energy, we’d recommend eating a diet high in healthy, whole foods and focusing on your mental state — rather than buying an overpriced egg that goes inside your body,” Bourque said.
Crystal enthusiasts believe the stones emit certain energy and vibrations that have the power to “make you healthier and happier.” However, there is absolutely zero scientific evidence that supports crystal therapy, Bourque said.
Regardless of the research, or lack thereof, companies and brands are taking advantage of the latest crystal obsession by selling products with crystals, like this $80 amethyst quartz crystal elixir water bottle. (This water bottle was also popularized by Goop.)
Instead of falling for the crystal fad, save $70 and buy a reusable water bottle instead. Add some fruit if you want to jazz it up — that’ll give you some real, valuable nutrients that we know can do the body wonders, Bourque said.