How Tattoos Affect Sweat Rate and Nutrient Absorption

Tattoos are personal permanent images on our body that carry meaning and commemoration. At least 14% of U.S. adults have at least one tattoo and the popularity of getting inked is on the rise. Nearly 36% of millennials have a tattoo and it seems to be a reoccurring trend. The athletic community also has a high incidence of players with tattoos.

As much color as these skin decorations bring to the body, they may actually cause thermoregulatory problems. This is particularly true for people with sleeves, (fully covered arms) because the arms have a lot of sweat glands. Compared to a person with no tattoos, skin with ink on it sweats about 50% less. The type of sweat released on a tattooed area contains more concentrated amounts of sodium. Dyed skin changes the saltiness of our sweat. When the dye is injected into the skin, its home is the same layer where our sweat glands live. Sweat glands excrete liquid onto the surface of the skin, but before it dries or we wipe it away, our skin usually reabsorbs quite a bit of the lost sodium and electrolytes. Tattoos block this reabsorption. The age of the tattoo does not influence this sweat alteration. New or old, about 50% less sweat is being produced. It is possible that the sweat glands, after being inflamed from the 3,000 or more needles puncturing the skin, are now physiologically different.

This is not a serious condition to sweat about. The body is still able to cool itself down despite tattoos covering perspiration avenues. A person who is covered in tattoos, exercising or working in high heat, or is sensitive to heat, might be at risk. When we exercise we do want to be able to cool down to keep our stamina and performance up. Research has not been adequately performed to determine if the areas of the skin lacking tattoos make up for the areas with tattoos; it's likely that it partially depends on what percentage of the body is covered by tattoos.

Don’t think that if you sweat less you won't lose the weight you want to shed. We all perspire different amounts and the quantity of sweat does not equate to quantity of weight loss. As soon as the body becomes rehydrated that water loss is replenished. Excessive sweating for weight loss (with saunas or body wraps) are popular methods among wrestlers and boxers; maybe they should skip out on marking their bodies.

Sweat is the body’s air conditioning system and tattoos might alter the desired temperature. Your skin will still get shiny with perspiration, but maybe not the same amount, and your body might not be able to reabsorb sodium and electrolytes that it would otherwise take in. So be sure to hydrate, be sure to exercise, and be sure to get a tattoo you want to keep!

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28240705

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3312275/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3446858/

2/14/2019 8:00:00 AM
Megan Johnson McCullough
Megan is an NASM Master Trainer and Instructor, professional natural bodybuilder, Fitness Nutrition Specialist, Corrective Exercise Specialist, Lifestyle & Weight Management Specialist, member of Men’s Heath Fitness Council, Wellness Coach, Women’s Health Magazine Action Hero, candidate for her Doctorate, and fitness st...
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