Use These Gadgets and Apps to Stay Safe in the Sun

Sunburn protection? There's an app for that.

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Do you plan on spending some quality time outdoors in the summer months? Simply spend a lot of time outside, rain or shine? As you hopefully already know, you need to be protecting your skin from the sun's harmful rays with adequate sunscreen application and by seeking out shade whenever possible. But don't just rely on remembering to reapply SPF to stay safe; consider turning to one of these gadgets or apps as well.

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Raymio
Raymio

The Raymio app for Android and iOS includes a variety of practical tools for keeping your skin safe from damaging UV rays. For one, it lets you know how long you can stay out before exposing your skin to damage. The app also lets you specify the type of environment you'll be in so you can be presented with the most accurate recommendations for exposure time and more. Additionally, you can feed it info about your skin type to further personalize the recommendations you get.

Billing itself as "your personal sun coach," the Raymio device is a wrist-worn band that tracks your UV exposure and lets you know when you reach your limit via an LED indicator. Impressively, it takes a 360-degree approach to tracking your sun exposure, thanks to directional UV sensors, so it should be more accurate than just any old UV-tracking band. This wearable is even waterproof, so it can accompany you to the beach or poolside, where much of your sun exposure will likely occur. This device was co-financed by the Danish government and originally launched on Indiegogo, and unfortunately you currently can't order one (only existing backers appear to be able to get in on the sun-protection action at this point). More »

Ultra

Sun safety? There's a wearable for that. No, really: The Violet Plus is a small, clip-on device that sports UVA and UVB sensors. When you wear it, it keeps track of your exposure and measures that metric against your determined UV needs (yes, vitamin D does do some good) to let you know when to apply more sunscreen and when to get out of the sun.

The device communicates this info via hardware status lights, though the companion Violet app (for Android and iPhone) can send you notifications about your current status as well, and you'll see your progress toward a day's worth of UV exposure in pie-chart form. Both the tracker and the app also deliver personalized advice based on the color of your skin, so you're not getting a one-size-fits-all approach to sun protection, which should provide some extra peace of mind.

As of publish time, the Violet Plus was not yet available for purchase, though its release was imminent. The hardware options include three different colors: red, silver and beigey pink. It's not necessarily the most stylish device, but it stands out for its laser-focused, unique purpose. More »

Rooti

This Bluetooth clip-on wearable tracks your UV exposure along with other climate-related metrics such as temperature and humidity. It works with a companion app for Android and iOS to communicate and analyze the info gathered by its UV sensor, ultimately giving you recommendations about how long you can stay in the sun.

As is the case with similar devices, the Rooti CliMate will take your skin type and level of SPF protection into account when providing you with recommendations. Bonus points for the cute, cloud-shaped design — available in white, black and red, among other colors — and the device's ability to alert you about upcoming heatwaves and storms based data gathered from other users. You can purchase this device for about $54 on Amazon. More »

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SunZapp

You don't necessarily need to strap a band to your wrist or clip a sensor on to your clothes to keep yourself safe from the sun. If you don't trust yourself to apply and reapply sunscreen sufficiently without some external reminders or info, consider an app like SunZapp. This download, available for both Android and iOS, provides advice on the level of SPF and cover-up you need to stay safe from the sun. It delivers its recommendations based on your location, environmental conditions, elevation, level of SPF you're wearing, your clothing and the real-time UV index forecast. Of course, it'll also send you alerts when it's time to reapply sunscreen or get out of the sun to avoid a burn.

SunZapp lets you store profiles for various family members, and the app even allows you to plan for a trip or an event — with sun-protection recommendations — up to five days in the future. It's not the only app of its kind, but it has all the main bases covered. More »

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Some Guidelines to Keep in Mind

Coppertone

Whether it's summer, when you can expect long days of the sun beaming down at full strength, or the dead of winter, when thick blankets of clouds can trick you into thinking you're safe from skin damage, some basic sun-protection principles apply.

If you're looking to stay safe without purchasing a wearable, make a reliable weather app a priority. Why, you ask? You'll want to get familiar with the UV index feature.

According to the US EPA, a UV index of 0-2 equates to a low danger of getting skin damage as a result of the sun's rays, while on the other end of the scale an index of 11 or more equals an extreme risk — you'll need to apply sunscreen every two hours (at a minimum) and seek out shade when possible. 

Most weather apps provide forecasts based on your current location, and these tend to include info on your local UV index. If nothing else, get yourself in the habit of checking this and making sure your sunscreen application falls in line with the recommendations for that particular UV index level. You don't have to go off of the EPA's guidelines, though you'll find most other sources provide quite similar information.

Finally, no article about sun protection would be complete without mentioning sunscreen — the substance between you and painful, prematurely aging skin damage. Make sure you're using a solution that provides broad-spectrum (so, UVA and UVB) protection. While experts may disagree on the level of SPF required to keep your skin safe, SPF 30 should be the minimum in the summer.