Tattooed Skin Sweats Differently

From Mike Tyson's copyrighted facial tattoo to David Beckham's full sleeves to Dennis Rodman's all-over ink, it's clear that athletes love their tattoos. But according to a study, all that body art could affect their sports performance, especially when it comes to hydration.

Check Out My Sweet Antiperspirant Tattoo

For a study published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, researchers from Alma College in Michigan recruited 10 young men sporting a tattoo on one side of their upper bodies. Some of the tattoos were new, others were years old, but all were matched by an equal amount of un-inked skin on the other side of the body. On a small region of skin on each side, the researchers applied patches full of pilocarpine nitrate, a chemical that makes you sweat. Then, they immediately applied small discs designed to collect the sweat, which the men wore for 20 sweaty minutes. Afterward, the researchers weighed and analyzed the discs' contents.

They found that the tattooed skin produced roughly half as much sweat as the non-inked skin, and with a greater salt concentration — it contained nearly twice as much sodium. It didn't matter how old the tattoo was, which suggests that whatever effect the tattoo has — whether that's ink blocking the sweat glands or inflammation changing the tissues — is likely permanent.

Don't Sweat It

According to the New York Times, this isn't much to worry about. The effects don't seem to be dramatic enough to make you overheat, for example, or cause other sweat-related problems, and the body has been known to compensate for lack of sweat in one area by sweating more in another. But for athletes who keep careful watch of their hydration and electrolyte levels, this might be something to think about. If you make a habit of sweating on the field, the court, or a race route, it's important to know that your tattoos could be affecting how much water you need.

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Written by Ashley Hamer August 21, 2017

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