Whether you’re fighting Father Time and the nasolabial folds he bestows or trying to prevent the awkward “you-missed-a-spot-Gorbachev-birthmark-burn”, choosing the right sunscreen can be diffy!  Do I need a Sun Block or a Sun Screen? And what’s the difference? Do I care about UVA or UVB rays? And what’s the deal with nano-particles?

Here’s the dumbed down nitty gritty, what you need to know, Sunscreen 101:

Block vs Screen: If you don’t want cancer, a sunburn or crows feet, you want a BLOCK. Only 2 ingredients acutally block the suns rays: Zinc and Titanium Dioxide. And Zinc is better at it. All the others (Avobenzone, Oxybenzone, Homosalate, Octyl Salicylate, etc) are garbage, harmful and simply ‘screen’ not block and only UVB rays….which brings us to:


UVA vs UVB: Think A = Aging (UVA rays age you) Think B = Burn (UVB Rays Burn you). Sunscreen (not sunblock) only stops UVB rays, so you don’t catch a burn, BUT you’re still subject to wrinkles, oh and Cancer. Both UVA AND UVB rays can contribute to cancer.  But then, so can several of the chemicals in sunscreens… Which brings us to:

Nanoparticles vs non-nano.  A nano particle is really, really really small. Studies show nano-particle sized zinc oxide, commonly found in cosmetics and sunscreens, can get ‘up-in’ human cells and cause cancer, nerve damage and brain damage. So there’s that. Opt for non-nano zinc please. Especially when lathering up yo’ chillins and babies.

sunscreen Non nano

There’s a lot more to pay attention to regarding the inactive ingredients, many of which are toxic, though they tout they are safe for babies (example: Neutrogena PURE & FREE BABY contains a preservative called methylisothiazolinone deemed unsafe by our friends in Europe) Thankfully many products are eliminating Pthaltes, parabens, and PABA)


Best: avoid sun

Next best: Hats, Sunnies, Umbrellas and Clothing, but if you don’t wanna look like Nicole Kidman at the beach Lather up! Use ZINC! but NON-NANO Zinc.

More Great Info from a Great Source Here

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Madeleine Vanstory attended Duke University and began her post-graduate journey at The Elaine Clark Center working with special needs children. She went on to work as a Clinical Research Scientist running clinical trials for the CDC and developing medical devices for Welsh Allen, Abbot Labs, Roche and Johnson & Jonhson Her work included non-invansive cervical cancer detection, continuous diabetic glucose monitoring, non-harmful infant bilirubin level detection and studying Vitamin C's anti-aging effects on the skin. Madeleine attended Medical school at The Brody School of Medicine at East Carolina University and completed a residency in Family Medicine at Moses Cone Hospital in Greensboro NC. Dr. Madeleine Vanstory is a board certified Family Physician who has practiced all over the world. She has lead medical missions in Kenya and Honduras. She has participated with Operation Smile in Russia, she has patients in North Carolina, Maine, Oregon and New Zealand. Dr. Vanstory has worked the medical tents in the Marine Corps marathon in Washington DC and at the Kona Ironman World Championships. And Dr. Vanstory has marched with the Surgeon General promoting "Exercise is Medicine" at the World Congress Sports Medicine Conference. Disillusioned by the current health care system and armed with the realization that culture, nutrition and emotional well-being have a profound impact on health, Dr. Vanstory now motivates clients and patients to discover the healthiest versions of themselves through humor, counseling in her "Upgrade Your Health" Wellness Program.

3 thoughts on “RANT: SUNSCREEN 101

  1. I’m a sun advocate and a burn condemner. Ease into the sun and avoid sunscreen use is my line. Thank you so much for the non-nano zinc pearl, priceless. I had wondered why I’d heard “zinc was bad” since well, isn’t zinc just zinc? Apparently not!

  2. Dear Dr.Vanstory,
    Thank you for the information on sunscreen, and sunblock. I was not aware of the many differences between the two, especially pertaining to nanoparticles, and non-nanoparticles. I did find something a little confusing, though. You stated only sunblock will help protect against cancer, but the picture you showed was labeled a sunscreen, and it said it decreased the risk of skin cancer. So, I guess my question is, does sunscreen, if it’s broad spectrum (UVA/UVB), protect against skin cancer? You had written that sunscreen only blocks UVB rays, not UVA rays. Could you please clarify for me?
    Thank you,

    1. Technically nothing FULLY Blocks the sun, but broad- spectrum sunscreens (also commonly, and perhaps less-acurately, called sunblocks) block both UVA and UVB, thus providing better protection. Thanks for the question/clarification.

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