Tattoos and Sweat Rate: Do They Affect Performance Summary
- Researchers examined whether there was relation between tattoos and sweat rate. The study found that tattoos did not impact the sweating rate.
- The color of the tattoos (i.e., red, blue, green, etc.) had a negligible impact on higher sweat rates. However, the differences were relatively small and unlikely to have practical implications concerning whole-body electrolyte balance.
- There were no differences in sweat outcome measures when comparing tattoos ≤ 5 years versus > 5 years of age.
Athletes have been getting tattoos for years, with more and more jumping on the bandwagon each day. While tattooing of the skin is a great form of self-expression, it may also impact athletes’ performance in ways they may not have considered. One such way is through sweating. Sweating plays an essential role in regulating body temperature during exercise, and any changes to it can affect athletic performance.
Some have suggested that tattoos can result in a decreased tattoo sweat rate, reducing the body’s cooling process in hot conditions. (Luetkemeier et al., 2020) Decreased sweating could impact heat dissipation, especially when tattoos cover large areas of the body’s surface area. This article delves into the recent research on this topic, shedding light on whether tattoos can potentially reduce performance by impairing sweating and tattoos.
Understanding the Physiology of Sweat and Its Role in Athletic Performance
Sweat, a natural response to heat and exertion, plays a crucial role in regulating body temperature during physical activity. It is secreted by sweat glands, helping to cool the body down and maintain its internal temperature. Sweating is particularly important during exercise and exertion, as it helps dissipate heat and prevent overheating. However, for some individuals, there may be an inability to sweat, which can have an impact on athletic performance, especially in hotter race conditions. This has been studied in previous studies, but nonmetabolic thermal-induced sweating can now be assessed in a controlled manner via passive whole body heating.
Review of the Literature on Sweating and Tattoos:
The relationship between sweating and tattoos has been interesting for several researchers. The tattooing process involves injecting ink into the dermal layer of the skin via repeated microneedle penetration. This action initiates an inflammatory response, and during the healing process, a portion of the injected ink becomes entrapped in the dermis, forming a permanent pattern in the skin. (Islam et al., 2016)
While some studies suggest that tattoos might impair the skin’s ability to sweat, potentially leading to overheating during intense physical activity, others have reported no significant difference in tattoo sweat rate between tattooed and non-tattooed skin.(Beliveau et al., 2020; LUETKEMEIER et al., 2017) For instance, a 2019 study found no effect of tattoos on sweat rate after 20 min of exercise in 22 male and female subjects. (Rogers et al., 2019)
Tattoos and Their Potential Impact on Sweating
Recent research has explored the potential impact of tattoos on sweating and heat dissipation. The tattooing process involves inserting ink into the dermal layer, which could potentially affect eccrine (sweat) glands. Studies have investigated the relationship between tattoos and sweat rate, suggesting that tattoos may impact the body’s ability to sweat. This could potentially lead to heat-related issues during physical activity. The impact of tattoos on eccrine sweat glands and the body’s ability to regulate temperature is still an area of ongoing research.
Do Tattoos Affect Sweating Exercise?
A recent study compared the local sweating rate (LSR) and local sweat sodium, chloride, and potassium concentrations of tattooed skin and contralateral non-tattooed skin during exercise. The study involved 33 recreational exercisers with at least one permanent arm or leg tattoo.
Participants underwent various exercise sessions, including indoor and outdoor cycling, outdoor instructor-led group fitness sessions, and outdoor running. Sweat samples were collected using absorbent patches applied to the tattooed and opposite non-tattooed areas. The study’s purpose was to compare sweat [Na+], [Cl.], and [K+] of tattooed versus non-tattooed skin with sweating induced via exercise, as this method of stimulation is most relevant to athletes, laborers, and the military. In the past, researchers only examined black tattoos, but in this study, 12 of the 48 tattoos had one or more ink colors other than or in addition to black.
What Recent Research Says About Tattoos and Sweat Rate
Recent studies have explored the relationship between tattoos and sweat rate. These studies have compared the sweat response of tattooed skin to non-tattooed skin. The findings suggest that tattoos may indeed affect sweat rate and response, according to a new study published in the Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport. New research has provided valuable insights into the potential impact of tattoos on sweat glands and their function, with results showing that study participants lost around the same amount of sweat per square centimeter of skin, regardless if it was tattooed or not. However, it’s important to note that this topic is still being studied, and further research is needed to fully understand the relationship between tattoos and sweat rate.
The study found no significant differences between tattooed and non-tattooed skin for sweat rate, sodium, chloride, or potassium. Now, here’s where it gets interesting. If you have a colorful tattoo (like red, blue, green, etc.), the saltiness of your sweat might be a tiny bit different, but it’s such a small change that it probably doesn’t matter much in real life. They also looked at old tattoos versus sweating and new tattoos. How old your tattoo is doesn’t change your sweat much, either. (Keyes et al., 2022) The main takeaway? Tattoos don’t seem to change how much you sweat or what’s in your sweat in a big way. So, if you’re considering getting a tattoo, you don’t have to worry about it affecting your workouts or sports activities.
If you’re thinking about getting a tattoo and are worried about how it might affect your sports performance or workouts, don’t stress! Whether colorful or black, old or new, tattoos don’t change how much or how you sweat. So, if you decide to get inked, it won’t hold you back in your physical activities. Remember to take care of it properly, especially when it’s fresh, by wearing sunscreen to protect it from sunlight. Tattoos are a cool way to express yourself and won’t hinder your game or fitness routine.
Beliveau, J., Perreault-Briere, M., Jeker, D., Deshayes, T. A., Durán-Suárez, A., Baker, L. B., & Goulet, E. D. B. (2020). Permanent tattooing has no impact on local sweat rate, sweat sodium concentration and skin blood flow, skin temperature or prediction of whole-body sweat sodium concentration during moderate-intensity cycling in a warm environment. European Journal of Applied Physiology, 120(5), 1111-1122. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00421-020-04350-4
Islam, P. S., Chang, C., Selmi, C., Generali, E., Huntley, A., Teuber, S. S., & Gershwin, M. E. (2016). Medical Complications of Tattoos: A Comprehensive Review. Clinical Reviews in Allergy & Immunology, 50(2), 273-286. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12016-016-8532-0
Keyes, D. M., Brown, S. D., King, M. A., Engel, M. D., Ciciora-Gold, M., Chavez, P. J. D., & Baker, L. B. (2022). Multiple regression analyses to determine the effect of sweating rate and tattoo characteristics on sweat outcome measures during exercise. Eur J Appl Physiol, 122(10), 2163-2174. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00421-022-04989-1
Luetkemeier, M. J., Allen, D. R., Huang, M., Pizzey, F. K., Parupia, I. M., Wilson, T. E., & Davis, S. L. (2020). Skin Tattooing Impairs Sweating During Passive Whole Body Heating. Journal of Applied Physiology. https://doi.org/10.1152/japplphysiol.00427.2019
LUETKEMEIER, M. J., HANISKO, J. M., & AHO, K. M. (2017). Skin Tattoos Alter Sweat Rate and Na+ Concentration. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 49(7), 1432-1436. https://doi.org/10.1249/mss.0000000000001244
Rogers, E., Irwin, C., McCartney, D., Cox, G. R., & Desbrow, B. (2019). Tattoos do not affect exercise-induced localised sweat rate or sodium concentration. Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport, 22(11), 1249-1253. https://doi.org/https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jsams.2019.06.004