Serena Williams says breast milk helped heal a sunburn

Williams gave birth to her second child, a daughter, in August 2023.

December 6, 2023, 4:52 PM

Tennis superstar and mom of two Serena Williams recently discovered a unique way to use leftover breast milk.

Williams -- who gave birth to her second child, a daughter named Adira, in August -- used it to treat a sunburn.

"They say, 'Put breast milk on everything, and I have a lot extra," Williams, 42, said in a video she shared this week on TikTok. "So I'm going to try it for a week or so under my eyes."

Williams explained further that she had sunburn spots under her eyes due to a combination of sensitive skin and sun exposure after using a skin care product.

In the TikTok video, she is seen shaking a bottle of breast milk and then applying the milk to a small tissue, which she then dabs under her eyes.

PHOTO: Serena Williams posted a video on TikTok sharing how she applied breast milk to a sunburn on her face.
Serena Williams posted a video on TikTok sharing how she applied breast milk to a sunburn on her face.
@Serenawilliams/TikTok

In the video caption, Williams said the treatment worked, writing, "I have to say after a week of using MY breast milk under my eye - it worked!"

How breast milk can help a sunburn

Dr. Joshua Zeichner, an associate professor of dermatology and director of cosmetic and clinical research in dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City, said any type of milk, including breast milk, can help heal skin.

"Milk contains a combination of sugars and proteins that help coat the surface of the skin to hydrate, soothe and calm," Zeichner told "Good Morning America," noting that milk compresses have long been used as an effective home remedy for sunburns. "Breast milk has a lower protein content as compared to cows' milk, but has high levels of vitamins and minerals."

Zeichner said he sees "no downside" to using breast milk as a home remedy to treat a burn, including a sunburn.

He advised, however, that breast milk should not be applied to raw or open skin because it is not sterile.

While breast milk may indeed work, there are other, more standard approaches to treating a sunburn, according to the American Academy of Dermatology.

Treatment options for sunburns recommended by the AAD include taking frequent cool baths or showers to help with the pain, using a moisturizer that contains aloe vera or soy, drinking water and taking aspirin or ibuprofen, and allowing blisters to heal without popping them first.

In the case of a severe sunburn, it's recommended to seek immediate medical attention.

Sunburns can cause long-lasting damage to the skin. They can increase the risk of getting skin cancer, so it's critical to protect the skin from the sun.

Other at-home remedies to treat sunburns

While Williams used breast milk to help heal her sunburn, there are multiple other at-home remedies people can try.

The most effective sunburn prevention is of course to regularly reapply a sunscreen with an SPF of 40 or higher when enjoying time outdoors, Dr. Whitney Bowe, a New York City-based dermatologist told "GMA" earlier this year.

If a sunburn does occur, Bowe said she recommends taking a multi-day approach to healing it naturally.

In the immediate aftermath, Bowe said a person can take ibuprofen to help with pain and drink coconut water to help restore electrolytes.

PHOTO: DIY remedies to help sooth sunburn.
DIY remedies to help sooth sunburn.
ABC News

Bowe also recommends applying whole milk to a sunburn by soaking a washcloth in cold milk with ice, wringing it out, and then putting the cloth over your body. According to Bowe, the fats in the milk create a soothing feeling on the skin and help speed up the healing process.

Another at-home remedy to try is a combination of honey and oatmeal, which will also help calm and soothe the skin.

Bowe recommends mixing honey and instant oatmeal together in a food processor, along with a few drops of water, to create a paste. Then, apply the paste on the sunburn and let it rest for 10 minutes before rinsing it off with cool water.

You can also use oatmeal by filling a white cotton tube sock with oatmeal, tying the top with a rubber band, and soaking with it in a bathtub. This will allow you to get the soothing benefits of oatmeal without having sticky clumps on your skin, according to Bowe.

ABC News' Kelly McCarthy contributed to this report.