L’Oreal’s futuristic UV patch shows the potential of healthcare wearables

L’Oreal is known for its beauty products, but the company has put a toe in the world of the Internet of Things (IoT) with its newly announced wearable sensor that will measure UV exposure.

The My UV Patch is a sort of temporary tattoo whose ‘stretchable electronics’ property, which allows it to adhere to skin wherever the wearer wants, is one of its most interesting features.

The patch is just 50 micrometres thick – that’s about half the thickness of a strand of hair. It contains photosensitive dyes which change colour when exposed to UV rays. The dyes take account of the wearer’s baseline skin tones, and the colours indicate varying levels of sun exposure.

The wearer can photograph the My UV Patch and upload it to a mobile app which analyses the photo to determine UV exposure level. The app will be available for both Android and iOS, and will support Near Field Communications in the patch scanning process on Android.

My UV Patch was announced at last week’s technology-fest, the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas. This event is much more the domain of hardened, high-tech firms and technology start-ups than it is of beauty firms. But by using CES to make the announcement L’Oreal displayed both its confidence in the product and its conviction that as a company it can take a place in the worlds of IoT and the wellness/healthcare sectors.

“Connected technologies have the potential to completely disrupt how we monitor the skin’s exposure to various external factors, including UV,” said Guive Balooch, global vice president of L’Oréal’s Technology Incubator.

“Previous technologies could only tell users the amount of potential sun exposure they were receiving per hour while wearing a rigid, non-stretchable device. The key was to design a sensor that was thin, comfortable and virtually weightless so people would actually want to wear it. We’re excited to be the first beauty company entering the stretchable electronics field and to explore the many potential applications for this technology within our industry and beyond.”

James Moar, research analyst at Juniper, told Internet of Business: “Our recent wearables survey has shown that consumers are more receptive to devices from tech brands than fashion brands, but as devices and their capabilities become more common in the next few years, we expect this to change. The market as a whole is not yet ready to trust a non-technology company with what are still seen as technology-first products.”

Nonetheless, Moar sees potential for MyUV Patch, noting: “The patch form factor is encouraging – the use of technology in what is in essence a plaster is a boon for healthcare. While it will take several years to come to a point where it can be used on a large scale, it will in the meantime encourage vendors to think of ‘wearable technology’ more broadly than they have to date.”

There’s no definite availability date for My UV Patch – but we should see it become available during this year via L’Oréal Group’s dermatological skincare brand, La Roche-Posay.