Serena Williams Says Her Own Breast Milk Helped Treat Her Sunburn

Serena Williams Says Her Own Breast Milk Helped Treat Her Sunburn
Serena Williams is using her own breast milk for more than just feeding her baby. (Photo: Instagram/@serenawilliams)

"Breast milk may have antimicrobial properties due to its antibodies, potentially aiding in minor skin issues, but it lacks comprehensive research to validate its effectiveness," said a doctor.

Written by Prerna Mittra |Updated : December 7, 2023 3:43 PM IST

Serena Williams has been sharing relatable updates from her life lately. The ace tennis player, who shares her two daughters -- six-year-old Olympia and three-month-old Adira -- with her tech entrepreneur husband Alexis Ohanian, took to video sharing app TikTok to share a glimpse of her life as a mother-of-two. In one of her recent videos, she explored the benefits of breast milk. Beyond boosting the baby's immunity and helping the mother lose weight, Williams claimed her own breast milk has taken care of a skin problem as well.

According to a People report, the former tennis player recently posted a video on the app explaining how she has been using "leftover breast milk" to treat a sunburn on her face. "So, I completely got burned under my eye," the 42-year-old was quoted as saying in a clip. "Don't ask...," she continued, stating that her skin is "sensitive".

"I was in the sun... long story. Anyway, I am trying some breast milk. It works for my kid -- they say put breast milk on everything and I have a lot extra, so I am going to try it for a week or so under my eye and see how it goes."

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The winner of 23 Grand Slam women's singles titles said it "already feels better". "All right, I'll let you guys know how it goes." In the caption, she claimed that breast milk actually worked for her. It purportedly read, "Okay is this totally weird. I have to say after a week of using MY breast milk under my eye -- it worked! I'm dying to hear your thoughts."

To understand if there is a link between breast milk and good skin, we reached out to Dr Anusha Rao P, consultant obstetrics and gynaecology at Yashoda Hospitals Hyderabad, who explained that colostrum and breast milk are two "distinct fluids" produced by a mother, each serving specific purposes in the nourishment and protection of infants.

"Colostrum is the first milk produced by the mammary glands during late pregnancy and the initial days after childbirth. It is yellowish and thicker than mature breast milk, and is rich in antibodies, immune cells, and concentrated nutrients. Colostrum provides essential protection against infections and supports the newborn's immune system," she said, adding that it has lower amounts of fats and carbohydrates but higher amounts of proteins and vitamins.

Mature breast milk, the doctor said, is produced after colostrum, and continues to be the primary source of nutrition for the infant. It is thinner in consistency compared to colostrum, and changes in composition over time to meet the evolving needs of the baby. According to her, breast milk contains a balanced mix of proteins, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals necessary for the baby's development. "Immunoglobulins, enzymes, and growth factors in breast milk contribute to the baby's development."

The expert, however, said breast milk application for adult skin problems is "not scientifically supported". "Breast milk may have antimicrobial properties due to its antibodies, potentially aiding in minor skin issues, but it lacks comprehensive research to validate its effectiveness. Skin care decisions should be based on proven methods and ingredients supported by scientific studies.

"If you're experiencing skin problems, consult a dermatologist. They can recommend evidence-based treatments tailored to your specific condition, ensuring a safe and effective approach to skincare. While anecdotal evidence may exist, relying on established medical guidance is crucial for addressing skin concerns," Dr Anusha said.

Concurring with her, Dr Rinky Kapoor, consultant dermatologist, cosmetic dermatologist and dermato-surgeon, The Esthetic Clinics, said that breast milk contains immunoglobulins, lactoferrin, and lysozyme, which possess antimicrobial properties. It also has fats, proteins, and vitamins that contribute to "overall skin health".

"Skin responses can vary widely among individuals. What works for one person may not have the same effect for another. The anecdotal use of breast milk for certain skin issues may be influenced by individual factors and placebo effects," said the doctor, adding that applying any liquid, including breast milk, to the skin may provide a temporary cooling effect and hydration.

"It's essential to emphasise that breast milk should not replace conventional medical treatments for serious skin conditions. If you have specific skin concerns or conditions, it's advisable to consult with a dermatologist or a healthcare professional. They can provide evidence-based recommendations and prescribe suitable treatments for your skin," she suggested.