How Wearable Tech Is Creeping Into the Beauty Industry

With the release of L’Oréal’s new UV-monitoring patch, beauty wearables are hitting the big time

© Bernd Vogel/Corbis

With the recent unveiling of L’Oréal’s wearable UV-monitoring patch, the world of beauty wearables has hit the big time. The market is already filling with wearables designed to monitor health—pulse, blood pressure, blood sugar and more—so beauty wearables are a logical next step. Though L’Oréal may be the first company to bring a beauty wearable to market, there’s plenty more coming down the pike. Look out for these interesting technologies in the near future. 

A Patch to Monitor Sun Exposure

Do you ever wonder how well your sunscreen is really working? Sure, you might have slathered on the SPF 35, but maybe some of it rubbed off? Maybe the sun is especially bright? Are you safe, or will you wake up Pepto-Bismol pink tomorrow? A new patch, touted as the first-ever beauty wearable, promises to solve this problem. Unveiled at this month’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, My UV Patch from beauty giant L’Oréal contains photosensitive dyes that change color when exposed to UV rays. The heart-shaped stretchy adhesive patch, which is about one square inch in size and half the thickness of a strand of hair, takes into account your own skin tone and can be used underneath sunscreen. Users can upload photos of their patches to an app, which will provide further analysis. It will be available on the market later this year.

The patch was developed by L’Oréal’s beauty tech innovation wing, Technology Incubator, which worked with product engineering firm PCH and MC10, a company which makes stretchable electronics for monitoring health data. The companies suggest this will not be the only beauty wearable to come out of the partnership. “[This partnership] underscores the intersection of tech and beauty and the boundless potential of connected devices within the beauty market,” said MC10 CEO Scott Pomerantz in a recent press release. So stay tuned. 

A Patch to Tell You When to Put on Moisturizer

Researchers at Northwestern University and the University of Illinois have developed a wearable skin patch that monitors temperature changes at the skin’s surface. These temperature changes can indicate changes in blood flow rate, which can give insight into skin hydration levels. The patch is made of 3,600 tiny liquid crystals on a stretchable substrate. The crystals change color with temperature shifts, and an algorithm translates the data. Though developed with an eye towards monitoring cardiovascular health, researchers believe the patch may be of interest to the beauty industry. 

Digital Deodorant

In 2015, Google was awarded a patent for a “digital deodorant”—a tiny wearable fan with odor-sensing technology, which emits a spray of deodorant when it detects that you’ve gone a bit ripe. The user would also be alerted to his or her stench via social media and offered alternate GPS routes to avoid walking by friends. Though there’s no word on whether the company will pursue the idea to market, anyone who has ever worked next to a stinky-yet-unaware coworker can see the utility.  

Fake Nails That Turn On Your Phone

Brazilian computer scientist Katia Vega is a bit of a rock star in the world of wearable technology. Her interest lies in embedding beauty products with technologies to do non-beauty-related things: electrically conductive hair extensions that tell you when you’re touching your hair (often an unconscious sign of nervousness), fake eyelashes that use blinking to power devices and conductive makeup that acts as an interface with electronics. Her Beauty Tech Nails are fake fingernails embedded with radio frequency identification tags that can activate various electronics. Don’t expect to see any of Vega’s prototypes on the market just yet, but her research is likely to fuel consumer innovation. 

Conductive Ink That Turns Your Eyeliner Into a Circuit

(© Sie Productions/Corbis )

Skin-safe conductive ink, which uses carbon particles to transmit small electrical currents across the surface of the skin, has been around for more than five years now. Several companies and designers have been experimenting with turning the ink into a beauty wearable. Indian designer Amrita Kulkarni has used the ink to create henna-style temporary tattoos that power tiny LED lights, creating a cyborg-at-a-wedding effect. Others are using the ink for more high-tech purposes: software design company Chaotic Moon Studios has created temporary tattoos that can monitor health information, bringing health wearables and beauty wearables together. Katia Vega, of the high-tech fake fingernails, has tried using the ink as conductive makeup, which could potentially interface with electronics. She found moisture near the eyes tricky to deal with when it came to conductive eyeliner though. 

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