If you wear sunscreen, there’s a fairly good chance you’re doing it wrong. The majority of Americans don’t understand what SPF numbers mean and many may not reapply sunscreen often enough to protect themselves from skin cancer. A new sticker-like device could help: Stick it on your hand or arm, and it will automatically tell you how much UV exposure you’re getting at the moment and how close you are to your daily limit.
The UV sensor, which will soon be in beta testing, is the first in a series of products from a startup that makes wearables powered by chemistry or biology rather than electronics. “By precluding electronics, we’re also precluding the need to have a bulky device on your skin or a higher cost or a steep learning curve,” says Carlos Olguin, founder and CEO of LogicInk. “We think that by taking this approach, we’re reaching out to a much wider demographic, not just geeks like me–I’m looking at my Apple Watch right now–that like to have gadgets strapped to their bodies 24/7.”
The company has experimented with similar wearables that can measure air pollution, or sense blood alcohol content through someone’s sweat. But it saw a market for a UV sensor as a first product. In early tests, consumers have typically realized that their skin isn’t as protected as they might have believed. Many are unaware, for example, that UV exposure can still be unhealthy if it’s cloudy, or if they’re standing partially in the shade. Even someone dedicated to reapplying sunscreen may have trouble tracking how much sun they’ve gotten throughout the day.
The startup’s temporary tattoo, called the LogicInk UV, is chemically designed to react to UV intensity by changing in color. Unlike a similar skin patch created by L’Oreal, the new wearable doesn’t have to be paired with a smartphone to deliver data, but shows it directly on the sticker. In one version, a center ring changes from white to purple to show how harsh the sun is at a given time. Throughout the day, as UVB and UVA exposure accumulates, the outer ring turns bright pink in three different segments that correspond to the daily limit for light, medium, and dark skin tones; as the segment for your skin type lights up, you know that you’ve reached your limit and need to take action. Another version displays the same data in two small bars. Sunscreen can be applied over the sticker to understand if it’s strong enough or still working.
“If the sun is a little less intense or you’re protected with sunscreen, then you’re delaying that alert,” Olguin.
The startup, which has raised $1 million in pre-seed funding from Breakout Labs and other investors, plans to begin beta testing the product shortly and launch in the first quarter. The team hasn’t decided on a price point, but Olguin wants to make it accessible to as many people as possible; without complicated electronic components, that’s possible. “it’s definitely a price point that’s very different from what a normal wearable costs,” he says. “We want more people to be able to adopt it.”