Olympian Cate Campbell Talks Self-Care, Swimming And Skin Changes

"This year has been tough. I don’t know a single person who hasn’t struggled in some way."

2020 has proven to be a difficult year for everyone, and for Australian athlete Cate Campbell, who was set to swim at the now-postponed Tokyo Games, it has called for a complete overhaul of well-laid plans and priorities.

“This year has been tough on everyone,” Campbell tells marie claire. “I don’t know a single person who hasn’t struggled in some way–the degrees of struggle have just varied from person to person.”

Despite the postponement of the games, Campbell has fought hard to maintain a positive outlook, embracing new hobbies and training methods.

“Something sport teaches you very early on is to turn obstacles into opportunities. Therefore, now when I am faced with a challenge, I see it as an opportunity to find a new way of doing something, or to acquire a new skill I hadn’t had time to work in before.

“I will say however, sometimes a good cry is required,” she admits.

Here, marie claire talks to Campbell about the importance of self-care, setting new goals and why she’s now an advocate for regular skin checks.

What are your favourite self-care rituals?

To me, self-care means doing something that fills you with joy. This differs from person to person, and to be honest, for me, it can differ from day to day. Some days self-care is heading to the beach for a swim or photographing a sunrise. Others it’s having a hot bath or ordering some take-out and watching Downton Abbey on the couch.

Self-care is an important part of my mental health and wellbeing. 

What interests have you enjoyed exploring this year?

2020 has been the year of hobbies for me. Usually I am so busy training, traveling and racing that I don’t have time to invest in life outside of sport.

This year I have been at home for the longest period in 12 years. I have found a love of scuba diving, photography, restoring old furniture, kayaking and hiking. All of these activities have become part of my self-care repertoire.

What hair and skin concerns do you face from spending a lot of time in the water?

Chlorine is not kind to my face and hair. It is very dehydrating. I apply moisturiser to my face as soon as I get out of the pool, and I use moisture enriched hair products as well.

A few years ago, you had a stage one melanoma removed – how has that changed the way you protect your skin from the sun?

Finding a melanoma on my arm was a huge wakeup call—and made me re-assess my attitude towards sun safety.

I am acutely aware of how lucky I am to have found the melanoma at stage one. If it had progressed to stage two or further, my outcome would not have been as simple as a surgical removal. Treatment progresses quickly from surgical removal for stage one, to invasive surgery, including removal of lymph nodes and radiation, for stage two.

I am now vigilant about sun safetyboth protection and early detection. Sunscreen is a non-negotiable for me, it’s the first thing I put on my skin in the morning, and I have tubes of it stashed in all my handbags so I can re-apply or share it with others if needed.


How often do you go for skin checks now?

I am religious about getting skin checks every 6 months. They are a staple in my calendar and something I am constantly badgering other people to do (yes, I have become that friend).

What do you look for in a sunscreen?

Obviously the most important thing in sunscreen is the SPF protection level. I always try and aim for the highest level of protection. I have very dry skin from being in the chlorine every day, so after the SPF protection, I want to make sure I find something which is dermatologically tested and formulated for sensitive skin. Finding a sunscreen which works for your skin and provides high SPF protection is the best skincare (and health) investment you can make.


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How do you protect your face from the sun vs. your body?

My daily sunscreen is SPF 50+ and is moisturising. After I jump out of the pool, it’s the first thing I put on my face. This way I am guaranteed protection if I have a busy day running errands – or if it’s the weekend, I can head straight to the beach.

Likewise, with my body, when I am applying sunscreen in the morning – I choose one that’s a moisturising SPF. At night I put a more hydrating body cream on. But if there is even a small chance of sun exposure during the day, I make sure I have some SPF protection.


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Other than swimming, what other forms of exercise do you enjoy?

I love being outdoors, its where I am happiest. Apart from swimming I enjoy kayaking, snorkelling, scuba diving, hiking or a very casual (and flat) bike ride.

What are some of your favourite energy-boosting snacks?

I get super angry when I’m hungry, so I try and keep snacks on me at all times. Fruit is always easy, even if it is a little boring. Otherwise I love carrots and hummus, and I’ll always have a muesli bar stashed in my handbag somewhere—I try and opt for ones which are high in protein and low in sugar.


What does beauty mean to you?

I have a conflicted relationship with beauty—as it almost always only refers to physical beauty. And, for women, society projects it as the pinnacle of female achievement and endeavour—we are force fed the idea that to be successful is to be outwardly beautiful—an idea I fundamentally disagree with.

Therefore, when I think about beauty, I try and see it from a holistic perspective—focused more internally than externally. “Beautiful” as an adjective means “of very high standards; excellent” and it is this definition of beauty that I aspire to.

Brought to you by Avène


Avoid prolonged high-risk sun exposure. Wear long sleeve shirts, pants, hats and sunglasses. Reapply frequently to maintain protection.

The content is the opinion of, and/or general information provided by, Cate Campbell and individuals should always consult a relevant professional to obtain advice about their individual circumstances.

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