I'm a Recovering Sun Worshipper—Here's How I Saved My Skin


(Image credit: @alsomelb)

The Lineup is a monthly series where we’re giving you an inside peek at the beauty lineups of cool fashion people, editors, makeup artists, hairstylists, and estheticians—all the people we trust the most. Get ready for a behind-the-scenes look at all the can’t-live-without products that make their worlds go round.

In many ways, the world feels a bit out of control right now. There are stressors we’ve never encountered before creeping into our daily lives, and while it’s certainly not the most pressing matter on anyone’s agenda, delving into our beauty routines can offer a much-needed reprieve from the intense news cycle. But I was reminded recently by Melanie Bender—the president of Who What Wear’s clean sister skincare brand, Versed—that our beauty practices carry more weight than we often consider, not just for ourselves and our outward appearances but for our communities at large.

"In my early 20s, it dawned on me that this is the only skin I’ve got,” Bender tells me. Growing up in Hawaii, where she lived an active life involving surfing and playing water sports, she got more than her fair share of exposure to environmental stressors that can lead to all sorts of damage. "Then about a decade ago, I started working in beauty, where I learned about ingredients and product formulation from some of the industry’s leading chemists. It completely changed how I evaluated the products on my shelf, focusing on clean, science-backed ingredients and not getting caught up in the hype.”


(Image credit: @alsomelb)

Clean, effective products that don’t tear up your skin (and don’t drain your bank account) are what Versed is all about. Bender, who says that SPF and retinol are now two of her absolute must-haves, is all too familiar with the smoke and mirrors running rampant in the industry. "In reality, the biggest drivers of most product prices are packaging and markup. If an item is in a heavy, custom component and sold through a prestige retailer, I know I’m paying for a lot more than the goop inside the bottle,” she explains. And even beyond the monetary implications, the products we choose to buy also have impacts on our earth and the many life-forms that inhabit this place. "Like everything we do, our beauty regimen has an impact on the planet. To help minimize yours, think about using each item to the last drop before buying something new, and if a product wasn’t the right fit for your regimen, use it on your body or offer it to a friend. Support brands that are committed to sustainable practices, like Klur, By Humankind, Youth to the People, and Versed, and recycle and reuse your beauty containers to their fullest potential.”

Bender’s advice? "Don’t do things to your skin that you wouldn’t do to your best friend’s. We tend to be overly harsh on ourselves, which can lead to unnecessary damage and irritation.” I’ll take it! Ahead, check out the lineup of beauty products occupying permanent spots on her vanity, and get ready to level up your own routine.

Associate Beauty Editor

Courtney Higgs is a Cancer sun, Libra rising beauty enthusiast with about six years of experience in the editorial space. She was previously Who What Wear's associate beauty editor after spending many years working on the West Coast edit team at InStyle Magazine. She graduated from California State University, Northridge, with a BA in communication studies and pivoted to editorial after spending her college years working in the legal field. Her beauty philosophy is simple: She believes there are no wrong answers and that discovering our favorite beauty products and rituals is a journey, not a sprint. When she's not geeking out over products, she can be found adventuring around L.A. with her fiancé; watching reality TV with their French bulldog, Bernie Mac; or relating way too hard to astrology memes.