Do Tattoos Impact How You Sweat?

For thousands of years, tattoos have been a means of aesthetic self-expression. This leaves many wondering if tattoos have a long-term impact on the skin or other parts of the body?

Sweating with Tattoos Research

In a recent U.S. study, researchers found that having tattoos can change the way humans sweat. Researchers from Alma College in Michigan conducted a small study consisting of 10 men with tattoos to determine if their sweat production remained consistent with natural skin.

Each man had one tattoo on the upper part of his body with equal natural skin on the other half. The study consisted of men wearing agar gel disks consisting of 0.5% pilocarpine nitrate for 20-minutes on each side of the body (tattooed and natural skin). These patches reacted with the skin to induce sweating. The studied area required the tattoos to cover a
circular skin section of at least 5.2 cm. The disks were weight before and after sweat collection to determine the amount of sweat produced.

The results of the study showed that tattooed skin produced half the sweat as natural skin. Further, the sweat that was produced by the tattooed skin comprised double the sodium as natural skin. This proves that tattooed skin has a significant impact on the sweating process.

The Premise

Dr. Leutkemeier, a skin physiology specialist with a focus on the function and location of skin glands, created the study after uncovering that tattoo ink is applied to the same skin layer as sweat glands. Since tattoos are applied using needles that puncture the top layers of the skin hundreds or more times, Dr. Leutkemeier wondered what damage this had on
the sweat glands.

While this was a small study, it suggests that there is a compromise to the functionality of sweat glands on tattooed skin.

Impact on Those with Tattoos

Sweating is a critical function to the human body as it helps cool down the core temperature during intensive exercise and hot weather. If additional research, based on this test, proves to be significant then the skin health implication for the armed forces, athletes, and those working outside in hot temperatures is considerable. Those with an excessive number of tattoos could be susceptible to developing complications like heat stroke and overheating, which could harm their performance.

While there is an unlikely impact of tattoos on those involved in moderate exercise, the research is still in its infancy. The
Michigan study is groundbreaking since it is the first of its kind. However, there is a large amount of additional research required under various temperature and humidity conditions to provide if the study’s findings are noteworthy.

It is important to note that the study utilized a chemical stimulant to induce sweating and did not heat the subjects through temperature or physical activity. To ensure more concrete results, future studies must analyze the risk of overheating due to heavy physical exercise or high environmental temperatures.

Regardless, this study begins the discussion on whether tattoos impact the sweat glands and could pause for thought to athletes, performers, and those working in hot conditions of covering their bodies in tattoos.

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