Study Finds Tattoos Create Overheating Risk

Wilsonville skin care clinic

Getting a tattoo offers an incredible opportunity to showcase an individual’s unique personality. At our Wilsonville skincare clinic, we know firsthand that many of our Valley View Dermatology patients have a great deal of pride in their body art. Yet, new research suggests tattoos may cause a potential health issue.

A new study suggests that tattoo ink impedes the body’s natural ability to sweat, which could cause the body to overheat in sweltering weather.

The study discovered that tattooed skin on the arms reduces sweat rates, which could impair the body’s ability to cool down when overheated. Comparatively, researchers noted that skin without tattoos could cool far more effectively.

A decline in an individual’s ability to sweat due to tattoos could have important applications in other instances when body temperatures rise, such as when a patient has an illness or fever. If patients with tattoos have a more challenging time regulating their body temperatures, they could be more likely to suffer heatstroke.

Coloring a Different Picture

Led by researchers from Southern Methodist University, the study examined sweating related to the body’s natural response to regulating body temperature. Researchers noted that when damage occurs to sweat glands within the skin, those glands may have their ability to produce sweat and lower body temperature impaired.

Earlier research has found that tattooed skin has a higher concentration of salt in sweat, which reduces sweat gland function. The research group calculated that the process of tattooing requires up to 3,000 skin punctures per minute. This repeated trauma to sweat glands could result in permanent damage occurring.

In the study, researchers examined sweating rates in the upper and lower arms of 10 participants with tattoos, comparing at least 5.6 sq. centimeters of tattooed skin with adjacent non-tattooed skin.

Participants wore special suits that circulated hot water in tubes around their bodies that reached up to 120 degrees Fahrenheit to stimulate whole-body sweating.

Non-tattooed and tattooed areas of skin began to sweat at roughly the same time in response to the simulated heat. This suggests that nerve signals can successfully trigger sweat gland function in tattooed skin.

However, the tattooed areas of the participant’s bodies produced less sweat when compared to the non-tattooed areas, reported the research team. According to the study published in the Journal of Applied Physiology, this suggests that sweat glands were damaged during the tattoo process.

While smaller tattoos were unlikely to interfere with the body’s overall ability to cool itself, decreased sweating from tattooed areas of the body could impact the body’s overall ability to cool itself. This becomes especially problematic for individuals who have tattoos covering a significant portion of their skin.

As a result of their study, researchers suggest that excessive tattooing could become a potential health issue and should be considered a risk factor for heatstroke.

Protecting Your Body

For individuals with many tattoos, it’s essential to take all necessary precautions when exposed to extreme heat. At our Wilsonville skincare clinic, our doctors recommend that patients remain indoors during the hottest parts of the day, find shade when outside for extended periods, and that they consume plenty of water to stay properly hydrated.

The results of this study don’t suggest that tattoos are dangerous and should be avoided but that heavily tattooed individuals take certain precautions to prevent overheating when outdoors. By practicing a little precaution, you can avoid any potential complications from tattoos while still expressing yourself as you might like.