4 New Tech Alternatives to Help You with Sun Protection

05/20/2015

Garrick Slate, MD
Healthy Living - June 23, 2015

 

4 New Tech Alternatives to Help You with Sun Protection


sunscreen-apps.jpg
Image Source:  Flickr, Labeled for Reuse


The sun - it burns, ages, wrinkles, and can cause cancer. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention there are approximately 3.5 million cases of skin cancer in the U.S. each year, yet less than one-third of people use sunscreen on a regular basis. While sunscreen protection is extremely important to maintain our health, some do a much better job than others. Some sunscreens may even have harmful components or not perform as expected.
 
For example, sunscreens are rated and labeled with a SPF (Sun Protection Factor) rating determined experimentally by exposing human subjects to light in a controlled indoor setting that mimics the noon-day sun. It is a measure of UVB (Ultraviolet B) protection and ranges from 1 to 50. Sunscreens advertised as having SPF values over 50 have been debunked by the US FDA (Food and Drug Administration). According to the FDA, SPF values max-out at level 50-SPF.
 
Several consumer advocacy groups have also warned about the chemical makeup and dangers of the components of sunscreens. However, their data and reliability is questionable since many use artificial, non-reproducible rating scales for the products they rate. While there may not be an adequate alternative to applied sunscreen, there are four new technologies that can help protect you from the harmful effects of the sun.
  1. june-bracelet.jpgJUNE is a jewelry-like wearable device worn as a necklace or bracelet. June is the first wearable device of its kind to blend new tracking technology with sun protection. The device contains UV sensors that only monitor sun exposure throughout the day. It pairs with a free iOS app to provide a daily sun forecast detailing the expected risk of UV radiation from the sun on a 0 to “sun-scorched” 15 as well as recommending whether to pack a hat, sunglasses, and sunscreen. The device is self-tailored to skin-tone, hair and eye color to optimize recommendations. It costs around $130 and battery-life is approximately one-month. (Image Source: https://www.junebynetatmo.com/en-US/site)
  2. UVSunSense wristbands and Sunburn Alert stickers are low-tech devices worn to the skin that monitor UV absorption. While the device appeared to appropriately monitor the amount of UV exposure they often times fell off with any perspiration or upon entering the water.
  3. Sunburn Alert stickers are low-tech devices stuck to the skin that monitor UV absorption. While the device appeared to appropriately monitor the amount of UV exposure they often times fell off with any perspiration or upon entering the water.
  4. app-zap.pngSunZapp is an option is to turn your smartphone into a sun warning system. SunZapp app, developed from funding from the National Cancer Institute, combines specific location-based information such as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) hour-by-hour UV Index Forecast with the user’s personal information (hair and eye-color, skin tone, age, medications, and type of clothing you will be wearing). The app will show you how long you can expect it to take to get burned. It will also recommend a hat, sunglasses, or clothing specific to your activity. The app has a count-down timer that counts down the minutes until it is time to reapply your sunscreen. The app takes about a minute to fill in all required information and multiple profiles can be created for all members of your family. You can even create multiple profiles for yourself for say hiking, running, or just sitting at the beach. The SunZapp app is available for both iOS and Android devices. SunZapp costs $1.99 but also provides a free version. (Image Source:  http://www.sunzapp.org/)
While there are new apps and technology, all of which have the potential to increase protection and reduce skin cancer, the real challenge will be to get people to use not only the devices but apply more sunscreen. By being reminded how often to apply sunscreen combined with additional sun protection advice maybe we can start the education process with our children that will carry-over into their adulthood.