A world first consumer wearable UV-level monitor will be hitting the Kiwi beach this summer. My UV Patch is a small, thin high-tech adhesive device that tracks sun exposure and reports back to its wearer via a smart phone app.
Developed by the science and innovation hub of the world's biggest beauty company, L'Oreal, it delivers personalised readings. These are based on skin tone and used to provide on-screen warnings of when it is time for the wearer to top up on sunscreen or cover-up to minimise skin cancer risk.
The flexible device, contains photosensitive dyes, and can be worn in the water. It will be sold here through dermatologists and pharmacies, for $49.99.
My UV Patch, by La Roche-Posay, launched to widespread interest in Europe last year. Its arrival here, from December 1, coincides with the launch of the La Roche-Posay brand into the New Zealand market. The French skincare institution, with a strong sunscreen and sensitive skin portfolio, is a L'Oreal subsidiary company.
The global vice president of the L'Oréal Tech Incubator, Guive Balooch, told the Herald the device was "a fun and easy way to increase awareness of UV absorption and it's been specific designed to integrate into an active lifestyle."
It is also a sign of how personal technology is transforming the booming beauty business, similar to how wearable fitness apps have taken off. Makeup apps are already fuelling the selfie generation's obsession with appearance, and devices to scan skin and hair condition are set to move from clinics to counters.
Dr Balooch's team, with laboratories in the US, France and Singapoe, is at the cutting edge of developing this kind of technology. While it has a marketing side, there is also serious science involved.
"My UV Patch is extremely accurate thanks to the algorithms developed for the My UV Patch app which 'read' the sensors on the patch and give feedback as to how much UV has been absorbed," says Dr Balooch.
"When the user sets up the app, they share information about their skin type and this helps the app's recommendations in guiding sun safe behaviour."
The patch also allows for visual monitoring, with its multi-coloured tiles changing shade to indicate UV exposure. Use in conjunction with the app is recommended, however, as being the most accurate way to understand how much UVA and UVB has been absorbed.
It is described as "single-use wearable" and adheres to the skin for 3-5 days, including through showering and swimming. Dr Balooch says the sensor retains accuracy throughout its stick-on life.
Surveys of users since its northern launch in April, 2016, have shown that using the device can improve sun-safe behaviour and decrease the incidence of sunburns.
To promote sun education, nearly 400,000 were given away via dermatologists in a year. The La Roche-Posay footprint also grew from 14 countries, to a 2017 target of 36, including New Zealand.