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Would sticking stickers on a helmet or painting them etc make a helmet less useful in a crash? Not knowing the science of helmets but perhaps stickers in the wrong place might make it not behave how the manufacturer intended during a crash (not breaking apart correctly)?

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6 Answers

up vote 10 down vote accepted

I agree with the others, it doesn't seem like stickers should be a problem. My helmet has stickers on the shell added by the manufacturer - clearly they were added make me ride faster.

Paint is a different story... Polystyrene (aka Styrofoam) and certain other plastics can be damaged by the solvents used in paints, like some spray paints. I believe petroleum solvents in particular can cause polystyrene to melt.

Polystyrene is sometimes used in crafts and model building, so a hobby store might stock some polystyrene safe paints or be able to recommend a brand of paint that'll be safe to use.

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@unforgettableid - That should have been a separate answer. –  Daniel R Hicks Jan 10 '13 at 12:06
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@DanielRHicks: But I have no answer for the "paint" half of the question. Do you still think I should make my BHSI quote a separate answer, even though it answers only half of the question? –  unforgettableid Jan 14 '13 at 1:22
    
@unforgettableid - You shouldn't put words in someone else's mouth. A partial answer is perfectly acceptable. –  Daniel R Hicks Jan 14 '13 at 12:46
    
@DanielRHicks: Fine; thank you for the tip. I've now posted my partial answer as a separate answer instead of as an edit to Jason's answer. –  unforgettableid Jan 14 '13 at 20:39
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As long as the material in the paint doesn't cause the helmet material to degrade, it should be fine.

While helmets do sometimes break apart in a crash, that's not a primary design requirement for them to keep your head protected. The two things a helmet does to keep your head safe during a crash are compress (to absorb the impact) and stay securely fastened to your head (so the foam stays between your head and the hard thing the helmet is hitting).

Breaking apart is very much a secondary thing that simply sometimes happens after the primary purpose (compressing) happens to destroy the bits holding the helmet together.

If the stickers are a hard raised item that will compromise the effectiveness of the helmet, however, since the protrusion could be driven through the foam in a crash.

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Stickers are fine... paint is the danger as mentioned already.

Some helmets are constructed using a thin plastic shell that is stuck to the foam base. If you remove the shell and paint that seperately, then re-attach it you should be fine.

However, as you should get a new helemt every few years, to make the manufactures happy and to be safe because the materials break down over time due to UV light and other variables, I'd just go out and find a nice helmet in the colour that you want. The cost isn't extremely high and you'd look very chic ;-)

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Thanks for that...I was more interested in stickers and couldn't actually be bothered with paint. But figured it was worth mentioning. –  davidsleeps Jan 19 '12 at 3:19
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I personally wouldn't worry about most stickers and decals. Paint can be more of a problem, or if you used the wrong clear coating over a sticker/decal. It's a question of whether the particular paint reacts with the plastic shell.

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One of the concerns with stickers and paint to a lesser degree is that it may mask or hide damage to the shell. Manufacturers reccomend inspection prior to every use and damage prior to or after application of a sticker could be hidden.

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But realistically it's unlikely that a sticker or two would hide substantial damage. –  Daniel R Hicks Jan 15 '12 at 21:17
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About stickers:

The Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute writes in an article:

The Snell Memorial Foundation has informed us that the hundreds of crashed helmets they examined in a study done in the mid-1990's with Harborview Injury Prevention Center showed no ill effects from any of the stickers that had been applied.

But duct tape can compromise a helmet. Details are in the article.

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