Here comes the sun: 5 apps for safer tanning

In San Francisco, the cold, clammy fog is so prevalent that it has its own Twitter account. As soon as there’s so much as the idea of sunshine, San Franciscans eagerly stick their pale legs into shorts and take over every sidewalk cafe and park in the city to soak up the sun. Very few of them, however, pay attention to proper sun protection.

Whether you’re a stunning sallow shade or a regular sun worshiper, you should always take care to protect yourself from UV rays (the number one risk factor for skin cancer and the most common of all cancers, according the American Cancer Society). So, before you strip down to get that perfect summer glow, keep a cool head to stay safe. Don’t know where to start? Let these apps be your summertime sun-safe guide.

Coppertone MyUV Alert—Android, iOS (Free)

This branded app is one of the more comprehensive offerings, providing updated UV index levels for your current location, a general weather forecast, recommended sun protection gear, suncare profiles for multiple users, reapplication reminders, suncare tips, and an outdoor activity locator.

While MyUV Alert is happy to recommend Coppertone products to you (in both the Tips & Savings section, and in the Recommended portion of the Suncare Profiles), there are enough useful features here to justify the ads and coupons. The UV indicator on this app is unique in that it updates itself to the current time when operated, whereas others will provide the peak forecasted UV level for that day.

It also allows you to set up multiple reminders to reapply sunblock, gives information on the UV index, and suggests recommended sun protection gear using icons. It’s easy to get all the UV information you’ll need at a glance here, and some of the tips in the Tips & Savings section were quite helpful.

World UV—Android (Free)

Android users can get much of the same functionality via the World UV app, created by the British Association of Dermatologists to help the public stay sun-safe by providing a free daily UV forecast for over 10,000 locations throughout the world. The app provides peak UV indexes for your location, a description of what each index means (3 or 4 indicates that protection is required, for example), and a “Skindex” that provides cursory information on various skin types.

However, it has some drawbacks—the app doesn’t offer sunscreen reminders or timers, and only provides information on the peak UV index instead of adjusting the index throughout the day. Also, the tips provided are fairly general; if you’re at all familiar with sun protection these won’t be new to you. That being said, it still provides a UV index and guidelines at a glance, which are helpful.

Wolfram Sun Exposure Reference App—iOS ($1)

Wolfram Research’s Sun Exposure app—like most of Wolfram’s apps—relies on the computational power of Wolfram|Alpha’s knowledge engine to provide its apps with data. The app, while definitely informative, is organized in a largely scientific way, which can be a bit dull. (I haven’t seen so many charts and graphs since sophomore year Geometry.)

However, it does offer some useful features: A UV forecast and index, a weather forecast, information on the sun’s position, sunrise, and sunset; and perhaps most importantly—a feature called Time to Sunburn, which tells you how long you can be in the sun before risking a sunburn. Time to Sunburn considers the user's location, skin type, level of SPF protection, date and time to provide a chart listing that shows how many minutes it will take to get a sunburn, complete with time adjustments for various body parts (nose, forearms, top of head). The results also provide basic suggestions on how to avoid sunburn.

Tan Plan—iOS ($1)

If you’re a tan fan, but want to do so as safely as possible, the Tan Plan app can help you out. This app keeps a visual record of your perfect glow (regardless if you are tanning inside, outside, or using a spray or lotion). It uses your phone’s camera to take “skinshots” to document how your tan progresses. You can also add photos from your phone that were not taken with the app.

The app logs the date and duration of your sessions, so you can later compare them to see the latest, earliest, longest, or shortest tanning sessions. You can add notes to the sessions, although the notes field is a solitary line crammed above the minutes of the session and won’t allow for paragraph breaks, so you’ll want to keep the notes short and simple to keep them readable. It’s a nice app for keeping track of your tan progression, but doesn’t provide any kind of alarm, alert, or advice. However, it’s useful enough if you only want to watch your tan progress.

Perfect Tan for Summer—iOS ($1)

Sometimes you just need a simple timer app to keep track of your tanning session. Sure, you could just use the built-in timer on your phone but Perfect Tan for Summer will not only alert you to when it’s time to turn, but also tell you what side to switch to.

It’s admittedly a simple app with a friendly interface. The homescreen offers up few options: You enter the amount of time you’d like to tan into the timer box, then hit the red Start button. Perfect Tan will begin the countdown, and ping you when it’s time to turn. It then automatically starts the countdown for the next side (by default the app starts on the front side, then moves to back, left, and right), so if you’re going to take a break to dip in the water or grab a snack, be sure to hit the orange Stop button first.

The app will alert you with a notification and a tone when it’s time to turn—even if you exit the app or have music playing, but be warned you’ll need to leave the volume on  or the ping won’t sound (the notification will still pop up, however). Sure, it sounds like a really basic app but you’d be surprised how hard it is to find a solid timer app that is designed for tanning and not completely buggy. This one is well worth the dollar download fee, as it does exactly what it says without problems or complications.

This story, "Here comes the sun: 5 apps for safer tanning" was originally published by TechHive.

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