Nearly 45 million Americans have at least one tattoo, but most parents don’t want to think about their kids getting inked up until they reach legal age (if ever at all). Temporary tattoos are a bit of a different story, as they’ve been beloved by children for decades. But now, there’s one type of temporary tat that goes beyond a fun decoration method: it’ll actually tell you when you’ve hit your sun exposure limit, thus potentially preventing sunburn and or lowering skin cancer risk.
Although the American Academy of Dermatology recommends using sunscreen that offers water resistance and broad-spectrum protection with an SPF of 30 or higher, recent research indicates that many Americans don’t really understand how sunscreen protection even works. A 2016 survey conducted the AAD found that only 32% of respondents understood SPF 30 sunscreen does not apply twice as much protection as SPF 15 does. Only 45% of respondents understood that higher SPF sunscreens don’t protect for longer periods than lower SPF sunscreens do.
But the new temporary tattoo from LogicInk may take a lot of guesswork out of the equation. This stick-on device can be placed on the hand or arm and will read how much UV exposure a wearer is getting at that moment. It will also tell you how close you are to your daily UV limit. It’s designed to chemically react to UV intensity and change color to alert you of your exposure. As you gain UVB and UVA exposure throughout the day, the outer ring of the tattoo will turn pink in different segments that correspond to dark, medium, and light skin tones. When the segment that responds to your skin tone turns pink, you’ve reached your limit and need to get out of the sun or must apply more sunscreen.
UV limits are determined by research that’s been conducted on minimal erythemal dose, or the amount of UV radiation that will result in skin rashes or burns. Because these limits differ based on skin tone, LogicInk is working on customized alerts that will correspond to different skin tones using “sophisticated technology powered by chemistry and biology.” While that explanation seems a bit vague, the company is working to make its wearable an option for all kinds of families. Unlike a similar skin patch recently created by L’Oreal, the LogicIk UV tattoo doesn’t require a smartphone connection. While it’s still in the beta testing phase, the company wants to make the device as accessible as possible in terms of price point, which isn’t often the case with wearables.
If the temporary tattoo works as LogicInk intends, it could have a significant effect on nationwide health. There are more than 5.4 million cases of skin cancer diagnosed each year, with more new cases than breast, lung, prostate, and colon cancers on an annual basis. But until the UV-sensing temporary tattoo becomes readily available, be sure to wear sunscreen (even on cloudy days!) and take it upon yourself to monitor your and your family’s sun exposure carefully.