Beauty Secrets of Tennis Pros

With all that outdoor play under the midday sun, tennis takes a toll not only on elbows and knees, but also on skin and hair. Today’s younger players in the Women’s Tennis Association seem to be learning from the creased faces and fried hair of their older teammates. At this spring’s BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, Calif., where the dry desert air can feel like a sauna, we saw tennis bags bulging with sunblock and hair conditioner. So we asked the players to share a few beauty and makeup tips.

The Right Sunscreen Formula for Sports
Currently ranked No. 1 in the world, 20-year-old Caroline Wozniacki of Denmark has a peaches-and-cream complexion that she intends to keep. “I use a lot of sunscreen because I don’t want to get wrinkles,” she says, adding that she reapplies it to her “shoulders, arms, everything.” The only problem with being so diligent is that it can make her hands slippery. So out comes a bottle of alcohol-based hand sanitizer to dry her palms.

Says dermatologist Jessica Wu, author of Feed Your Face: Younger, Smoother Skin and a Beautiful Body in 28 Delicious Days: “Playing sports outdoors means you’ll most likely be sweating, so look for waterproof formulas that are less likely to melt off in the heat. Swimmers and heavy perspirers might like the new formulas designed to be sprayed onto wet skin. And please remember an SPF lip balm, since that skin is so thin it’s vulnerable to sun damage and skin cancer.

Scorch-proof Your Hair
Known for her long glossy locks, 26-year-old Jelena Jankovic of Serbia uses a conditioning hair mask twice a week. “I leave it on for 15 minutes so that the moisture sinks in,” she says. “And when I play, I’ll spray a UV protectant on my hair.” Although she pulls her deep-chestnut hair into a high, tight ponytail on the court, we saw no signs of damaged hair or split ends. One possible reason is that darker pigments confer a protective benefit on hair. “Darker shades absorb UV light, unlike lighter shades, which let the hair’s proteins take the full insult,” says Jeni Thomas, principal scientist for Pantene. “In short, darker hair helps preserve hair’s natural strength.”

The surest way to shield hair from the sun’s rays -- whether you’re a brunette, blonde or redhead -- isn’t an option for the WTA players during competition: wearing a wide-brimmed hat. “In addition to regular conditioner and treatment usage, hats offer the best UV protection,” says Thomas.

Sun-smart Foods
No. 5-ranked Victoria Azarenka knows whom to thank for her long, blond locks. “I got good hair from my mom and grandmother, and I’m trying to take care of it,” says the 21-year-old from Belarus. Her healthy hair care regimen includes leave-in conditioner and heat-protectant spray.

Azarenka recently made a few headlines when The Tennis Channel peeked into her tennis bag and saw -- junk food! Fitness-obsessed fans were abuzz. But it brings up an important point: Eating healthy snacks has beauty benefits.

“If you load up on antioxidant-rich foods, particularly fruits and veggies, you’ll be giving your body the weapons it needs to fight the signs of aging and protect itself from UV rays,” says Wu. After all, she explains, the primary function of antioxidants in plants is to keep them from getting sunburned in the field.

While some of Wu’s favorite sources of antioxidants aren’t exactly tote-able to a workout (such as cooked tomatoes), those that are include green tea, apples, citrus fruits, berries and cherries.

Adds Wu: “We’ve all had times when we’ve forgotten to apply or reapply SPF, or we miss a spot, so eating the right foods can give you some backup protection. Just remember: It’s not a substitute for sunscreen.”

Photo: Getty Images