Woman wearing sun hat

Avoiding Sunburn? There’s an App for That

It's not just an app; it's a wearable device that tracks your exposure to UV light and sends an alert when you're likely to get burned.

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It can be tricky to tell how much sun exposure is too much until it’s too late.

Intense sun exposure that results in sunburns is more than a painful and itchy summer nuisance. The resulting skin damage adds up, and it’s a leading cause of skin cancer.

Sunburns happen when skin is exposed to too much ultraviolet (UV) light, which can come from the sun or from tanning beds.

To help users get personalized and real-time advice on sun exposure, including alerts that pop up when a sunburn is likely, Neda Ghazi and Ali Monam successfully crowdfunded a wearable UV light tracker called the QSun through their University of Toronto startup Comfable.

Sleek and portable, the QSun can be worn as a pendant or clipped onto clothing or a backpack. It can be used on its own as a standalone device, and users can shake it to get information through its LED light display, or to update the device on a new sunscreen application.

The device then tracks UV exposure, calculates the time it will take to burn, and vibrates to let users know when to seek sun protection when a sunburn becomes likely.

The QSun can also be paired with a smartphone app. Users can enter information about their skin type and how much of their skin is covered by clothing, and receive a UV forecast based on their location.

Comfable wants users to get out and enjoy the benefits of the sun safely. Their app can also provide personalized information on recommended sunscreens, how much to apply, and it can even estimate sun-induced vitamin D production.

Without the QSun wearable, the app alone can’t track sun exposure or estimate the time remaining before a sunburn, but it can still give some of the same advice, and it can provide a skin health analysis based on a selfie.

Beyond simply tracking raw sun exposure measurements, the QSun and its companion app crunch the numbers to dispense practical advice based on a user’s individual skin type.

Anything that makes it easier to enjoy some sunshine without regret seems like a bright idea.

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Karyn Ho is a science animator and engineer who thrives at the interface between science, engineering, medicine, and art. She earned her MScBMC (biomedical communications) and PhD (chemical engineering and biomedical engineering) at the University of Toronto. Karyn is passionate about using cutting edge discoveries to create dynamic stories as a way of supporting innovation, collaboration, education, and informed decision making. By translating knowledge into narratives, her vision is to captivate people, spark their curiosity, and motivate them to share what they learned.