Does Sweat Mess Up a Tattoo?

Working out is an excellent way to keep your body in shape and improve your quality of life. It has all kinds of health benefits that I’m sure you already know about. Manual labor is also a necessity sometimes, and like working out, you end up working up a sweat. What does this mean for people with tattoos? Does sweat mess up a tattoo? Will you have to change your routine after you get a tattoo? We sweat for a reason, so it’s very important that we don’t impede our body’s ability to do so. At the same time, we want to take care of our tattoos! In today’s article, I talk all about how tattoos affect your sweat glands and vice versa.  Let’s find out how to take care of your tattoo without ruining your routine!


Can Sweat Ruin a Tattoo?

Simply put, does sweat mess up a tattoo? This all depends on the age of your tattoo. Sweat will affect a new tattoo the same way water will. Sweat causes moisture in the tattooed area and promotes bacterial growth when left to itself. The only kind of moisture you want in your tattoo is from tattoo-safe moisturizer, and I went over a bit of that on this post. On top of that, the liquid could potentially move or break down some of your ink before your immune system seals it in. The particles need to be big enough for your body to throw macrophages at it—which are unmoving cells that keep foreign bodies contained. If sweat, water, or soap breaks down the ink, then it is disposed of, and that leaves you with a blurry tattoo. You need to be careful taking a shower as your tattoo heals (as seen here), so it makes sense that sweat is also something you should handle with care.

On the other hand, sweat has no effect on an old tattoo. It’s quite the other way around. I talk more about how tattoos affect your sweat later on, but for now, rest assured that an old tattoo will not be affected by a little sweat. If you want to know how working out, losing weight, or gaining weight affects your tattoo, then I implore you to give this page a read. Skin stretching affects tattoos in all stages of healing. You’ll know it’s okay to start working out once your tattoo reaches the last stage of healing. You can use this page to determine that.

Source: Scott Ricci SR

Sweating While Getting a Tattoo

Whenever you get a surge of adrenaline, sweating is just one of your body’s reactions. Along with a quickened heart rate and increased focus, pain goes hand-in-hand with sweat. It’s only natural that people sweat during their tattoos. In fact, I would say that most people sweat during their tattoos! Even the pain tolerant will receive that adrenaline boost under the needle. Since this is the critical point of forming your tattoo’s shape, it’s very worrisome when the waterworks start to flow. Thankfully, it doesn’t affect things in the long run.

Because your artist is actively applying ink, anything that sweats out will be addressed immediately by them. Sweat is barely distinguishable from plasma at the point it starts going, anyways. As long as you keep cool immediately after your tattoo you’ll be fine. Also make sure to keep your wrap on for as long as the artist suggests. This helps restrict moisture flow in the area on top of protecting your brand new tattoo from germs. Remember that you should never peel away dry skin as it heals–that stuff actually protects against overmoisturization from sweat! If you’re interested in why tattoos peel, I cover that on this post.

How does Sweat Mess Up a New Tattoo?

You’ve probably finished reading my aftercare process article by now. So, what do you do once you take off the wrap and find yourself sweating? Can you sweat with a new tattoo? Unfortunately, excessive sweating with a new tattoo causes the ink to move around underneath your skin. The relationship between sweat glands and tattooed areas is barely studied (more on that later), but tattoos most definitely affect sweat glands. If that’s the case, then they probably interact in a much more dramatic way before the tattoo heals. It isn’t unusual for tattoos to appear blurry after they heal over. Barring weight gain or poor aftercare, sweating could be a big factor in that.

Exactly how does sweat mess up a tattoo? It’s possible that the liquid helps your body dispense of the ink directly through your wound. Another possibility—though less likely–is that it breaks down a little bit of the ink and lets the immune system carry away the chunks of ink. After all, tattoos are only permanent because the ink particles are too big for our immune system to deal with! Until more research is done on the topic, it’s best to be conservative about these sorts of things. We know that sweating isn’t particularly good for wounds, and your tattoo is one such wound with the ink factor tacked on to it. When in doubt, treat it as you would a normal wound and keep sweat off of it.

This is part of the reason it’s so crucial for you to remove the wrap when the artist tells you to. They give you that advice for a reason, and the sweating involved is one of them. There is a point where that wrap starts hindering your healing process rather than helping it. You need to keep your tattoo aired out so that infection doesn’t set in. Moist environments allow bacteria and germs to propagate and potentially threaten your health.

While plasma is the main culprit for making a wound moist, sweat can contribute to that environment as well. Keeping the wrap off prevents that while and also keeping you cool. Cool skin means less sweat…you see where this is going. Obviously, you’ll want to avoid activities that cause you to sweat during your tattoo healing phase.

Does Sweat Mess Up an Old Tattoo?

Once your tattoo is fully healed, a little sweat won’t harm it. It works just like shower spray or rain. If your regular skin can handle it, then so can your tattoo. On the other hand, losing weight and gaining weight have a noticeable effect on them. I cover a little bit of that down below and go into detail about it here. If you end up with a cut or injury on your tattoo, then treat it the same way as you would a new tattoo. Also go to the doctor or see an artist if you have a concern about your tattoo when it gets injured. I wrote more about tattoo injuries here.

Anyways, the moral of this story is that sweat will not mess up an old tattoo as long as you are properly caring for it. If you notice any changes after spending a lot of time in the sun, it’s more than likely the effect of U.V. rays, rather than sweat. Work up a sweat to your heart’s content once that tattoo is healed!

How Do Tattoos Mess With Sweat?

The effects of tattoos on your body are rarely studied. However, one intuitive scientist decided to study how tattoos might affect sweating. Since both tattoos and sweat glands are located on your skin, they hypothesized that sweating might be affected by them. And, wouldn’t you know it, their hypothesis was correct! They used subjects with tattoos on one arm and clear skin on the other. They applied a chemical that causes sweating and then studied the resulting sweat. Sweat from the tattooed area contained much more sodium than usual and appeared in a much lower quantity.

The reason? Unknown, of course. The sample size was very small and the sweating was chemically induced. Nonetheless, this gives other researchers a starting point for future studies. Whether natural sweating from exercising is affected the same way as chemically induced sweating is a big mystery. I would go out on a limb and suggest that the layer of ink might affect how much of the chemical the body receives. On top of that, it’s possible that it wasn’t ink, but rather the scar tissue associated with a tattoo, that caused the discrepancy. There are certainly many routes a team of researchers could pursue. Who knows? Maybe they’ll find out something incredibly new.

Regardless of the reason, it is safe to assume that the study correctly found a correlation between sweat and tattoos. If you are heavily tattooed and want to work out, make sure you keep a towel on hand and stay extra hydrated. You might also want to monitor your sodium intake, since tattoo sweat is apparently very salty!

Can I Exercise After a New Tattoo?

Can I play basketball after a new tattoo? Can I go swimming? You might be wondering how to stay fit while your tattoo heals, and I can’t blame you! Healthy living is where it’s at. Lifting weights after a tattoo poses the risk of opening the wound. Similarly, running after a tattoo is a hazard if you find yourself rubbing, scraping, or stretching during the activity. Swimming—one of the best exercises on the planet—is also the most dangerous thing you can do after you get a new tattoo. I write all about that in my swimming after a tattoo article. As for exercise? The risks it poses varies, so I also recommend reading what I wrote about that! Once your tattoo heals, you only need to worry about maintaining—which goes for both your body and your tattoo!


So, Does Sweat Mess Up a Tattoo?

Generally, sweat poses no risk to your tattoo! If your tattoo is healing then you will want to pamper it and keep it sweat-free. It’s possible that sweat could affect your tattoo during the healing stage. As for any other time? Not so much. There is a change in the behavior of sweat after you receive a tattoo, but it doesn’t appear to be something dangerous to either you or the tattoo. What will actually harm your tattoo is exposure to the sun (I wrote more about that here) and constant skin stretching from weight gain or loss.

Ultimately, taking care of your tattoo is synonymous with taking care of your body. Take care of your new tattoo using my aftercare guide to help you through the process, which also helps you deal with sweat. After your tattoo heals, take care of your body as you normally would, and your tattoo will be all the better for it!

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