La Roche-Posay My Skin Track UV – Review

The launch of this product has created some buzz in the beauty community, it is the only product of this sort on the market. When I first read an article on this gadget, I thought it would be similar to the previously released My UV Patch, identical to any other UV wristband already available on the market. The only thing that made the patch novel was that it required a mobile application to understand the ultraviolet (UV) exposure levels. Because of that patch, I’d whimsically dismissed the My Skin Track UV with little consideration to its potential. So this year I decided to buy La Roche-Posay’s My Skin Track UV and test it out. The new duo isn’t merely a UV exposure indicator; they are a conjoint ecosystem that allows users to learn more about their sun exposure practices and UV light intake. 

What is the My Skin Track UV? It is a tiny, patented sensor loaded with state-of-the-art technology that enables to measure the UV irradiation. The telltale operates without a battery, and it connects with a smartphone via NFC. I believe it is charged via NFC based on the reverse charging method, as it takes repeated attempts to synchronise the device for the first time or after a few days of inactivity. Understandably, this sensor won’t give as accurate analyses as industrial machines used in laboratories do, but it is sufficient enough for an average user. This product is not suncare; it doesn’t form an invisible, UV-reflecting aura around you. Hence it shan’t serve as a justification for basking in the summer sun for hours. Instead, it provides you with information so that you can narrow your chances of getting sunburns, which underlie many UV-induced skin conditions.

The device has no use without the dedicated, mobile application; they work in synergy. Only through the application, you can learn the rough estimate of your UV exposure levels called My UV Dose. The My UV Dose is computed based on the amount of light which hits the sensor and an algorithm that takes into consideration device’s position on your body, your skin pigmentation, the type of activity performed, and your sunscreen. When you first pair the apparatus with your smartphone, you need to provide data regarding your complexion tone, based on Fitzpatrick’s scale, and your sunscreen’s details. You can pick your preferred sunscreen from a limited list of stalwart Anthelios products, or add your own concoction, but you need to know its anti-UV values. I don’t use any of the Anthelios sunscreens, as I am still sour about the awful Shaka Fluid, so I’ve added my sunscreen to the system. I have set the ratings for my sunscreen equal to SPF 60 and PPD 20 corresponding to a suncare product with SPF 50+ and an encircled UVA logo. In all probability, my sunscreens offer higher UV protection, but I can’t be sure about that, so it’s best to be on the safe side.

To start the calculation of the My UV Dose, you need to synchronise the device daily with your phone. Every morning you get a reminder to scan the sensor. Still, if you forget the morning check-in, the sensor will register and store the UV data anyway, so nothing to worry about. Later on, you will only need to scan it twice to get the statistics. After sunset, you get a notification for the last scan of a day, which stops the UV-tracking process. Again, if you forget about it, nothing happens, but you won’t receive your sun exposure data until you do the final scan. Suppose you’re involved in a particular activity be it running or gardening. In that case, you can input that information in the application, by selecting your desired task from the list of activities and programming the time spent on it. I have never used this option, but I reckon it impacts the My UV Dose algorithm. On top of the primary functions, you can also set reminders for sunscreen reapplications, sensor scans, and environmental alerts. 

The application also displays useful data like the humidity, pollen, and pollution, and temperature levels in your area. The funny thing is that my application’s temperature unit is in Fahrenheit. I don’t know how to change it to Celsius, and I have emailed the app developer about it, but to no avail. The application, unsurprisingly, also serves as an advertising platform for La Roche-Posay’s products. Unfortunately, there is no shopping option; perhaps in the future, it will be possible to make purchases directly from the application. 

I have a few doubts about how accurate the UV light measurements are. The My UV Dose is estimated based on the amount of UV irradiation and the sunscreen used (don’t apply it on the device though!). I wonder how much sunscreen La Roche-Posay expect people to use. Is it two milligrams per centimetre squared? Because the majority of people don’t do that. This specific information significantly influences the absorption of UV rays by our skin, and I also assume My UV Dose’s calculations. It would be helpful if La Roche-Posay clarified that, as there is no information on this matter. One thing that is even more dissatisfying about this product is how little area the sensor has for receiving sunlight. I am referring to the small hole on the top of the device; it isn’t sufficient enough for the product to catch sunshine from all angles. The gadget has to be positioned facing outwards at all times; otherwise, the UV-measuring tool won’t be able to receive the UV light. I would say it’s best to place it directed towards the sky, for example, attached to a hat brim, but that, simply, isn’t always possible. I doubt how efficient it would be if someone used the brooch as a necklace, as portrayed in promotional photos. Imagine the device swinging from side to side; there is no way it would measure one’s UV radiation without errors. My doubts seem justified if we consider that even in ordinary settings, its performance is questionable. Nonetheless, I have found the My Skin Track UV remarkably helpful in understanding my sun exposure habits. 

The My Skin Track UV has taught me a lot about my sun exposure habits and how particular periods of a day influence the amount of UV radiation received. Some of the things I’d known before, some of them I learnt while using the sensor. For instance, before I started to use the device, I’d always thought that early mornings and late afternoons are best to avoid too much sun exposure. This tool has taught me that late afternoons contribute in a lesser degree to the UV irradiation, because in early mornings, even if they are the very first hours of a morning, I get far more UV irradiation. It’s mainly UVA rays with little to none of the UVB. Before the device, I’d usually done grocery shopping in the mornings, but I switched to shopping in the evenings. It may sound extreme, but it makes a massive difference in the UVA exposure levels in summer. 

Another thing that I discovered while using the device was that we mainly get UVA light and not much of UVB light, even in summer. I’d known that we are predominately subject to UVA rays, for example, in autumn and winter there is scarcely any UVB light. But, I’d thought that in summer the proportions are more balanced, and it is not the case. Throughout this summer, I always got high readings for UVA exposure; the application was showing me that I had reached over a hundred per cent on the UVA Dose, at the same time the UVB Dose would rise to about thirty per cent, which was surprising. This revelation made me switch from the regular Heliocare Oral supplement to the version that includes vitamin D as I was worried about my vitamin D absorption. In winter, I take regular vitamin D supplements, of course. 

The last thing I have learnt is that the UV exposure inside a building can be similar to the one I get when I am outdoors. During the summer, I experimented with the sensor extensively, and that included indoor tests. While inside, I got very little UV irradiation given I was far away from windows covered by thin cotton curtains, let’s say about two metres away from them. When I was sitting near a window, about fifty centimetres away from it, I could absorb a comparable amount of UVA rays as to being outside, and UVB to some extent too. I’d read many times that glass filters out UVB rays, but this device caught UVB rays even through double-pane windows during the summer. However, in autumn very little UVB light passes through the glass*, even outside there is barely any UVB irradiation. My experiments have taught me to wear sunscreen inside at all times, as curtains aren’t enough to prevent the harmful impact of the sun’s rays. I can always keep the shutters closed too, in case applying sunscreen is too much of a struggle.

These are the three main things that I have learnt from using this device. Undoubtedly, the device has made me more mindful of my sun exposure patterns. I have used the gained knowledge to adjust my habits to limit the UVA intake, unlike the UVB, needn’t for synthesising vitamin D. 

Let’s talk about the most significant shortcoming of this device, namely the design of its case. It’s quite brittle and halves easily. The UV measuring tool is encapsulated in a shiny, dome-shaped shell. It can be made into a metal brooch, as pictured below, or a bracelet. I have lost the wristband, and I have never used it. The wristband consists of two strings and a metal circle; the cords are tricky to adjust, making it tricky to pull the bracelet on and take it off, at least that was the case with my big hands. However, the bracelet has one advantage – its metal ring has a small gap releasing the pressure created while shifting the device.

In comparison, the brooch is one piece of metal. For donning or removing the clip, you need to widen it slightly, and this creates pressure at each arc of the loop. That pressure presents no problem on the lower part of the brooch, Though, the upper section has a circle which holds the device by nesting in the indentation that goes along the middle of its casing. That hollow is the weakest point of the shell, as the plastic is thinner there. Every move of the brooch creates tension which is released into that cavity, ultimately, results in cracking of the case.

The device pictured below is my second one. Last Sunday, just like with the first device, the base of the casing separated from rest. Each time the case crumbled after about three months of use like clockwork. When I was getting my first device, I expected to use it for at least two years, but it seems like it is an extravagant toy made to last one season. The last time, Apple, the exclusive stockists, reluctantly replaced my beloved, broken device. However, I am not sure if they will do it again. I may glue the casing together myself. Now, I am thinking that perhaps using the brooch with a safety pin would avert the shell splitting. 

Overall, the product is a great invention. It is something that I would recommend buying if you want to learn more about your UV exposure. It can assist you in changing your daily habits to evade an excessive absorption of UV rays. This can sequentially help you to prevent some of the skin conditions caused by the sun’s rays. The My Skin Track UV is an innovative device with huge potential, but I would like to see the design errors corrected. I hope that La Roche-Posay will make necessary changes to improve the user experience. Despite the case’s fragility, I think this device is something unique and worth giving a try. 

The La Roche-Posay My Skin Track UV device retails for €64.95 available at Apple Stores & Online around the globe. 

*Update 29/12/2020:  In the original review, I said that no UVB light passes through the glass in autumn. The autumn weather is usually cloudy and rainy, as it was the case here this year. So the device only caught UVB rays while outside. But, I use this device daily, even while indoors. As the clouds have cleared up in recent days, and the cold has arrived, I’ve noticed a spike in the UVB light readings of indoors exposure reaching around 1-3% of the UVB Dose and above 40% for the UVA Dose. Comparing the numbers, the irradiation in winter is similar to that of summertime. 

IMG_3138 2

Here are a few screenshots from the app. Regrettably, I didn’t take any during July and August. 

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This screenshot is in Italian because, with my first device, I used the app in Italian. This screenshot was taken after the final scan on one of the evenings of late June. I can’t recall the exact time I spent outside that day, but it was about two hours in the early afternoon, and my UVA Dose, increased a few per cent while indoors.

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This is the amount of UV radiation I got after spending about 15 minutes outside in the early morning of the first week of September.

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This is the amount of UV that I absorbed after spending about 4 hours outside between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m mid-October.

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This is from late November, I was trying to take a few screenshots for Weibo, hence the Chinese version of the app. A few days ago, I attached the device to a window curtain for an entire day, let’s say around 7 hours of sunlight. This is the amount of UVA I would have got, had I sat next to the window on that day. The device doesn’t catch any UV rays from my desk, though.

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