I think I have lost count of the number of times I have struggled to put sun tan lotion onto a uncooperative child while telling them “if you don’t let me put it on you WILL burn”. Thankfully EC and YC are old enough to understand that if they don’t have it on they are likely to get burnt, and that having a sun burn is really not very fun at all. However, little children don’t always understand that. Sometimes we need to come up with a way to show them (without them getting hurt) what could happen. This sun tan lotion painting experiment is a way of doing just that (hopefully).

Make sure you follow our STEM board on Pinterest for more ideas.

To do your own sun tan lotion painting experiment you will need:

  • Sun tan lotion
  • Sugar paper
  • Some sunny weather!

For this to work you need to use sugar paper, you know that coloured paper that they always seem to use on school display boards that loses it’s colour very quickly.

Squirt some lotion into a bowl and get them to finger paint onto the sugar paper. You don’t want to put massive dollops of it onto the paper as you won’t be able to see the results properly, and the oil will spoil the paper.


Once you have painted your pictures leave them in the direct sun for a few hours. Unfortunately when we did this experiment we had to wait 2 days before we could put them out side because it was raining (typical British summer).

EC and YC were very excited when they saw that colour had faded, except for where the lotion had been. They could see how if the paper wasn’t protected, the sun “damaged” it.  Which is the same as how it would be damaging our skin if we don’t protect it. They even went and told the teacher who runs the Mad Science club at school what they had done.

Pin for later:

sun tan lotion/ sun cream science experiment for children to show why need to wear it during hot weather.