Sunny design product on a table, the product is shaped like an astronaut with a rocket ship

‘Sunny’ has two applicators shaped like astronauts (complete with space helmet-shaped lids) and a rocket-shaped docking station.

Student designs sun cream monitor that takes the guesswork out of protecting kids' skin

Parents and guardians may soon bid farewell to the nagging worry of missed spots when applying sun cream to their children's skin, thanks to an invention by a Loughborough University student.

Poppy Topping, a recent Product Design and Technology graduate, is the brains behind ‘Sunny’, an innovative sun cream applicator and monitor that is designed to show you in real-time where you might have ‘missed a bit’.

Recognising the alarming statistics that 40-50% of total UV damage occurs before the age of 20, Poppy felt compelled to address the issue by creating a device that not only protects children but also provides them with a sense of ownership over their sun protection habits.

Poppy’s astronaut-themed product – designed as part of her final year project – comprises two applicators and a docking station.

‌The applicators are equipped with airless pumps that deliver a precise 2.5ml of sun cream per pump through integrated brushes, ensuring a mess-free application.

The inclusion of two applicators allows adults and children to apply the cream simultaneously so learning can be promoted through imitation.

A woman applying suncream to her arm using the astronaut-shaped Sunny applicator

The astronaut applicator.

The docking station features an integrated UV camera and a screen that provides a live feed.

The screen displays a black and white image, allowing assessment of the child's sun cream application, with darker areas on the screen indicating better coverage. Once full coverage is achieved, the screen magically transforms the child into an astronaut ready for adventure.

Of the inspiration for Sunny, Poppy said: “Skin care and sun protection has always been important to me, especially growing up and learning more about the consequences of UV exposure on skin and the importance of correct sun protection.

“When you’re a child, your sun protection habits are influenced by the adults around you, and they can have such a big impact on your skin later on in life.

“I thought it was important to give children ownership over sun protection and learn about UV exposure from a young age so they can take this into adulthood. I felt there was a gap in the market for this.”

Poppy has created a working prototype for the applicator, which involved 3D printing components, and an electronics prototype of the docking station that mimics what a user would see when they use the UV camera.

the components that make sunny all spread out within the image

The different components that make ‘Sunny’.

Of the ultimate goal for the product, Poppy said: “In a dream world, I would want to take Sunny to market.

“I’d love to see children aged four-to-six use it on a daily basis, empowering them with a sense of responsibility and ownership in protecting their skin, therefore reducing the potential risks of future skin cancer development.”

Sunny was showcased in the School of Design and Creative Arts Degree Show and Foundation Exhibition Student Showcase 2023.

Further information on the product can be found on the exhibition’s dedicated webpage and in the below video.

Notes for editors

Press release reference number: 23/123

Loughborough is one of the country’s leading universities, with an international reputation for research that matters, excellence in teaching, strong links with industry, and unrivalled achievement in sport and its underpinning academic disciplines.

It has been awarded five stars in the independent QS Stars university rating scheme, named the best university in the world for sports-related subjects in the 2023 QS World University Rankings – the seventh year running – and University of the Year for Sport by The Times and Sunday Times University Guide 2022.

Loughborough is ranked 7th in The UK Complete University Guide 2023, 10th in the Guardian University League Table 2023 and 11th in the Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide 2023.
Loughborough is consistently ranked in the top twenty of UK universities in the Times Higher Education’s ‘table of tables’, and in the Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2021 over 90% of its research was rated as ‘world-leading’ or ‘internationally-excellent’. In recognition of its contribution to the sector, Loughborough has been awarded seven Queen's Anniversary Prizes.

The Loughborough University London campus is based on the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park and offers postgraduate and executive-level education, as well as research and enterprise opportunities. It is home to influential thought leaders, pioneering researchers and creative innovators who provide students with the highest quality of teaching and the very latest in modern thinking.