New Research On Tattoos And Sweat Production

People have been getting tattoos for various reasons since prehistoric times. One main reason people get tattooed is to express themselves artistically. Only in recent times have tattoos been studied to see if they may actually change our bodies on more than a surface, visual level. The results are fascinating.

Alma College in Michigan decided to study how tattooed skin and non-tattooed skin sweat. They were testing whether the areas that were tattooed would have quantifiable changes in sweat production and sodium content. The results indicated there was some definite impact on the way the body sweated.


The study used results collected from 10 young males with tattoos on the upper half of their bodies and an approximately equal portion of natural skin on the lower half. The subjects of the study had patches with chemicals that induce sweat production on both tattooed and natural portions of their skin for 20 minute intervals.


After the study concluded, the data showed quite significant changes in the skin in the areas that were tattooed versus natural skin. The tattooed areas of the test subjects’ skin were shown to produce approximately half of the amount of sweat that natural skin produced. They also produced sweat which was shown to contain sodium levels that were nearly double the amount contained in non-tattooed skin’s sweat.


The main idea that was being explored in this study was that tattoos may damage the sweat glands. Tattoo ink is deposited into the skin at roughly the same depth in the skin where the sweat glands are contained. This fact sparked the idea for the study in the mind of Dr. Leutkemeier. Dr. Leutkemeier’s specialty and focus is on the glands contained in the skin, their respective functions, and the overall physiology of the skin. He thought that the skin being repeatedly punctured in the area of the sweat glands may be causing adverse reactions or damage to the sweat glands. The results of this study seem to support that idea.

What Do The Results Mean For Tattooed People?

It’s taken for granted or even resented at times, but sweating is a quite crucial function our bodies perform. Sweating helps to regulate body temperature. It also keeps sodium levels balanced. During strenuous activities, or in excessively hot weather, sweat is vital to keeping people safe and avoiding things like overheating.

For certain groups, this study may indicate there are health implications to consider. People who exercise in hot weather, exercise strenuously, and have a significant amount of tattooed skin may be at risk for things like heatstroke or overheating. This could effect professional athletes as well as members of the armed forces as they tend to fall into these categories.

Dr. Leutkemeier has gone on record to point out the fact that this study is only a very early step toward researching the true effects of tattoos on sweating. He indicates that more research in the area is necessary before further conclusions are made. For example, this study did not use heat to induce sweating, but chemicals. Different studies with different conditions are necessary to get the full picture.

In the end, it seems that people who exercise moderately are likely safe. Even if they have tattoos, the impact may not be excessively dangerous for them. For those who expect to be athletes or train hard, maybe they will use this information to help them choose to get their tattoos removed – just in case.