Last year L’Oreal announced it had developed a wearable, stretchable sensor that connected to a user’s smartphone and – at least initially – could be used to monitor the wearer’s sun exposure. Fast forward to this year and My UV Patch is now available, with both iOS and Android apps.
The idea is that you use the patch to educate yourself about sun exposure. Knowing the one that’s one too many has become a mantra for the drinks industry; perhaps something similar needs to be implemented for sun worshippers.
Which is where Loreal’s new technology comes in. The sensor will monitor your sun exposure, and when you are reaching the danger zone, it will alert you. It’s up you what you do with that information.
Some of that information is gathered by asking the user a few short questions about their skin tone, their age, the type of sun protection they will be using. You activate the patch by scanning it in the app, and after that you are prompted to scan it at regular intervals throughout the day.
As it is exposed to UV rays, the patch registers the information through photosensitive dyes.
It lasts for about five days and although by day three the patch was starting to look a little worse for wear around the edges, it still stayed put. Applying it was easy once you followed the instructions. The patch is so flexible that it will fold in on itself, sort of like a plaster only a bit more high tech.
The good news is the patch, once applied, is reasonably difficult to remove. That’s a good move on L’Oreal’s part; it has to withstand a lot over its five days, particularly if you are using them on younger users. It’s also water resistant and very flexible. You basically treat it like skin: wash it, put sun cream over it.
Scan it once applied by opening the app and the patch is activated. For children, you can set a character that helps them work towards the sun-safe goal - Helios or Helia. Rack up enough good sun behaviour scans and you can unlock rewards such as new accessories for Helios and Helia.
The app takes into account your location and prompts you to scan at regular intervals, scoring you as it goes.
Each time you scan the tag, you are given the verdict on your day’s behaviour. It may be that you have followed all the rules and got the thumbs up from the app; if you’ve engaged in what is classed as risky sun behaviour you’ll get a warning about being at risk of sunburn. It’s easy to do as long as you have good light, and once the sun goes down, you get your report for the day. You do need a lot of natural light though to get the patch to scan properly; it will refuse to scan otherwise.
It’s particularly useful for children, although you can switch off the child focused characters if the app is tracking an adult. The big challenge is getting kids to keep the patch on, although you can put it somewhere unobtrusive and still catch the sun with it. Getting a child to stay still long enough to get a good scan is also a test, but the app works quickly enough.
The good: If nothing else, My UV Patch serves as a reminder about our sun habits. Having to scan the patch every 90 minutes or so makes you think about how much sun exposure you are getting and if you've applied sun protection correctly.
The not so good: After five days, the patch needs to be removed, making it another disposable item that you have to replace – albeit one with good intentions. You also need lots of natural light to get a good scan. Finally, you get only one patch with each bottle of suncream and we couldn't find anywhere the offered the chance to buy extra patches without forking out for more suncream as well. And the suncream can cost about €18 a bottle.
The rest: La Roche Posay is offering the patch free with some of its sun protection products. There's an Irish connection too: the patch is manufactured by PCH, a Cork based company that has a track record both with innovation and manufacturing in China.
A good way to keep you on top of sun safety.