Study Finds Tattoos Create Overheating Risk

Wilsonville skin care clinic

Getting a tattoo offers an incredible opportunity to showcase an individual’s own unique personality. At our Wilsonville skin care 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 extremely hot weather.

The study discovered that tattooed skin on the arms reduces sweat rates, which then could impair the body’s ability to cool down when overheated. Comparatively, researchers noted that skin without tattoos was able to 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 harder time regulating their body temperatures, they could be at a higher risk for suffering heat stroke.

Coloring a Different Picture

Led by researchers from Southern Methodist University, the study examined sweating as it relates 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 points to a reduction in 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.

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

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 to sweat glands to function normally 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. This suggests that the sweat glands were actually damaged during the tattoo process, according to the study published in the Journal of Applied Physiology.

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 heat stroke.

Protecting Your Body

For individuals with a lot of tattoos, it’s important to take all necessary precautions when exposed to extreme heat. At our Wilsonville skin care clinic, our doctors recommend that patients remain indoors during the hottest parts of the day, find shade when outside for extended periods of time, 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 avoid overheating when outdoors. By practicing a little precaution, you can avoid any potential complications from tattoos while still being able to express yourself as you might like.