It's hard to believe that a vagina-scented candle could bring anything but joy into the world, and yet the $75 USD “This Smells Like My Vagina” candle from Gwyneth Paltrow's lifestyle company Goop is causing some trouble. According to E! News, a $5 million USD lawsuit has been filed against Goop after one of the fragrant candles allegedly exploded inside a Texas home. Meanwhile, Goop has called the suit a “frivolous” attempt at scoring “an outsized payout from a press-heavy product.”
According to court documents obtained by E! News, plaintiff Colby Watson claims that the candle is “inherently dangerous,” and that after he lit it for the first time it became “engulfed in high flames” less than three hours later. Watson alleges that the candle then “exploded” and the entire room “filled with smoke.” TMZ published a photo of the candle in question, which is objectively charred, though the glass candle-holder is notably intact, calling into question just what it was that "exploded." If anything, the image only makes us think that this candle isn't questionably made and is actually highly resilient, much like the vagina itself.
And yet, Watson said the explosion damaged his nightstand, and warned that the “design defect and/or manufacturing flaw” could pose a safety threat to other buyers. Goop disagrees. “We stand behind the brands we carry and the safety of the products we sell,” a spokesperson told Refinery29 when we reached out for comment. “Here, Heretic — the brand that supplies the candle — has substantiated the product's performance and safety through industry standard testing.”
The candle also comes with a list of specific instructions, including one warning not to light it for longer than two hours and another directive to keep the product on a heat-resistant surface. Watson said this warning is insufficient, and Goop shouldn’t be selling “defective” products in the first place. In a statement sent to Refinery29, Goop’s rep wrote that Watson admitted to disregarding these instructions by burning the candle “longer than recommended.”
Watson purchased the candle in January 2020, the same month it was released on the Goop website. According to People, Paltrow was collaborating on a new scent with perfumer Douglas Little when she sniffed a fragrance and blurted out, “This smells like a vagina.” The name stuck, and Paltrow decided to use the scent for the candle, which instantly sold out. It’s also available for purchase as a votive or rollerball perfume.
Watson isn't the only one complaining about the candle, though. As NBC News reported earlier this year, writer Jody Thompson went viral after posting her own photo of a burnt, black candle on Instagram, with hashtags like #narrowlyavoideddisaster and #gwynethpaltrowalmostkilledme. “A few minutes after I lit the candle, it exploded. Flames roared half a meter out of the jar and bits of molten wax flew out as it fizzed and spat,” Thompson wrote in a story for The Guardian. “Thankfully, after what seemed like an age, but was probably no more than five minutes, the flames subsided and I could blow the candle out. The charred jar and melted label were testament to how hot it had become.”
At the time, a Goop representative told People that the brand was in touch with Thompson, and trying to figure out whether she followed the proper safety instructions. “At Goop, we vet the products we sell and make customer safety a priority, so we've alerted the manufacturer to the woman's issue and have also reached out to her to send her some Goop products to help pass the days in quarantine,” the spokesperson said.
The vagina-scented candle isn’t the only Goop product that’s been subject to criticism and even legal action. In 2018, health experts also slammed Goop for marketing a potentially dangerous vitamin packet towards pregnant people: The regimen, called the Mother Load, contains high amounts of Vitamin A, which can impact pregnancy, according to the U.K.’s National Health Service. The same year, Paltrow’s company was forced to pay $145,000 USD for allegedly telling buyers that its jade and rose quartz vaginal eggs had scientific benefits. Say what you will about “This Smells Like My Vagina,” but at least an explosive candle won’t give you toxic shock syndrome.