Protecting the skin from sun damage isn’t a complicated task, however, we are still falling short. With skin cancer still the most common cancer in the UK, it’s hoped that these new advances in science and technology will make staying safe in the sun easier for everyone.
In 2016, L’Oreal brand La-Roche Posay launched the first ever stretchable UV sensor patch that could be worn on the skin and linked to a smartphone app to keep track of the wearer’s sun exposure, with the end goal of educating the wearer on their UV exposure. Known as the My UV Patch, it was a huge hit but was, sadly, only a limited edition release. Fast-forward to 2018 and things have progressed significantly, with L’Oreal gearing up to launch its latest innovation in sun safety technology – UV Sense, the world’s first battery-free wearable electronic sensor designed to measure UV exposure while offering tailored sun safety tips via a corresponding app. Not much bigger than the head of a pin, this tiny blue silicone-coated dot is to be worn on the thumbnail for at least two weeks, to learn about the user’s behaviour regarding sun exposure. It will then inform the user when to apply sunscreen or find some shade, while sharing key facts regarding skin health and how it is affected by the sun. Both types of wearable technology (including a re-release of the My UV Patch) will be launching in the US this summer, with the rest of us getting our hands on them sometime in 2019.
As the world becomes more environmentally aware, the spotlight has been shifted onto sunscreen, a daily skin health essential that, until now, has escaped much of the media scrutiny. It recently came to light that certain chemical UV filters used in topical sunscreens are having a detrimental effect on marine life, specifically coral reefs and some species of fish. The two filters in question are Oxybenzone and Octinoxate, two incredibly popular ingredients currently found in a wide range of sunscreens. Research has shown that they can contribute to everything from the bleaching and degradation of coral to altering the hormones of male fish, which is why Hawaii is set to become the first US state to ban the sale and use of sunscreens containing these ingredients from 2021. Instead, safer mineral UV filters like Titanium Dioxide and Zinc Oxide are being recommended by experts. If things all go to plan, expect more countries to follow suit in the coming years.
Traditionally, sunscreens came in either cream, lotion or gel textures as these were thought to be the best carriers for UV filters and were relatively fool-proof to apply. However, the more sun-savvy we have become, the less bothered we can be to apply a sufficient amount of sunscreen at regular intervals throughout the day. The answer to this laziness lies in a new trend for sunscreens with hassle-free textures that make applying and reapplying SPF quicker than brushing your teeth. We’re talking mineral brush-on powders, weightless water sprays, tactile foams and aerosol mists that provide reliable protection without the effort.
Health Monitoring Apps
In a similar vein to wearable technology, more and more smartphone apps are being developed to help tackle and prevent one of the most serious side effects of unprotected sun exposure – skin cancer. More specifically, the monitoring of moles on the face and body. Melanoma – a type of cancer that develops in the melanocytes – is now the third most common type of skin cancer in the UK, and the best way to spot it early is to keep track of your moles. Changes in a mole’s size, colour and shape are usually signs that something isn’t right, with the NHS recommending a visit to your doctor if you notice any or all of these changes. However, remembering what each and every mole on your body looks like isn’t easy, which is why apps like SkinVision and MiiSkin (which is supported by the British Skin Foundation) are proving so useful, as they allow the user to photograph and catalogue their moles on their smartphone. These apps then remind you when to check these moles again and, in the case of the SkinVision app, actually assess any moles you have concerns about. The app also tells you the local UV forecast, so you can determine how high or low the UV levels are for that day, so you can adapt your sunscreen application accordingly. The UV Index Widget app is also great for this. It can also notify you when UV levels have reached or surpassed a certain level, for example, when the UV level is high and the chance of skin damage is greatly increased.
With such innovative and interesting advances in sun safety, there will soon be no excuse for not protecting your skin.
British Skin Foundation
Cancer Research UK