Witney Carson on Getting Diagnosed With Melanoma at 18, Body Image and Favorite Products

With one Mirrorball Trophy win and over 10 years as a pro on the iconic reality dancing competition show Dancing with the Stars, Witney Carson knows a thing or two about dance. Carson first made a name for herself in the dance world back in 2012 when she earned the runner-up title on season nine of So You Think You Can Dance, and since then the 30-year-old Utah native has taken the dance world by storm.

In the decade since her professional career has taken off, Carson has tried her hand at other important endeavors, like marriage and motherhood, and more recently, skin-health awareness. In a recent partnership with iconic body-care brand Jergens to promote exciting new launches in their Natural Glow line of self-tanning products, Carson has made educating young people on the dangers of skin cancer a priority. I had the chance to sit down with the superstar dancer and talk all things skin health, on-stage secrets, favorite products and more.

What is it about Jergens and the Natural Glow line that excites you so much?

“When this campaign came about and we were discussing a partnership, I thought it would be so perfect for us to come together since, as you know, I struggled with UV tanning beds and I was eventually diagnosed with melanoma at 18 and the whole Jergens Natural Glow Collection is about really raising awareness for skin health and getting that tan with a healthier approach. That’s what gets me really excited about Jergens—you can get this natural-looking, glowy, sun-kissed tan that everybody wants and loves without the UV damage and without harming your skin, and that’s really near and dear to my heart.”

What are the biggest beauty tips and tricks you’ve picked up throughout your career?

“Well, obviously having a really great tan is huge. My costumes are always so little and tiny that I feel honestly naked without a tan, so tanning has been a big part of my life since I started competing around the world. But, I would say another important tip I’ve picked up on is just to always protect your skin, so SPF is huge. Ever since I got diagnosed and now being a melanoma survivor, it’s very important for us to protect as much as we can. SPF, sunglasses and a big sun hat whenever you go outside—especially going into the spring and summer months—is important. We want to be outside, but we have to protect our skin, not only for melanoma scares but also for the sun damage that it causes in general. As we get older as women, we can see the sun damage.

Nowadays I’m so grateful that foundations are now putting SPF in their formula. It’s so nice, but I would honestly put SPF underneath it for sure. That’s what I do, at least. Being hydrated is also super important especially when I’m performing, so making sure I have water, electrolytes and all of that is key.”

On the other side of the coin, what’s the biggest beauty mishap you’ve ever had during a show?

“Well, I got a rhinestone shard in my eye once which was really fun during the live show. Thankfully I’d already competed, it was after and I was like ‘I cannot go out’ and they just started flushing my eye out. Luckily I haven’t had too many mishaps, but I did trip on my dress once. I had this big, beautiful polka dot dress on—you can go back and watch it on YouTube—but I was dancing with my partner and my heel got stuck in it and I kind of slipped, and it totally threw him off. The whole back half off the dance he had no idea what was happening and I was just trying to get my bearings back, but that’s live television—you can’t do it again. Our costume department is so amazing; things just happen!”

What are the beauty products you know will never do you wrong when you’re performing?

“My waterproof mascara is a must—I never go anywhere without it. I always use the Jergens Instant Tanning Mousse ($14). All of the other dancers on the show actually use a different tanning product, but I love the Jergens products so much I bring my own. A good moisturizer is huge too—I always have the Jergens Natural Glow ($12) on. I love a good lip balm too. I really like the Laura Mercier lip balm ($21) because it has a little tint to it. I always have SPF on, obviously, and then there’s a really good Kosas Foundation ($42) that has SPF in it—it’s super lightweight and you can mix it with other things.

For my hair, honestly, I just love my clips. I buy my butterfly clips on Amazon and I love to just pull my hair up in those because, whether or I’m hot and sweaty or my kids are pulling on my hair, it just helps keep my hair out of my face. As long as I have my SPF, my clips and my water, I’m good.”

Stage makeup is no joke. What is your post-performance skin-care routine?

“I always have to wash my face. I have no idea how people go to sleep with their makeup on! I usually have a helmet of hairspray on, too, so I usually start with just a full wash and cleanse to get everything off. After that, I just use a good moisturizer. I honestly have no idea what I use, but I keep my skin care very simple.”

What is one piece of beauty advice you’d give your younger self?

“I would say focus on the inner beauty because that really is going to show up later in life, and that goes back to sun damage as well, because we’re so worried about looking a certain way that we don’t really think about the internal effects and the health effects. That’s exactly what I was doing—I just wanted to be tanned, I just wanted that look and I wasn’t educated enough on an alternative way. I would really emphasize making sure that you are healthy from the inside out—eating well, getting your nutrients, getting your greens, making sure that you are feeling good before you focus on the outside, and prioritizing your mental health as well. I feel like nowadays, we’re kind of shifting to the outside look instead of the inside, so we really want to make sure that we’re focusing on the internal as well.”

As a dancer, I’ve had an interesting relationship with my body throughout my life. How has dance shaped your relationship to your body as a woman?

“I think as dancers, we’re very hard on ourselves because we’re looking in the mirror all day, so we’re constantly our hardest critic. Also as dancers, everybody is so fit. Nowadays thankfully it’s so much more accepted to look any way that you want and you can be confident in that and you can love yourself. I think now as I’m getting more and more in adulthood, and now that I have kids, I want them to have those same values of knowing that you don’t need to feel like you need to look a certain way.

But as a dancer, it’s especially hard because people critique you and they’re constantly watching your body and they’re going to comment on your body, especially if you’re on a television show. For me, it’s very hard to get away from those comments. Luckily, people are, for the most part, very kind, but I’ve just really had to dig deep and really say, ‘Okay, I know who I am. I’m confident in who I am and my body’s gonna ebb and flow and it’s gonna change and that’s okay.’

That’s just womanhood—we need to all lift each other up and build each other up no matter how we look.”

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