The makers of two brands of "drinkable sunscreen" failed to prove their product really protects users against sunburn and instead relied on "seriously flawed" testing that "recklessly gave consumers hollow assurances that they were protected from known health hazards," according to a consumer fraud lawsuit filed Tuesday by the Iowa Attorney General's Office.
Osmosis Skincare and Harmonized Water — both controlled by the same Colorado-based owner — have advertised their enhanced water as the "world's first drinkable sunscreen," protecting users from harmful ultraviolet light. The water contains a "form of radio frequencies called scalar waves," according to Osmosis. "When ingested, they vibrate above the skin to neutralize UVA and UVB, creating protection comparable to an SPF 30."
Iowa's Attorney General, Tom Miller, is not impressed, with his lawsuit calling the claims "almost certainly pure bunk" and "pseudo-science at its worst."
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"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," Miller said in a statement.
Ben Johnson, the owner of the two companies, stood by the products in a statement to BuzzFeed News.
"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?
"It would be ridiculous to think we could convince people to keep buying it if it doesn't actually work," Johnson said, calling the Iowa lawsuit "full of falsities and misleading statements" and motivated by "more of personal agenda here than an objective analysis of the facts."
This isn't Johnson's first run-ins with state authorities.
He surrendered his Colorado medical license in 2001 after two patients complained to the Colorado Medical Board about his laser hair removal services, according to state records. One patient complained of suffering burns to his cheek and chin areas while another developed a infection on his face.
He was previously reprimanded by the board in 1999 for selling Viagra online without any type of physical exam, according to medical board documents reviewed by BuzzFeed News.
Johnson remains a licensed medical practitioner in California, according to state records there. He told BuzzFeed News said the Iowa lawsuit doesn't quite add up.
"It claims to represent Iowans and yet we have only sold roughly 35 bottles of UV Neutralizer into Iowa in the 5 years it has been for sale," he said. "He has no complaints or reports of individuals being burned so we still don't understand why he thought this was an important spend of taxpayers money."
Johnson's water products have also claimed to repel mosquitoes, cure acne, reverse aging and protect the body against pathogens, supporting these claims by using "misleading" customer testimonials, the Iowa lawsuit claims.
"It's bad enough when a consumer wastes money on a product that doesn't work," said Miller, the Iowa Attorney General. "But it's much worse when someone relies on a product to prevent serious harm, and it just doesn't deliver."