Here comes the sun: Dr. Evans’ Insider Tips on Playing Sun Smart Tennis

The sun, like many things in nature, can nourish us or can be harmful if we don’t practice moderation and common sense. Lacking our own common sense on the subject, we decided to go straight to the ultimate source on skin care, Dr. Robin Evans — a Dermatologist and Dermatologic Surgeon, who has been a long-standing participant in the Play Sun Smart program where she performs skin examinations for the New York Mets.

I tell my patients if the fear of skin cancer doesn’t get you out of the sun, then maybe the fear of looking older will….

What is the skinny on sun block? There has been a lot of conflicting info about what number sunblock…What ingredients to avoid? Is it even necessary if you cover up and play certain times of day? How much is too much?

All the data is very clear: People who get more sun are at greater risk of developing skin cancer. And, people with fair skin types are at greater risk than those with darker skin. Getting sunburns also increases the risk. Additionally, these behaviors and skin propensities contribute to premature aging. That means wrinkled, older looking skin! I tell my patients if the fear of skin cancer doesn’t get you out of the sun, then maybe the fear of looking older will….

Here are some guidelines I give my patients:

Less is better. Even with the protection of sunscreen, less sun exposure is always better than more exposure with sunscreen.

Ingredients matter. Use sunscreens with titanium dioxide or micronized zinc for the broadest sunscreen protection — in at least 7-10%. Avoid PABA and Padimate O — highly allergenic ingredients.

Numbers game. Look for sunscreens numbered 25-30. If your skin is dark, olive toned or darker 15 or higher may be sufficient, but for fair skin higher numbers are better and may “buy you” a bit longer time before you have to reapply.

Wear & When. Protective clothing is better than any sunscreen! Play tennis early or later in the day — try to avoid intense sun rays of midday hours between 10am-3pm.

Visor vs. Cap? Is it important to cover the entire head and wear a cap or is a visor sufficient protection? Does your scalp burn?

A visor is better than no hat, but a bigger hat with a brim is much better. The visor with sunglasses hopefully protects the eyes, forehead, nose area — but outer cheeks and chin/neck areas are still exposed. Important to note: If your hair is thin a visor may help protect the upper part of your face but leave your scalp exposed. This is an area that can get a lot of sun damage and people may be unaware that it is happening. The scalp needs to be protected like every other part of one’s skin surface… The bigger the hat the better.

Does moving help? Does moving around, such as playing tennis and switching sides every game, help you to avoid getting burned?

Moving around doesn’t help, unless you are moving in and out of shady areas….

When, where and how. If you’re playing tennis for 1.5-3 hours, when should you apply a basic sunscreen so that you don’t need to reapply? The oils from most sunscreens get on your hands which makes the racquet slippery to hold, so reapplying during a match is not ideal.

Apply about 15 minutes before starting to play. If you absolutely cannot reapply midway during the match, get a sunscreen stick and apply that to the exposed areas on your face, ears and neck.

I forgot my sunscreen! What are some natural remedies you can use in a pinch?

You can always cover up with protective clothing. Wear a lightweight cotton blouse or light sweater and keep a hat or visor on…(see the story “Top 5 Secrets to Healthy Summer Skin” for a cool tip on natural sunscreen in the next issue!)

Long sleeves vs. tank. My friends make fun of me for wearing long sleeves instead of lathering on the sunscreen. Does wearing protective clothing work as well as sunscreen?

Protective clothing is better than any sunscreen!!!  Make sure the clothing is not sheer so sun rays are not penetrating. Clothing is easier, less messy and great for kids — use swim shirts/rash guards when you can.

What if I get a burn? My family swears by yogurt or toothpaste as remedies applied immediately after a burn to calm the skin and prevent peeling. What are some natural or over the counter remedies that work for a sunburn?

Aloe is a fantastic natural remedy — especially pure aloe (the plant itself is best). It is very soothing, cooling and helps the inflammation of the burn. Another natural, very soothing solution is making a paste of baking soda and water and applying it to the burn. Over the counter, you can take a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory pill like Advil or Motrin (as long as you tolerate it and are not pregnant).

Bad sunscreen. What if I have an allergic reaction to sunscreen and still need to be in the sun?

You will need to try a different sunscreen with different ingredients (remember to avoid PABA and Padimate O), or wear protective clothing.

We love ProTennis sunscreen which contains aloe, lasts longer and doesn’t leave a greasy, white residue like other sunscreens we’ve tried. Aloe, Cocoa Butter, Shea, Olive oil… What are the best oils for beautiful skin?

Aloe, coconut oil or Manuka honey are best. Cocoa butter, olive oil and Shea butter, although soothing, are all very comedogenic — i.e. promote acne and blackheads, etc.

Are there foods that can help you prevent sunburn or may worsen a burn?

Avoid getting lemons, limes or other citrus on the skin and then exposing oneself to the sun. This can cause localized burn dermatitis in those areas (as in, if you’re squeezing lemons or limes for drinks and then exposing yourself to the sun). Consume high-antioxidant foods like pomegranate, green tea, dark chocolate and tomatoes which can be sun protective… so eat generous amounts of these routinely for increased photoprotection.

Thank you Dr. Evans, for this essential advice on playing sun smart! Click FOLLOW and look for more amazing tips from Dr. Evans on cool summer skin, in the “Top 5 Secrets to Healthy Summer Skin” in the coming issue.

Let’s play!


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About Robin Evans, MD

Dr. Evans attended medical school and completed her Dermatology residency at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City. She received her M.D. degree with honors after being elected to the AOA National Medical Honor Society. Dr. Evans was appointed Chief Resident of her Dermatology training program.

Dr. Evans continues her affiliation with Albert Einstein serving as Clinical Instructor for both medical students and residents in training. In addition, she is a member of the medical staff of Stamford Hospital.

Dr. Evans is a Board Certified Dermatologist, Dermatologic Surgeon, and a fellow of the American Academy of Dermatology. She has a particular interest in cosmetic, laser, and surgical dermatology and has received extensive training in these specialty areas. Dr. Evans is also a fellow of the American Society of Laser Medicine and Surgery and of the American Society for Dermatologic Surgery.

In addition to having expertise in cosmetic and laser dermatology, Dr. Evans has a particular interest in and knowledge of holistic and complementary medicine. Based on the interests of her patients, she incorporates the holistic approach into her practice of dermatology. Dr. Evans offers skin care and supplement recommendations to help in the treatment and prevention of skin disease.

Robin Evans, M.D.
Southern CT Dermatology
1275 Summer Street
Stamford, CT 06903