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UV monitoring tool now available in Canada

Stretchable, wearable electronic patch designed to help encourage good sun protective behaviour

My UV Patch by L'Oreal Group

Photo courtesy of L'Oréal Group

This summer, a dermatology skincare brand brought its stretchable skin sensor to Canada. It’s designed to monitor UV exposure, which could help educate consumers about sun protection.

Along with the assistance of dermatologists, L’Oreal’s brand La Roche-Posay is distributing its My UV Patch wearable product to Canadians for free. The patch was initially revealed during the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas earlier this year.

The heart-shaped patch is transparent and adhesive and stretches and adheres directly to any area of the skin that consumers want to monitor. It is recommended that the patch be worn on the hand for three to five days. It measures approximately one square inch in area and is 50 micrometers thick.

App provides data on sun behaviour The patch contains photosensitive dyes that factor in the baseline skin tone and changes colours when exposed to UV rays to indicate varying levels of sun exposure. The user is instructed to apply sunscreen directly over the patch. Consumers scan the patch with their smartphones which loads to the La Roche-Posay My UV Patch mobile application. The app then analyzes the photosensitve dye squares to determine the amount of UV exposure the wearer has received.

The app is able to factor in the user’s skin tone according to the Fitzpatrick scale,their location, time of day, and the weather. It generates feedback about the wearer’s sun behaviour and their “daily sun stock.” It provides education on sunsafe behaviour and information about when to re-apply sunscreen. It also sends alerts that remind the user to re-scan their patch to receive new data. Dr. Jennifer Beecker, national spokesperson for the Canadian Dermatology Association’s (CDA) Sun Awareness Program, had the opportunity to test the My UV Patch at the CDA annual conference in Saskatoon this past June.

Patch may make sun protection fun for users

“I think it engages [users] in the process and makes you think about [sun protection] and makes it fun, as opposed to it [being usually] more of a chore to think about sunscreen sometimes,” said Dr. Beecker, who is a staff dermatologist at the Ottawa Hospital. “That was the thing that really struck me using it.”

Dr. Beecker said at first glance it appeared to be just a sticker, but after wearing it she was impressed with the technology. “It has a medical grade adhesive and it has a near-field communication chip in it . . . They clearly put a lot of thought into [the patch] because it is waterproof and you can wear it while sweating.”

The limitation of the device, noted Dr. Beecker, is that the patch can only recognize the amount of sunscreen applied over the patch and that might not be reflective of how much sunscreen the user applied to other areas of the body.

An awareness and education tool

“I think it is more of an awareness and education tool rather than a really . . . accurate read,” she said. “But I do not think [accuracy] matters, because I still think it is going to cue people to [use sunscreen] more than they are already . . . I think just having that patch on your hand makes you think about how much UV are getting.”

Dr. Beecker noted that it has been a challenge to educate the public on the importance of daily sunscreen use. “It seems to be the really big barrier that we have trouble breaking through is getting that message out and I think any tool that helps educate people . . . is really key. So anything that educates people [about] the importance of the use [of sunscreen] and also makes them aware of when they need to put it on would be great. Whether it is the My UV Patch or another tool that helps in that way, I think that is the key.”

She noted that My UV Patch could have the potential to reduce skin cancer rates if it manages to influence daily sunscreen use behaviours and if it receives wide enough distribution.

“The data shows that the most important thing [to prevent skin cancer] is regular application of sunscreen—meaning that if you wear it intermittently it does not seem to have the same effect as if people who even just wear a low SPF every single day because that stops intermittent exposure,” said Dr. Beecker. “So carrying that through, if this truly engages enough people, then I think ultimately it could make a difference [to skin cancer rates].”

Sunscreen usage just one sun protective measure

She emphasized that sunscreen usage, however, is only one part of sun protective measures that people should engage in. Clinicians should advise their patients that it is important to also wear sun protective clothing, to avoid the sun during peak hours, to seek shade, and to wear sunglasses to protect the eyes.

“All of those things should be one strategy together,” said Dr. Beecker.

Originally published in Aug. 2016 issue of The Chronicle of Skin & Allergy

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