People and Places

SCIENCE & TECH: Coming to a beach near you — sunscreen 2.0

BY JOSEPH MATHIEU

This article was originally published in the Summer 2015 print edition of
Ottawa Magazine

Exposed_pic_Beaceh-UV-device-On the first day, there was light, and it was good. Many days later came sunscreen, and it was safer. Now, with the UV Scan, we are enlightened.

The World Health Organization identifies ultraviolet rays as a human carcinogen — that is, an agent that causes cancer in humans. A new device designed in Ottawa will educate people on how to protect their skin from these rays.

Created by Zoe Doucette, a fourth-year student in Carleton University’s industrial design program, the device helps outdoor revellers better apply sunscreen by scanning their body as sunscreen is applied. A camera relays information to a monitor, which reveals what parts of the body are protected by sunscreen — and, more importantly, what parts are not. Areas protected from UV rays appear black on the monitor.

“In my research, I found that when people started to understand UV rays, they took more precautions with sunscreen,” says Doucette, who hopes to see the device at beaches and parks.

Doucette says her UV Scan was inspired by a 2014 video by American artist and filmmaker Thomas Leveritt called How the Sun Sees You, which shows people’s reactions when shown what their skin looks like in ultraviolet light. (Spoiler alert: it isn’t pretty.)