Papa Smurf's Doppelganger
Blue-skinned people are real. While the guys in Blue Man Group are merely painted poseurs, other people have genuinely blue skin. The condition can be genetic or caused by external factors. Read on for details about the two main ways that people become blue.
Blue Skin Cause #1: Ingesting Colloidal Silver
In the photo to the right, Paul Karason sports a Papa Smurf skin tone. He developed this color during adulthood. His condition, which is called argyria, results from too much exposure to silver.
Too much silver? I'm not talking about wearing lots of silver chains. Karason drank gallons of a homebrewed silver solution in an effort to fight eczema and other stress-related ailments. He also rubbed it on his face. In the YouTube video below he states that the change in his skin color was so gradual, he didn't notice until it was too late.
What Was He Thinking?
Silver has legitimate applications in western and alternative medicine systems. It's proven to fight bacteria and is even included in Band-Aids. However, professionals administering silver treatments use small doses. They know that although pure silver is rarely toxic, high doses will change a person's skin color. That's because the body stores extra silver in the skin.
Other people have developed argyria from inhaling silver dust in factories or using medications such as nose drops and eye drops that contain too much colloidal silver.
Video Interview of Paul Karason
The Blue Libertarian
Stan Jones is another fellow who willfully downed plenty of silver. Jones, a Libertarian politician, became concerned in the late 1990s that the Y2K fiasco would make antibiotics unavailable.Thinking he'd fortify himself against an anthrax attack, he drank at least eight ounces of silver solution daily for two years.
Eternally Blue, Most Likely
When blue skin is caused by silver ingestion, it's generally regarded as permanent. People have had limited success with laser treatments and severe dermabrasion.
Blue Skin Cause #2: The Methemoglobinemia Gene
Blue skin was once rather common in Appalachia. It started when a Frenchman named Martin Fugate immigrated to the Kentucky hills in 1820. He was one blue dude -- and not for the lack of croissants in his new homeland. Fugate expressed the gene for methemoglobinemia. Basically, this means he had elevated levels of methemoglobin in his blood. This made it difficult for his blood to release oxygen and gave him a blue hue.
The gene causing methemoglobinemia is rare and recessive. It was therefore highly unlikely that Monsieur Fugate would father blue children -- but he did. Fugate married Elizabeth Smith, who was another carrier. Four of their seven children were blue. And given the kissin' cousins culture of their Kentucky town, dozens of blue descendents were soon populating the hillsides.
The Fugates' condition, unlike argyria, can be treated -- and the treatment involves blue dye! In 1960 a doctor named Madison Cawein treated Fugate clan members by injecting them with methylene blue, a dye that converts methemoglobin. It restored their pinkish skin tone almost instantly.
Additional Blue Folk
The following groups are known for turning themselves blue with dye or paint.
- Blue Man Group -- This music band formed in the US in 1987. Its three members perform with blue makeup.
- The Tuareg -- Members of this nomadic tribe in the Sahara wear robes and anti-sandstorm veils that are dyed with indigo. Their skin absorbs the dye.
- The Picts -- The male Picts of ancient Scotland are said to have painted or tattooed themselves blue with woad, a flowering plant.
- Blue People in Kentucky: The True Story of the Fugat...
Learn more about the Fugate family.
- Ridiculously Expensive Items on Amazon - 2012
Some people drink silver. Others eat gold on their ice-cream sundaes. Check out this list of annoying items for the rich.
- People with Double DNA: An Intro to Chimeras
Read this article to learn about "human hybrids" who express two sets of DNA. They can evade paternity tests and criminal DNA tests! They can also run into lots of medical-related hassles.
- A Beginners Guide to Genetics: Eye Color
How did you get Grandma's eyes? Read this article for an intro to genetics.
Alianess Benny Njuguna from Kenya on February 02, 2019:
I didn't know this condition exists. It is good there is a solution for the second cause of this condition but for the first cause, I think they will have to adapt with it.
Fatii on January 13, 2015:
Met-H can cause severe promlebs not just blue coloring. If your blood is not carrying enough oxygen to the organs in your body, serious complications arise or even death in extreme cases. This family is lucky that there appaerntly IS enough oxygen being carried to the organs, but this is not always the case. Please do not mislead your readers by telling them that there are no promlebs or symptoms associated with Met-h.
Marcy J. Miller from Arizona on April 29, 2013:
Talk about a literal case of having the blues! I had no idea people would willingly ingest colloidal silver, and always thought it was only applied topically. The only blue people I'd heard of we're "blue" babies due to oxygen deprivation. Very interesting hub!
SantaCruz (author) from Santa Cruz, CA on April 11, 2012:
Hi, PrairiePrincess. From what I've read, and I don't claim to be a blue skin expert, silver is generally only toxic in huge doses (more than you'd need to turn blue). It collects in the skin but doesn't necessarily compromise the liver or other organs in particular. One big risk of using colloidal silver though is developing bacterial resistance.
But yes, the liver could go bad as with jaundiced people. A Medscape article says that silver in very high doses causes hemorrhaging, bone marrow suppression, pulmonary edema, and hepatorenal necrosi. That last symptom is also a complication of cirrhosis.
Sharilee Swaity from Canada on April 10, 2012:
Oh my goodness, this is fascinating. I had no idea that people could turn blue, or that silver was used for medicinal purposes. It reminds me of when people turn yellow, which is a sign of jaundice, which is fatal. I wonder if there is a danger to using silver and turning blue?
Hilarie on January 09, 2012:
Fun to read about this! I just saw Blue Man Group and didn't know if they used make-up, a sprayed paint, or a fitted blue "skin". Thanks for the info!
Ishwaryaa Dhandapani from Chennai, India on January 08, 2012:
Wow! This is interesting! Blue people- very strange indeed! Vote up.
SantaCruz (author) from Santa Cruz, CA on January 07, 2012:
A study from 1988 estimates that ingesting between one and 30 grams of silver salts will turn your skin blue. Obviously, people with lighter skin will show signs of silver buildup more quickly... By the way, Karason is still ingesting silver solution. Wow.
againsttheodds on January 07, 2012:
Very Funny tour of the world of blue people. I actually ran across the youtube video of the papa smurf guy when I was researching nanoparticles and colloidal silver for one of my hubs. Not sure if there are actual benefits and people just drank too much but I don't think I'll be trying it.
inaniLoquence from Singapore on January 07, 2012:
Very interesting hub about a new kind of people whom I haven't heard of before. Voted up! Thanks!
Sooner28 on January 07, 2012:
I didn't know this actually existed. Interesting for sure...