June 19, 2008, Updated September 13, 2012

Skyrad aims to help people stop getting burned by the sun with a patch that lets you know when it’s time to cover up.Everyone loves the sun – but no one loves sunburn. A sunburn doesn’t just mean you’ve been out in the sun too long — in these days of ozone depletion with the incidence and severity of sunburn way up — a burn could be a precursor to skin cancer.

Sunlight contains ultraviolet (UV) radiation, which is linked to skin cancer and known to be harmful to people. One way to have your day at the beach and avoid worry is to use sunblock or a sunscreen.

Dermatologists recommend a waterproof sunscreen with an SPF (Sun Protection Factor) of 15 to 50. The problem with sunscreen is that if it isn’t applied properly, often enough, or if it has lost its strength, you may not be getting the protection you need.

It’s also possible that you may be getting less than you bargained on, says Dr. Ori Faran from the Israeli startup Skyrad. Dr. Faran says that the SPF label on a sunscreen can in reality be significantly lower than what is claimed — an issue that has already been the subject of several lawsuits in the US.

This is one reason why he developed a photochromic dye patch, the Skyrad Personal UV band, that takes the guesswork out of when and how much sunscreen to apply.

The Personal UV color-coded band is simple, effective and cheap. Users put the band on the most sensitive or exposed parts of their body — their neck, upper or lower arm, etc. — and then apply sunscreen as needed on the body, as well as the area over the band. When the sun hits the band it turns bluish purple, indicating to the wearer that it has been activated.

Skyrad’s band “knows” the strength of your sunscreen and more importantly it can measure its efficacy. When it’s time for more, the band’s bluish color turns brown; and orange is a warning signal to pack up and go home.

Dr. Faran says that the patch is distributed and in demand by sunscreen manufacturers and pharmacy chains around the world, especially in Europe: “In essence, the band works as part of a filter system,” he says.

“The band simulates the sunlight’s ultraviolet strength on the skin, while the sunscreen filters out the UV. When too much UV is getting through, matching the indicators on the band, it changes color to brown. That means that the sunscreen filter is no longer effective – and you need to apply some more.”

Of course, it’s water and salt proof, he says — all one has to do is check the patch occasionally to ensure it’s still attached and that it hasn’t changed color.

While there are similar products on the market, Dr. Faran says that his is unique in that it absorbs sunscreen like the skin, is long-lasting, and is created through a special manufacturing method: “We have a patented technology that lets us produce the patches much more inexpensively than our competitors,” he says.

The result – more people everywhere can benefit from a high-tech method of preventing sunburn and skin cancer.

The patented production method found in the Skyrad Personal UV band gave Dr. Faran the impetus to develop a second color-coded patch — one designed to indicate whether a product is safe for consumption.

Skyrad’s TTI (Time-Temperature patch) measures the true temperature history of any product during its lifecycle, from production to final consumption – and lets a consumer know whether a product could have deteriorated more rapidly than what the “sell by” date indicates.

The Skyrad TTI, which should be on the market later this year, could be a safety feature used by pharmaceutical companies. Recently, Skyrad has been in preliminary discussions with international aid agencies that distribute surplus drugs to countries in need. Such organizations could use the patch to effectively rotate their stock, and prevent shortages of medicines in different countries.

Like in the sunburn band, it’s the manufacturing process that makes Skyrad’s TTI competitive. Selling for about a penny, a similar product made by 3M costs about one dollar — a factor which has limited the widespread use of such technology.

Dr. Faran, himself a colorful character, says: “For a dollar, manufacturers would be unlikely to be interested in such an indicator, unless it was for an extremely valuable product, but for a penny, the TTI has the potential to be a major safety and marketing tool for companies of all sizes,” he concludes.

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Jason Harris

Jason Harris

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