Snake-oil salesmen are still apparently alive and well. “Dr.” Benjamin Johnson and his Osmosis Skin Care and Harmonized Water companies claim to use radio waves from a machine called the “Harmonizer” to imprint amazing abilities into ordinary water. Unfortunately, the State of Iowa and its Attorney General Thomas Miller are not impressed by Johnson’s products.
In a lawsuit filed Tuesday, Miller says that, “Johnson claims that ingesting his water can protect against cancer-causing UV rays, repel mosquitos that might carry the Zika virus, protect the body from pathogens, cure acne, reverse the aging process, and perform various other near-miraculous feats.”
The suit also notes that Johnson was stripped of his Colorado medical license in 2001 after falsely advertising a painless laser hair removal treatment.
Osmosis’ “UV Neutralizer” advertises itself as a drinkable UV protectant, providing up to three hours of protection that equals that of SPF 30 sunscreen. Osmosis even claimed to have conducted two clinical studies. However, at least one-third of the participants in one clinical trial were shown to suffer sunburns. Osmosis called those results an “overwhelming success.”
Osmosis’ “Harmonized H2O Mosquito” made equally dubious statements. According to the lawsuit, Osmosis’ website said that it repelled mosquitos by,
“using frequencies that mosquitos find annoying! One hour after ingesting, these frequencies will be vibrating at the skin level and will deter mosquitos from landing on you. While the reports suggest that this is nearly 100% effective, you can expect the occasional kamikaze mosquito to irregularly break through.”
An executive with Osmosis even attempted to use Zika outbreaks to promote H2O Mosquito, but the company’s publicist insisted on waiting for studies to be conducted.
Attorney General Miller considers the claims to be a danger to consumers. In a statement Miller says:
“We allege that Johnson and his companies put consumers at considerable risk by claiming that spraying UV Neutralizer into their mouths will provide hours of sun protection. These defendants admit that this product’s only ingredient is water, and we allege they can’t support their highly questionable claims that they can specially treat ordinary water to take on a wide range of health-enhancing properties.”
Johnson, meanwhile stands by his products, telling Buzzfeed:
“I think it is important to note that we have been selling this remarkable product for about 5 years. We have had thousands of re-orders. Surely people understand that as a successful skincare company it would make no sense that we would sell people a fake sun protection water….and if we did, how long does one think those sales would last?”
Johnson’s website and associated Amazon store sell many skincare and beauty products that carry steep price tags, but also sport four and five-star Amazon reviews. One review of the UV Neutralizer boasts, “It’s crazy… But it really works! I have used it for years now and turned many of my friends onto it…. No one has been disappointed so far.”
But Miller contends that these people have been duped:
“It’s flat-out dangerous to consumers to make them think without any proof that this water protects them from what we know is proven—potentially cancer-causing exposure to the sun.”
So unless you want to see your Spring Break cut short by a nasty raspberry-red sunburn, we’d advise avoiding quackery and using generous amounts of actual sunscreen while outdoors.