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Skeptic alert: think twice about “drinkable sunscreen”

You could maybe get the same medicinal benefits by blowing into a flute

I'm about as pale as you can get without crossing the line into albino territory, which means I sunburn ridiculously easily, so I genuinely wish there existed a product that let me visit the beach without having to re-apply abrasive sand-infused sunblock every five minutes. However, the “drinkable sunscreen” you may have heard about via overly credulous media sources or email-forwarding friends isn't it.

A handful of media outlets — including the not-exactly-known-for-reliabilityDaily Mail — have reported that a semi-miraculous new sunscreen is on the market: no more smearing slimy goop all over yourself, just swallow a teaspoon of “Harmonized H20” sunscreen water and an hour later your skin will be protected from sunburn thanks to the power of “vibrations” and “frequencies” and “harmony.” (Remember: despite words like “frequency” and “harmony,” this is not an article about music theory, radio broadcasting or any other sound-oriented thingamawhat, but an alleged oral sunscreen.)

Here's what the Frequently Asked Questions page on Harmonized H2O's website has to say about its product offerings:

Harmonized water is a combination of waters that contain different vibrational frequencies. Unlike structured water, which addresses the tendency of water molecules to cluster together, harmonized water describes the frequencies that water carries in its proton/electron outer shell. Water has the ability to carry “frequency messages” for extended periods of time and we have found that some of these messages harmonize internal imbalances in our body.

Translation: impressive-sounding pseudoscientific gobbledygook meaning nothing.

Watery messages

Also, that bit about water carrying “messages” sounds an awful lot like homeopathy, the field of pseudoscientific quackery which claims that water can not only “remember” the qualities of substances it once came into contact with, but those substances actually gain in strength the more they're watered down.

Is “harmonized water” merely the latest homeopathic scheme? The FAQ page addresses that as well:

How does it compare to homeopathic remedies?

Under the premise that homeopathic remedies contain little-to-no physical characteristics of the original substance that was succussed, the water is somewhat “harmonized” by the original substance. However, we at Harmonized Water, LLC do not use succussion to create our waters. We use a frequency generator and special devices to achieve much greater efficacy and specificty. [sic]

“Succussion” is the word homeopaths use to describe the watering-down process, which is often measured in “centesimals” or C-units, referring to a dilution of one part per hundred:

Suppose, for example, you have a glass of ordinary red wine, and want to dilute/strengthen it according to homeopathic principles. If you combine one drop of wine with 99 drops of water, you get 1C wine, which is 99 percent water and 1 percent wine.

Combining one drop of 1C wine with 99 drops of water makes 2C wine, which is 99.99 percent water and 0.01 percent wine. One drop of 2C added to 99 drops of water makes 3C, which is water containing 0.0001 percent wine, and so on.

By the time you reach 12C you crash against the physical barrier of Avogadro’s limit, meaning your 12C wine probably doesn’t contain even a single molecule of actual red wine. … if homeopathic principles are correct, that 12C glass of tap water will make you far more intoxicated than would the same amount of actual 100 percent wine, 30C makes you exponentially drunker than 12C, and by 200C you’ll presumably die of alcohol poisoning without downing a single actual molecule of booze.

Inner harmonies

Granted, homeopathic believers say succussion requires more than merely watering down a substance; it also requires that the watered-down substance be shaken in a certain magic beneficial way. Thus the difference Harmonized H2O draws between their products versus homeopathic stuff: they “use a frequency generator and special devices” to shake stuff in a certain magic beneficial way without watering it down.

The company also claims that if you try their products and they don't work, noise pollution might be to blame: “... some of us have 'noise pollution' where we are overwhelmed with disharmonic frequencies and so the beneficial frequencies are less impactful. However, the overwhelming majority of consumers will notice obvious benefits.”

Sunburn protection isn't the only watery benefit Harmonized H2O claims to sell; its online shopping page offers a wide range of 100 ml water bottles including “Cramp Free,” which allegedly “Harmonizes Menstrual Cycle,” “Anti-T" which “Harmonizes Ovarian Concerns and Elevated Testosterone Levels,” “Hangover” which “Harmonizes Alcohol Side Effects,” “Vigor” which is good for “Low Energy, Activates Men's Hair, Libido,” and so forth.

These all cost $30 each, except for the “Inner Harmony” bottle which offers “Daily Body & Skin Wellness, Organ & toxin protection, Digestive Health, Mental Well-Being” for $50.

Of course, if you seriously, sincerely and truly believe that “frequency” and/or the lack of “harmony” are to blame for whatever ails you, it's much cheaper (and probably better for the environment, too) to make a one-time purchase of 20 bucks or less and buy yourself a pitch pipe. If your computer has decent-quality speakers, there's a free online pitch pipe available here.

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