Sunscreen Q&A with Courtney Dunlop of YouBeauty.com

Oh, how I love sunscreen! Let me count the ways. I could go on all day, but here are just a couple:

  1. Daily use helps prevent skin cancer.
  2. Daily use leaves you looking younger.

Want proof? According to results of a study published last year in theAnnals of Internal Medicine, research participants who used sunscreen every day showed 24 percent less skin aging compared to individuals who applied lotion at their own discretion. And numerous scientific studies have demonstrated sunscreen’s effectiveness in preventing melanoma and other skin cancers.

But if you need more evidence, look no further than beauty editor Courtney Dunlop’s alabaster skin.

The executive editor of YouBeauty.com and co-author of Break Into Beauty is a serious sunscreen poster child, wearing it every day, rain or shine. And she writes frequently on sunscreen and other health and beauty topics on her blog, Beauty to the People.

Here she shares her sunscreen wisdom, most-loved products, and daily regimen with you.

Be kind to your skin, and take Dunlop’s words to heart with spring and summer upon us and sunnier days ahead.

Q: Why is it important to you to wear sunscreen every day, rain or shine?

Dunlop: Most people don’t realize sun damage is cumulative. Five minutes here, 10 there can add up over a lifetime to a lot of exposure. Wearing sun protection only at the beach or pool isn’t enough. You’re basically getting pummeled by ultraviolet (UV) rays constantly, every day, even if you don’t feel heat on your skin.

Cloudy days, shady areas, cold weather don’t provide a haven from damage. UV rays are insidious, and they will find you. Because of this, I wear sunscreen every single day of my life, rain or shine.

Q: How long have you been adhering to that practice?

Dunlop: When I was about 16 I read an article about skin cancer, and for some reason it flipped a switch, and I did a complete 180—from poolside sun worshipper to sun avoider. I am so thankful for that article because I stopped tanning cold turkey. But I still didn’t understand the impact of daily exposure. It was the ‘90s and that message hadn’t really gotten out yet.

I became a magazine beauty editor in my early 20s, and suddenly I was bombarded with skincare and dermatology presentations about the importance of everyday sun protection. I saw some slides that really freaked me out that depicted sagging, leathery faces; spotty chests; and wrinkly hands. Much like the skin cancer article, these images inspired me to become crazy-diligent about sun protection.


Q: What kinds of benefits have you noticed over the years?

Dunlop: I’m still young(ish) at 33, so compared to others my age, not having lines or sagging isn’t really that unusual. (Although I’ve seen some scary sun damage on young sun worshippers.)

The main thing I’ve noticed with my skin is the texture. It’s subtle, but the reason little kids have such enviable skin is because it has an even glow and smooth texture. That’s the first thing to fade with sun damage.

I think I can safely say that my sunscreen habits have helped me maintain good, soft texture and a nice sheen. I hope as I get older I’ll hang on to the glow, and my face won’t look as droopy as others my age.

Q: Have you had any sun-related health scares?

Dunlop: I had a big, ugly mole removed last summer, but because I get yearly mole checks, it hadn’t turned into anything yet. I learned that it’s important to pay attention to spots that change shape. This one had grown a lot in a year, and had I not been watching, it would have turned into skin cancer.

Q: What are your favorite brands of sunscreen?

Dunlop: My regimen is intense, so bear with me.

Every morning I use Marie Veronique Organics MVO Everyday Coverage SPF 30 on my face. For the delicate under eye area, I use Clinique SPF 20 eye cream daily. I applyPratima Neem Vetiver Body Sunscreen SPF 30 to my neck, chest, shoulders, arms, and hands. All of the above products are made with zinc oxide, which is the most effective sunscreen ingredient.

Each day I also use Ocean Potion Lip SPF 45, which is the only lip sunscreen I’ve ever found that doesn’t get into my mouth and taste nasty. You can layer it under lipstick or gloss.

At the beach, it’s a different story. I use the thickest, zinc-rich sunscreen I can find on my face, neck, and hands. I wear a UV shirt so I can skip my chest and shoulders if I don’t feel like looking like a mime from the spackle-like texture of the sunscreen. On my legs, since it’s a bigger area to cover, I use MD Solar Sciences Quick Dry Body Spray SPF 40. It’s the best spray I’ve found. It’s non-greasy, and it comes out in a nice mist. I also use this on my legs for summer days when I’m walking around the city.

This routine isn’t for everyone. For a simpler alternative, try Neutrogena Dry Touch andUltra Sheer Body Mist for the beach and everyday use and Aveeno Positively Ageless SPF 30 moisturizer for everyday face and neck application.

Compliance is important, so whatever you’ll use consistently every day is the best sunscreen for you. With non-zinc sunscreen, though, you do have to reapply every 2-3 hours because it breaks down. It’s easy to reapply on your body, but if you don’t want to mess up your makeup, I recommend stashing a brush-on mineral sunscreen in your purse or office desk.

Q: What other products do you use for sun protection?

Dunlop: Parasol UV swim shirts changed my life. I am terrified of getting a spotty, sun-damaged chest, but it’s such a sensitive area that I kept getting burned through the sunscreen. Swim shirts are the best to solve this problem.

I also obsessively wear a canvas bucket hat from J. Crew when I’m walking around in the summer, and I wear Oakley polarized sunglasses to protect my eyes and the skin around them. They have some really cute styles now, and once you go polarized you can never go back. They are so crystal clear.

Courtney’s love for beauty runs deep, starting with a B.S. in cosmetics and fragrance marketing from the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City. She is currently the executive editor at YouBeauty, a beauty and health website founded by Drs. Mehmet Oz and Michael Roizen. Previously, she was a beauty editor for Jane and Marie Clairemagazines, and has written about beauty for magazines such as Allure, Cosmopolitan, Nylon, InStyle, Self, and Real Simple. Courtney is the co-author of Break Into Beauty, the first-ever guide to starting a career in the beauty industry. Connect with Courtney on Twitter (@beautyeditornyc), Instagram (@courtneydunlop) or on her blog, Beauty to the People.