Venus Williams used to not believe in sunscreen: ‘I already have built-in SPF’

I’ve obviously been keeping up with various tennis players’ activities during quarantine, and I’ve enjoyed seeing many of them try to deal with the most “time off” they’ve ever had in their careers. Sidenote: I still maintain that Stan Wawrinka has been slowly going bonkers in lockdown in Switzerland and it’s been amazing. But Venus Williams has been surprisingly active on social media throughout the lockdown, especially considering that in recent years, she’s been less visible and more reticent about showing anything about her home life. Venus has been doing workouts and interviews on IG Live, and she’s been growing her YouTube channel with tons of new content. Turns out, she’s also using the lockdown to launch a new collaboration with her EleVen company – a sunscreen collab. She chatted with Vanity Fair about it, some highlights:

On skincare through the years: “When I was younger, I just thought I was invincible. I thought, ‘I don’t need it. I am young! I already have built-in SPF.’ Then, as I got older, I started to think, ‘Oh my god, I’m going to turn into a raisin!’” She lets out a laugh, saying that she’s learned her lesson. “I joke with my team: ‘Is it ugly? Because if it’s not ugly, I don’t have enough on.’”

The debut of her first-ever sunscreen: They were designed to be invisible even if they’re piled on. Created in collaboration with The Sunscreen Company and Credo—the clean-beauty retailer known for scrutinizing labels—the products are a fitting extension for EleVen by Venus Williams, her activewear label that uses UPF 50+ fabric. (That’s the sun-protective equivalent of SPF 50.) Zinc oxide, a mineral filter that covers the spectrum of UVA and UVB rays, is the active ingredient in the range, but the success is in avoiding the tell-tale chalky effect. Unrivaled Sun Serum, a milky formula with an SPF of 35, comes dispensed from a glass dropper and glides on, just like that. (This is the one that Williams uses on her face.) On-the-Defense Sunscreen is a sheer SPF 30 cream that rubs in easily, from head to ankle sock.

She loves natural products like Credo: “I’m a huge Credo beauty fan. Honestly, if I’m not getting anything, I just like to go on the website and look around.” She calls herself a stickler for all-natural products; with Credo, “it’s like we’re speaking the same language.” Unlike food, where ingredients aren’t always slapped onto a menu, “the one thing I can always control is what I’m putting on my body,” she says. “I can win at that one all the time.”

She’s mostly vegan: “French fries are probably my favorite vegan food, but you can’t do that every day.” She describes how “things got really weird” during the early phase of quarantine, with a glut of time and strange foods—canned cranberries one day, pie the next. She has since done a wholesale reset, pivoting to clean drinks, protein powders (she calls out Tom Brady’s formula), and plenty of greens.

She’s been working out constantly during the lockdown: “I’ve never worked out this much in my life, so hopefully when I come back on the court, I will look like She-Ra or something. Wonder Woman! [During the season,] I lose track of even who I am. I just become a tennis machine.”

[From Vanity Fair]

Even though I was converted to the gospel of night creams and eye creams in my 20s, I’m still sort of in denial about sunscreen, because of the reason Venus said: I already have built-in SPF, in my case, it’s because of my Indian genes. I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve gotten any kind of sunburn over my whole life, but with the lockdown, I’ve been walking in the sun more and I’ve been surprised by how “tan” I’m getting and I keep seeing all of these freckles appear on my cheeks and nose. I know, I need to get a conversion to daily sunscreen. Also: Venus GLOWS. Her skin is so beautiful all the time. And I have a dream that she and Serena are both going to come out quarantine ready to WIN.

22nd Authur Ashe Kids Day

Photos courtesy of WENN, Instagram.

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15 Responses to “Venus Williams used to not believe in sunscreen: ‘I already have built-in SPF’”

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  1. Ronaldinhio says:

    The Williams sisters are my biggest fan girl crushes
    Will now check out all the products – I’m that sad

  2. Ali says:

    As a black woman I have heard so many women say I don’t need sunscreen.

    • SKF says:

      I’m Australian and it is hammered into us to wear sunscreen and hats because our sun is extremely harsh and skin cancer is not uncommon. In Tasmania the air is particularly clean and the sun is particularly strong – even when it’s cool and overcast. I once went to a music festival down there and there were some Sudanese Australians and several of them were sunburnt. Their skin went a dark purple where they were burnt. They have more melanin than anyone and they were sunburnt. If they can burn and get sun damage then anyone can. That was an unusual circumstance for sure; but it happened. POC might not burn nearly as often or have as much skin damage from the sun as white people; but it’s still damage. And although skin cancer is less common in those with black skin, skin cancer is harder to recognise on black skin so often isn’t caught until the later stages – meaning it is harder to tackle and fight. Late stage diagnosis can be life threatening. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, the 5-year melanoma survival rate for black people in the United States is 65%, compared with 91% for white people. In non-white people, the most common place for a tumor to develop is on the plantar, or the tissue that runs along the bottom of the foot. This accounts for 30–40% of all skin cancer cases. The hands are also vulnerable. Now, for sure, rates of skin cancer are lower in POC – skin cancer makes up only 1–2% of all cases of cancer among black people in the US, 2-4% among Asians and 4-5% among Hispanic people. I don’t have those same numbers for Australia – they are undoubtedly higher because of our harsh sun; but the point is that everyone needs some sun protection. Some less than others; but we are all at risk of skin cancer and other, less dangerous skin damage.

  3. Aud says:

    My friend refuses to send sunscreen to school for her kids. She thinks they’re Hispanic and therefore have built in spf.

  4. Allz says:

    I don’t understand that logic, if you don’t get sunburn, the sun isn’t damaging your skin? No race/ethnicity is invincible against the sun. I didn’t realize people thought that way.

    • AnnaKist says:

      That’s what I understood to be true, too, Allz. I’m in Australia, and we’ve had an awful record for skin cancers. Years ago, the Cancer Council ran an ad featuring a cheery, very dark-skinned Jamaican man, reminding us that even dark-skinned people need to wear sunscreen. But even today, years after tanning beds were banned here, people still baste and bake themselves in our killer sun. For some people, appearance comes before health, I guess.

  5. Kath says:

    There’s no such thing as built-in SPF. Everyone needs protection from UV rays
    Sunscreen is the number one and most essential skincare product. And it’s not just for vanity, skin cancer is real and can be prevented with SPF.
    And it’s not for just when you go out in the sun either, even lightbulbs emit UV rays

  6. Sof says:

    I only watched her live training with Sascha Zverev, didn’t know they were friends, they even flirt a bit!
    Perhaps in the Northern Hemisphere the sun isn’t that harsh because the ozone layer is thicker (or that’s what I’ve been told), but in the South it’s more and more damaging. I stay away from it as much as I can, however last year my dermatologist told me to wear sunscreen at least on my face even if I didn’t stay out for long. Now I feel terrible when I don’t wear it!

  7. Kathryn says:

    I love Venus, and am so happy she posting so much these days. Her workouts are great! They have just opened courts here in NY for singles play, so I’ve been taking advantage of that. But I miss seeing the matches on TV

  8. osito says:

    Unsolicited PSA: Skin cancer doesn’t care *at all* about your skin color. Melanin is great (I am *in love* with mine), but it didn’t protect my great uncle who passed away from a cancer that began as skin cancer.

    That said, I’d love to try a sunscreen that doesn’t make me look ashen *and* greasy all at the same time, so I will *definitely* be trying this one.

  9. LunaSF says:

    My sister in law works for Credo in the Dallas area and mails me samples. I don’ have anything like that where I live in NM. It’s such nice stuff but so expensive! $50 for a face mist or half an ounce of oil. I usually use Trader Joe’s for body care and it’s great for the price. I’m pretty pale and live in a high altitude desert so I have to be careful with the sun.

  10. Aerohead21 says:

    Ok truth of the matter is risk is greater as your skin gets lighter but UV rays still damage the skin so….wear your sunscreen peeps. Put on a wide brimmed hat and some sunglasses. You’ll be good 😉

  11. Lila says:

    I’ve read that technically melanin does confer some level of protection, but even for the darkest of skin, it’s only comparable to SPF 12. So while it might give some people a very slight leg up, there’s no excuse for skipping sunscreen.

  12. msd says:

    Technically darker skin tones do have greater in-built protection but it’s nowhere near the level of protection you get from a broad spectrum (UVA and UVB) sunscreen. Everyone should wear sunscreen, preferably SPF50, when the UV rating is 3 or more. There’s no need to go crazy and wear it 24-7 (Vitamin D is essential too!) but it’s a myth that darker skin tones don’t need sunscreen. Finding one without the dreaded ‘white cast’ can be tricky but the technology has come in leaps and bounds and there are many more elegant, sophisticated formulations on the market now.

    And while darker skin tones are less prone to UVA ageing/wrinkles ( the “black don’t crack” idea) they are more prone to hyperpigmentation, which the sun makes worse.

    Skin cancer diagnoses are often more serious in darker skins for a variety of reasons, too.

  13. manda says:

    It’s not about getting burnt, it’s about damaging your skin cells. I don’t wear it as much as I should either