Tennis gives your muscles and joints a workout. That’s a given. But your skin takes a beating, too. “From blackened toenails to callused hands and sunburn, tennis players are exposed to a lot of potential skin damage,” says Norman Levine MD, chief of dermatology at the University of Arizona in Tucson. Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to protect yourself.
What causes it: This one is obvious, I know, but so many players I know NEVER wear sunscreen and oftentimes end up sunburned when they finally get off the court around 1pm. Playing tennis in the sun, especially around mid-day, you have the greatest risk of sunburn, which can greatly increase your chances of skin cancer.
How to prevent/treat it: Unless you are playing in a day league where match start times are 9 am and 10:30 am, try to play before 10 am or after 3 pm, when the sun’s rays are weaker. And no matter what time of the day you are playing, if the sun is out (even hidden behind clouds), make sure you apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen (one that offers protection from burning UVB rays and the UVA rays associated with long-term skin damage), with a minimum of 30 SPF, and a hat/visor. Use a sunscreen just for your face, such as the COOLA Classic Sunscreen for Face, as it’s not only 100% natural, but also sweatproof, so no stinging sweat in your eyes to interfere with your game. It also minimizes the effects of aging as well as any potential acne breakouts.
If you have a first-degree burn, where your skin is pink or reddish but there are no blisters, use cool compresses, bathe with an oatmeal based bath products such as Aveeno, and use an aloe vera gel or lotion with an anesthetic to help with the pain. Taking aspirin or ibuprofen will also help relieve pain. For a blistering second-degree burn, consult your physician, who may prescribe a steroid cream to reduce the swelling.
What causes it: A type of fungus that thrives in moist areas–namely the feet, and especially between the toes. It’s contagious, so if you’re prone to it, wear flip flops rather than going barefoot in the locker room so you don’t risk getting it.
How to prevent/treat it: “Sprinkling an antifungal powder such as Zeasorb on clean feet can help prevent the fungus from growing,” says Diane Berson, MD, assistant clinical professor of dermatology at the New York University School of Medicine. Bathe as soon as possible after playing or working out, and make sure that when toweling off, you don’t forget the spaces between your toes. That is the go-to spot for the fungus. You should always have on clean, dry socks, even changing them between long sets. And never wear sweaty shoes two days in a row. Yuck!
Should you get athlete’s foot, there are some good over-the-counter fungicides, such as Desenex or Tinactin, that will clear it up. If your case lasts for more than two weeks, ask your physician for a stronger prescription. Also, ALWAYS wear clean socks around the house and keep your shower/bathtub clean so that family members don’t contract it as well.
What causes it: Continuous friction. A callus is a buildup of thickened skin, which is your body’s way of protecting itself from the constant rubbing.
How to prevent/treat it: Make sure your grip is the right size. A racket that must be held very tight, or one that is too loose in your hand can lead to calluses. The same goes for shoes–you want enough room in the toe box so that your feet don’t jam into the end, but not so much room that they slide. Wearing socks made from a synthetic material (Thorlo is a popular brand) reduces friction.
If you develop a callus that’s bothersome, you can use patches containing a salicylic acid like Mediplast to the spot, but there are 2 fantastic 100% natural products by Majestic Pure and ProLink that work just as well–or better!
What cause it: Repetitive impact to the front of the big toe, the result of starts and stops during play. The skin under your toenail may appear dark brown or red from blood building up under the nail.
How to prevent/treat it: Make sure you have properly fitting tennis shoes, so that your toes don’t jam against the end of the toe box; there should be at least a one-quarter inch space.
Should you get tennis toe, warm-water soaks with a little Epsom salts once or twice a day will help relieve it. If your case is painful, see a dermatologist, who’ll puncture the nail to drain the blood and relieve the pressure.