Whether you are watching football, basketball or soccer on television or busting your butt in a yoga, Spinning or CrossFit class, it’s very likely you are staring straight at some freshly inked skin, considering half of millennials and 36 percent of Gen Xers have at least one tattoo.
While most people who opt to get inked understand that tattoos are a life-long commitment that physically alters the way their skin looks forever, there has been little emphasis on the way they could be permanently affecting the skin’s physiology — until now. According to a new (very small) study published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, all of those om symbols, sports logos, ex-girlfriend’s names and tribal bands have something in common: They are likely affecting the way you sweat.
The study’s co-author, Maurie Luetkemeier, professor of integrative physiology and health science at Alma College in Michigan, claims that compared to virgin skin, tattooed skin excretes around 50 percent less sweat. “We also found the sodium in sweat was more concentrated when released from tattooed skin,” he explained. Fifty percent more concentrated, to be exact.
The study examined 10 healthy, inked-up males whose tattoos were located on one side of their upper bodies (if someone had Dumbo covering their right shoulder, their left needed to be bare) covering a circular area of at least 5.2 centimeters. Scientists then chemically induced a sweat by placing small patches containing pilocarpine nitrate on both the tatted skin and the naked skin, immediately removing them and replacing them with small sweat-collecting discs.
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After 20 minutes of sweating, the discs were removed and researchers were surprised to find that each side of the body — the tattooed skin and the corresponding bare skin — did not sweat equally. Not only did the tatted skin produce less sweat, the sweat solution itself was different, with almost twice the amount of sodium. Another interesting tidbit is that the age of the tattoo had no relevance, with older ink sweating the same as recent additions.
Unless you are sporting a sleeve (for those of you not tuned into tattoo lingo, that means an armful of ink) or have extensive coverage on another specific sweat-gland-packed area of the body, you shouldn’t worry too much about your ability to excrete sweat (although if you’re really concerned, you can bring it up with your doctor).
So have no regrets about that lower-back butterfly tattoo from college — at least as it pertains to your health.
What Do YOU Think?
Have you ever thought that tattoos could impact your health? If you have tattoos, have you noticed that you sweat less in the inked areas? Will the findings of this study impact your decision to get tattoos in the future?
Leah Groth is a writer and editor currently based in Philadelphia. She has covered topics such as entertainment, parenting, health & wellness for xoJane, Babble, Radar, Fit Pregnancy, Mommy Nearest, Living Healthy and PopDust.