The girl’s and I are now official UV Detectives! We had so much fun and learned a lot while performing experiments with some really cool science toys, the Steve Spangler UV Energy Beads. These beads are an excellent way to show children the importance of sunscreen and to teach them about the effects uv rays. I have explained to my 2 and 3-year-old before the reasons we protect our skin with sunscreen. Using science toys like the uv beads was a great way for Journey and Faith to become involved in an actual science experiment. I had them string the beads on their own bracelet (which is a perfect exercise for fine motor skills). The anticipation grew as I explained to them that we needed to wear our bracelets outside and that we would see a surprise!


They both decided that their uv bracelets would look great as ankle bracelets!


Before we went outside, the uv detective in me thought that we should test the light that comes in through the window that faces the backyard. I laid the uv bracelet on my sweater that was drying flat on top of the washing machine. Right away I could see the beads changing from white to light pastel colors…It was around noon when this picture was taken and the light was only indirect.


See the UV Beads in action!

YOU can Be an Ultraviolet Detective and WIN UV Energy Beads from Steve Spangler Science!!!

You can become an ultraviolet detective with amazing UV-sensitive beads too. Make bracelets and test the effectiveness of sunscreen or sunglasses while you learn about the power of sunlight.

Not all sunscreen lotions are the same. The coverage you get varies from SPF to SPF and brand to brand. Instead of using your skin as a detector of ultra-violet light (UV), try experimenting with Energy Beads. The beads change color when exposed to UV light!

With all of the SPF (Sun Protection Factor) numbers available, which SPF lotion really works best at keeping out the sun’s harmful UV rays? Start by using various strengths of sunscreen (SPF 4, 15 and 50, for example). Since the UV Color-Changing Beads are very sensitive to changes in UV energy, you can use the beads to determine the blocking potential of the sunscreen. Place the beads in a zipper-lock bag and apply a layer of sunscreen to the outside of the bag. Set-up one bag without any sunscreen coating for comparison purposes. Expose the beads to direct sunlight and look for any changes in color.

The beads will always change color regardless of how good the sunscreen blocks UV – the beads are very sensitive, but you will be able to tell which sunscreen offers the most protection by the amount that the beads change. You can also test the difference between new and old sunscreen. Sunscreen manufacturers suggest that you throw away old sunscreen because it does not block out harmful UV light.

Usually sunscreen has a shelf life of 2-3 years, but if you are using the recommended 1 oz. per application then you shouldn’t have unused sunscreen sitting around for more than a few months.

Our Experiment: How effective is sunscreen in protecting against UV rays?

As UV detectives we set up two similar experiements, one in full-shade and the other in full-sun. Each paper towel had UV beads without sunscreen, a sunscreen with a SPF 50 and an organic sunscreen with a SPF 15.

Here is a picture of the full-sun experiement. Immediately the UV beads without sunscreen (left) turned bright colors…the beads in the middle coated with SPF 50 sunscreen turned pastel and the organic SPF 15 sunscreen coated the UV beads the best and showed little signs of changing color. 732

We left the beads out in full-sun for a couple of hours and this was the outcome…The beads without sunscreen stayed the same. The SPF 50 sunscreen (middle) melted completely off–exposing the beads to UV rays. And the organic SPF 15 sunscreen stayed completley on and offered the most lasting protection. The paper towel aided in the sunscreen melting off of the beads, but I feel that it is a great comparision to your skin. Some sunscreens just don’t last as long when you take into consideration that your skin absorbs it or you sweat it off.


The last part of the experiment was to see how the beads did in full-shade. While the full-sun experiment was going on we also put beads without sunscreen, SPF 50 and organic SPF 15 sunscreen to the test under our gazebo.


As you can see the change for the unprotected beads was bright and immediate. The SPF 50 covered beads held up with a light pastel color and the SPF 15 stuck so well that I couldn’t really see a change in the beads. We left these beads for the same two hours and here is what we found…


In the full-shade the beads without sunscreen still stayed bright while the SPF 50 gave moderate coverage,but allowed the beads to still change into pastel colors. The SPF 15 didn’t budge and offered the best coverage.

You can also test to see if the beads change color on a cloudy day. If they change color, then you can see why doctors warn people to wear sunscreen even on a cloudy day.

Finally, test the ability of your sunglasses to block out ultraviolet light by covering a few beads with the lens of your sunglasses. If the beads do not change color, your sunglasses block out harmful ultraviolet light from your eyes. If not, you paid too much for that UV coating!

UV Beads are the perfect tool for understanding how solar radiation can be harmful and to recognize preventative measures that can be taken to reduce the risks associated with exposure to sunlight. When you expose bare skin to sunlight, your skin will either burn or tan (which doctors warn is still not healthy for your body). UV radiation wavelengths are short enough to break chemical bonds in your skin tissue and with prolonged exposure, your skin may wrinkle or skin cancer may appear. These responses by your skin are a signal that the cells under your skin are being assaulted by UV radiation.

For more information and other ways to use your UV Beads, please go to

Do you want to win your own set of UV Energy Beads for sunlight-testing activities?

Win a pack of 1,000 UV Beads and a roll of leather cord (50 yards) to make bracelets!! A $50 value.

How to Enter!

Visit, browse, and then leave a comment below with a different product or experiment you would like to try besides the UV Energy Beads.

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Bring out the UV Detective inside of you with the Steve Spangler UV Energy Beads! Steve Spangler science toys are an excellent way to introduce science in a fun way that kids understand. Read about the experience mom blogger Kalisha at UV Skinz had with these cool science toys and enter to WIN UV Energy Beads for your children! Giveaway ends July 12. Open to U.S. only.

One winner will be chosen!

*I will be using a random number generator ( to select the winner. The winner will be emailed and also announced on here on Monday July 13, 2009.

  • Contest ends at 11:59pm on Sunday July 12,2009. If the prize is not claimed in 48 hours a new winner will be chosen.
  • The Giveaway is being extended until this Thursday July 16, 2009! The winner will be announced on Friday July 17, 2009