This summer, you must remember to reapply your sunscreen. Wearing sunscreen is important to protect your skin from harmful UV rays. Experts agree that you should reapply your sunscreen every two hours, possibly sooner if you’re swimming or sweating outside. Sometimes, it’s hard to keep track, but there are new UV stickers that claim to help you remember.
I’ve tried a few brands of UV stickers that will help you know when your sunscreen has stopped protecting you. To get the most accurate results, I tested these UV stickers with different types of sunscreens (mineral, chemical and a combination of both). The results were unexpected. Read on to learn what you need to know about sunscreen and what to expect when using UV stickers.
What are UV stickers?
UV stickers detect ultraviolet radiation from the sun. When the sunscreen is placed on top of the sticker, it should be clear, meaning that you are protected from harmful rays. Stickers that turn purple alert you that you’ve lost that protection and need to reapply sunscreen. The idea is that these stickers will tell you when you need to reapply before you’re alerted the old fashioned way – a burning, red sunburn.
I tried UV stickers from SpotMyUV. They are easy to use Amazon and Batas for about $15. It should be noted that I tried first UVIFY UV Stickers, a budget alternative to SpotMyUV. Those stickers didn’t work for me and wouldn’t come off, even after multiple layers of sunscreen. Fortunately, the SpotMyUV stickers turned out to be colorful for me.
SpotMyUV stickers do not necessarily test the effectiveness of your sunscreen or the level of SPF. That is left up to high-tech, specialized labs. It can, however, tell you when your sunscreen is no longer protecting you or not protecting you as well.
How do you use UV stickers?
I followed the directions on the back of the pouch. First, remove the stickers from the paper and apply them to your upper arm or other skin exposed to the sun. Then cover your exposed skin and sticker with sunscreen, wait 30 seconds and gently rub the sunscreen in. After a minute in the sun (or longer if there is cloud coverage), the stickers should turn from dark purple to clear. A clear sticker means you are protected.
In my own experiment, I put a tester on my upper arm and then four stickers on my upper leg. I then wait 30 seconds for the sunscreen to absorb before rubbing it on. However, I have seen on TikTok that some wait a full 15 minutes before applying sunscreen and going out. Regardless, I believe we get similar results.
Evaluate my own UV stickers under the sun
I tested these SpotMyUV stickers on a warm day when the UV was nine and there was little cloud coverage. During my 2 hour experiment, I sat in the sun on my porch and took my dog for a walk.
I tested four different sunscreen brands with four detection stickers. Two sunscreens are chemical, one is mineral and the last sunscreen is a combination of mineral and chemical.
I covered the top left UV sticker with Supergoop! Invisible sunscreen. It contains avobenzone, homosalate, octisalate and octocrylene and has an SPF of 40. This sunscreen is a little different than most chemical sunscreens, as it is lighter and lighter. I’m interested to see if this formula still works with these UV stickers.
The lower right sticker is covered by Everyday Man Oh My Bod sunscreen. Similar to Supergoop, this sunscreen contains avobenzone, homosalate, octisalate and octocrylene. However, Everyday Humans has a traditional sunscreen look and feel. It also has an SPF of 50.
The bottom left UV sticker is covered in EleVen by Venus Williams Unrivaled Sun Serum. It contains zinc oxide and has an SPF of 40. I chose this product not only because it is the best mineral sunscreen, but because I wanted to try a mineral formula with stickers.
Finally, I used EltaMD UV Daily sunscreen on the lower right sticker. This lightweight sunscreen contains zinc oxide and octinoxate. This is a good sunscreen compared to the results of all mineral sunscreens.
My unexpected results
I was surprised (and a little confused) by my results. I first noticed that after waiting 30 seconds and gently rubbing the sunscreen over the stickers, a sticky film came off. I thought maybe it was the sunscreen, but it happened with every sticker. I searched the SpotMyUV website for answers but found none; I’m not sure if that will happen. According to the website, each sticker has three layers. It could be the first layer that comes off when I apply the sunscreen and that can ruin my results. Anyway, here’s what I found.
My results in the first minute:
- Super goop! Can’t see (Chemical, SPF 40): Turned light purple
- Unmatched Sun Serum (Mineral, SPF 40): Just made a shade lighter
- EltaMD UV Daily (Combo, SPF 40): Made almost perfectly clear
- Everyday Man Oh My Bod (Chemical, SPF 50): Becomes almost completely clear
My results in the first 5 minutes:
- Super goop! Can’t see (Chemical, SPF 40): Becomes clear with a streak of purple
- Unmatched Sun Serum (Mineral, SPF 40): Just made a shade lighter
- EltaMD UV Daily (Combo, SPF 40): Made clear with a streak of light purple
- Everyday Man Oh My Bod (Chemical, SPF 50): Becomes completely clear
The stickers remain like this until about the first half hour. The mineral sunscreen sticker started to turn more purple, so I reapplied Everyday Humans Oh My Bod to three of the four testers.
My results after 30 minutes and a second application of chemical sunscreen:
- Supergoop! Can’t see (Chemical, SPF 40): Becomes completely clear
- Unmatched Sun Serum (Mineral, SPF 40): Becomes perfectly clear
- EltaMD UV Daily (Combo, SPF 40): It became perfectly clear
- Everyday Man Oh My Bod (Chemical, SPF 50): Stays perfectly clear
My results after one hour:
- Supergoop! Can’t see (Chemical, SPF 40): A sliver turns light purple
- Unmatched Sun Serum (Mineral, SPF 40): Stays perfectly clear
- EltaMD UV Daily (Combo, SPF 40): Becomes light purple
- Everyday Man Oh My Bod (Chemical, SPF 50): Starts with light redness
I went out for a walk in the sun. I noticed that the lower left sticker with a layer of mineral sunscreen and a layer of chemical sunscreen remained clear. The bottom right sticker with only one layer of chemical sunscreen on it is starting to turn purple. The top left sticker with two layers of chemical sunscreen has a sliver of dark purple, and the top right sticker with one layer of combo sunscreen and one layer of chemical is almost purple.
My results after two hours:
- Supergoop! Can’t see (Chemical, SPF 40): A fragment turns dark purple
- Unmatched Sun Serum (Mineral, SPF 40): Creates a splotchy light purple
- EltaMD UV Daily (Combo, SPF 40): Becomes completely dark purple
- Everyday Man Oh My Bod (Chemical, SPF 50): Becomes a splotchy purple
Two hours is the recommended time to reapply your sunscreen. This concludes my experiment.
Do UV stickers really work?
The UV stickers I tested became clear when covered with sunscreen and exposed to the sun. In that aspect, I would say that these stickers work. However, the results I got did not accurately reflect how well each sunscreen protected me from the sun. One, I couldn’t get the sticker with the mineral sunscreen to fully clear. This could be user error – maybe I didn’t apply the first time. The brand claims to work with mineral and chemical sunscreens, but I can’t find any studies to support this. Also, Supergoop isn’t as clear as the Everyday Humans sticker. I wonder if it has something to do with the formula being so different from traditional sunscreen. Looking at their website, it appears that it is designed to work with the typical white, thick sunscreen.
I just don’t trust these UV stickers. Especially since I know they don’t work as well with mineral sunscreen. However, they won’t hurt if they help you remember to reapply. The best sunscreen you can have is any sunscreen you wear and reapply.