No Small Measures: This Sun Sensor From L’Oreal Is The World’s Tiniest Wearable Device

We’ve been taking a serious look at sun protection this summer; from high-end lotions to edibles, we’re constantly in search of innovations when it comes to shielding the skin from harsh UV rays. But perhaps the most exciting product on our radar these days isn’t one that functions as a shield, per se; it’s more of a monitor, and it also happens to be the world’s tiniest wearable device.

Debuting earlier this year at CES 2018, L’Oreal’s UV Sense is the latest––and perhaps greatest––sun protection option from the company, which produced its first commercial sunscreen in 1935. L’Oreal has made monumental advancements in those eighty-three years, as evidenced by this latest clever device.

At 2mm thick and 9mm in diameter, it’s unsurprising that the UV Sense currently takes the title for word’s smallest wearable smart device. Aesthetically, it looks like a button or sticker and functions much like the latter; re-usable and re-adhesive, it’s designed to stick to the fingernail, skin, or any accessory exposed to the sun –– sunglasses, for instance. Part of the device’s diminutive nature stems from the fact that it does not run on batteries, which can require considerable real estate in smart devices. According to Northwestern Now, the newspaper of Northwestern University (a professor from this university worked in conjunction with L’Oreal to develop the UV Sense), the device is “as light as a raindrop and smaller in circumference than an M&M, is powered by the sun, and contains the world’s most sophisticated and accurate UV dosimeter.”

This innovation from L’Oreal marks the latest contribution from a company with a proven track record in sun safety research. According to a press release, the brand has financed significant research by the Melanoma Research Alliance, as well as public education campaigns like skin screenings, PSAs, and social media activations. The UV Sense also serves as the logical next step from the company following the launch of the My UV Patch, which was sold under L’Oreal’s leading dermatological skincare brand, La Roche-Posay, in 2016. This precursor product functioned as a stretchable wearable electronic UV monitor. Consumer studies and feedback indicated a promising future for smart sun protection; users changed their behaviour when encouraged by the app, with 34% applying sunscreen more frequently and 37% making an effort to keep in the shade. But through that feedback, L’Oreal also learned that people generally desired a smaller device. And so the idea was condensed into the tiny, effortless UV Sense.

Much like the My UV Patch, the UV Sense measures UV exposure and body temperature, which users can monitor with the help of an app. By downloading the app and then swiping the phone over the device, a person can access real-time data that gives warnings when one has reached one’s daily safe sun limit. The app can also indicate which hours will have lower UV rays, and thus be safer for prolonged outdoor activities. The UV Sense is waterproof, making it ideal for long days at the beach. For those particularly susceptible to sunburns, the device can remove the guesswork involved; no more toeing that fine line between a glowing tan and a bright red rash.

The UV Sense perhaps stands as the latest step when it comes to integrating smart technology with preventative healthcare measures. And with a highly customizable platform, there’s no reason not to gravitate towards these safety devices in the summers to come; not only can they prevent serious skin conditions and cancers, but they’re the least cumbersome wearable on the planet. These tiny devices will also be highly customizable, with the ability to either blend into clothing or stand out as a funky accent piece or decorative nail art.

The UV Sense will be available in 2019 –– until then, be sure to stay vigilant with the sunscreen!