The Scam of Skin Antioxidant Testing

A while back, a friend of mine asked me about this product:

It's a biophotonic scanner made by a company called Pharmanex.  This product measures carotenoid levels in the skin.  Carotenoids are antioxidants found in many fruits and vegetables.  Beta-carotene is one carotenoid that you may be familiar with.  Other carotenoids include lutein and lycopene, to name just a few.  Many scientists believe that carotenoids may be partly responsible for the observed associations between increased fruit and vegetable intake and lower risk of many diseases.

 The company claims that this scanner can give you an "accurate and reliable biomarker of your overall antioxidant health status".  They further state that, "Getting your Skin Carotenoid Score makes you aware of the antioxidant levels in your body-and gives you the push you need to improve your overall antioxidant health."  To appear scientific, their website is complete with a scientific advisory board, a list of scientists, and even a list of studies that they claim supports their product.

Well, it's B.S.

OK, it's not complete B.S.  The product does do what it claims to measures carotenoid levels in the skin using a technique called Raman Spectroscopy.

While that's fine and dandy, what is B.S. is their claim that it is a reliable biomarker of your overall antioxidant status.  There is simply no evidence that carotenoid skin levels reflect the overall antioxidant status of your body.

Carotenoid skin levels do correlate with fruit and vegetable intake, so the test can tell you if you eat a lot of fruits and vegetables.  But do you need an expensive scanner to tell you if you're eating a lot of fruits and vegetables?

And what do you think the company recommends you do if you have a low skin carotenoid score?  Buy their antioxidant supplements, of course.

This isn't the first time Pharmanex has spread outlandish claims.  In 1997, they were fined by the Federal Trade Commission over claims they made about two supplements they sold.

The fact is that this scanner is nothing more than a fancy way to take your money and to get you to buy things that you don't need.  There is no evidence that skin carotenoid status is a reflection of overall antioxidant status.  You do not need an expensive test to know if you're consuming a lot fruits and vegetables.  Also, there is little scientific evidence that supplemental antioxidants have any health benefits.  In fact, too many antioxidants can have a pro-oxidant effect, and may also reduce your own body's antioxidant defense systems.  We are a bit too antioxidant crazy in our society....a topic that I will get to in another blog post.

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6 months ago

I just spent a good 60 minutes reading this post and feed. Before I go on, I do want to say that I operate a scanner and I do use some products from Pharmanex, but I also use Athletic Greens and other non-Pharmanex supplementation. I am unclear as to why there is debate over the health benefits of carotenoids and why the scanner used in conjunction with thorough medical examinations and blood serum testing is so debated. No one is disputing that carotenoids are the ONLY form of antioxidants. And no one is saying that this scanner is the end… Read more »

Flora Flynn
Flora Flynn
1 year ago

I was at excel london for the optic exhibition recently. There was a company there doing these scans and flogging a very expensive supplement. I take supergreens every day and lots of green veg. The result was weak! I went to their website it had 15% off supplement however code did not work. Guy said he would sort out and email me. He has not. Thankfully it gave me time to reflect. I have taken lutein every day for years. Guy said my powders loose all nutritional value because its a powder even if in a capsule! His argument was… Read more »

Greg Waller
1 year ago
Reply to  Flora Flynn

It doesn’t matter what he says about your powders. The machine is reflecting your overall antioxidant status (more than just carrots). There’ve been over 10 million tests done globally with the machine, it’s based on physics! The score is reflective of your oxidative stress as a result of your lifestyle, absorption and bioavailability of your supplement regiment.

Read more about “H.O.S.S.” High Oxidative Stress Syndrome

Much Success

2 years ago

This information is not accurate. The company states that it is the only company that can measure the amount of antioxidants gained from consuming fruits and vegetables at the cellular level, currently within your body. No other company can do it because the device technology is patented. Other uses of this technology require a person to send food samples to companies, then measure the metrics of the foods they consume. Do the nutrients you consume get to where they are meant to go, and how do you prove it? This is the only company I know of that puts its… Read more »

1 year ago
Reply to  Kevin

The information about the uselessness of these devices is accurate. The company might well have a patent on one type of the device, but there are many makers all using the same tech blue-light raman scattering. There is no reputable science behind these devices at all, they’re a marketing technique for the worried well who need to be separated from their cash. “Do the nutrients you consume get to where they are meant to go, and how do you prove it?” Not with one of these contraptions you can’t. A blood test may help, but levels of caratenoids in blood… Read more »

Last edited 1 year ago by Lola
2 years ago

This ARTICLE makes no sense what and contradicts itself multiple times. Writer could have spent 5 minutes watching Dr. Oz on youtube and see that gettiNg your number allows you to see Where your levels stand. How you increase Them is up to you. Buy some sUpplements or eat better. C’mon fake news!

Ken Ungerecht
Ken Ungerecht
4 years ago

The health hazards of smoking are beyond dispute and have had devastating effects on the lives of many millions of people. But, the interesting thing is that the primary antidote to smoking is also beyond dispute and has been known in medical circles for about the same amount of time that the medical establishment has been performing an all-out blitz on trying to eradicate the practice. I was a smoker for about forty-five years and have been vaping for about ten. And, I am quite certain I am in far better health today because I smoked than if I had… Read more »

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