The True Story Of Paul Karason, The Man Whose Skin Slowly Turned Blue

He wasn't a member of the Blue Man Group, he's wasn't a real Smurf, and he didn't use dye on his skin. Yet, Paul Karason, aka "Papa Smurf," turned completely blue in the latter half of his life due to a health treatment (via New York Daily News).

Today reports that Karason spent about 15 years ingesting silver — on purpose. He had dermatitis on his face, which he chose to treat with silver. That's an unusual method. Although silver does have antibacterial attributes, it hasn't been widely used in medicine since the 1930s, and it was banned entirely by the FDA in 1999. That's because the body has difficulty breaking down silver, so the metal remains in the body instead of being expelled. In case you were thinking of trying this for yourself, don't! The Food and Drug Administration says you shouldn't ingest colloidal silver under any circumstances, since there is no evidence it is effective.

Karason started to use silver when he saw a flower that was miraculously revived by colloidal silver in water (per ABC News). Inspired, he paid for a mail-order DIY colloidal silver kit. He would drink up to 10 ounces of his homemade silver concoction every day, as well as dabbing it on his face with a cotton ball — and he claimed it worked almost immediately. It seemed to cure his arthritic shoulder, and cleared up some acid reflux issues he'd been dealing with.

Karason turned irreversibly blue

ABC7 reports that at first, Karason just developed blue freckles from his colloidal silver drink. According to ABC News, Karason medicated with silver himself for a while before a friend pointed out that he was taking on a blueish tinge. First, it was just his face, but after a while, his entire body began to look blueish purple. His doctors believed that he had even ingested enough to turn his internal organs blue. Over time, he began to drink less silver, only having about one glass each month. But his blue-tinted skin was an irreversible condition, per Inside Edition.

The condition is called argyria, per WebMD. When Karason drank silver, it was absorbed into his bloodstream. Then, when he would go into the sunlight, a chemical reaction similar to how black-and-white photographs develop would happen, resulting in the blueish-grayish look of his complexion. 

Being blue complicated Karason's life

By 2007, Karason had started to avoid going out in public due to the way people treated him based on his appearance, according to ABC7. He ended up moving several times, and spoke with the media in a bid to get people to treat him with kindness.

Inside Edition reports that having blue skin continued to complicate Karason's life. By 2012, he said that he was having trouble finding a job, since people didn't want to hire someone who was blue. He and his fiancee broke up. Karason began having heart problems, and he got prostate cancer. 

Karason lost his housing, and moved from California to Washington. He then lived in The Lighthouse Mission Shelter for a while. He did reconnect with a woman from his hometown of Bellingham, and they began dating the same year.

Per the New York Daily News, Karason died in 2013 after having a heart attack, followed by a bout of pneumonia and then a stroke. He was 62 years old.