Millennials like to be held up with the inability to form strong ties – whether in private, at work or in our spare time. Quite different seems to be our stance on permanent body jewelry. Almost naturally we adorn our bodies with tattoos . Also they have become a trademark for celebrities – or can you imagine a David Beckham without tattoos?

What distinguishes tattooed from non-tattooed, however, is not just their outward appearance, as a recent study from the US suggests.

The surprising conclusion:

Tattoos affect the sweat response of our skin. Specifically: tattooed skin sweats differently, namely less and saltier. Is Tattoo a health disadvantage?

Under the direction of Maurie Luetkemeier, Professor of Integrative Physiology and Health Sciences, a research team examined ten men between the ages of 20 and 22 years. All subjects were tattooed. In order to be able to compare the skin reactions with each individual, one selected men, who had tattoos only on one body side. Among them were tattoos that were new and some that had graced the subject’s skin for three or four years.

To make the skin of men to sweat, the scientists used the chemical agent pilocarpine. Then they compared the amount and composition of sweat on the tattooed and non-tattooed areas.

The result: The tattooed skin secreted only half as much sweat as the untattooed skin. However, the sweat on the tattoos in nine out of ten subjects had a nearly twice as high sodium concentration.

The age of the tattoo did not matter.

But why does tattooed skin react in this way? We want to know more and ask Dr. Yael Adler, bestselling author of the book “Haut nah”, after. She considers it very likely that when tattooing the sweat glands are damaged and their function is permanently impaired.

Short excursion: When tattooing, a needle or a needle bundle is pierced into the skin up to 3000 times a minute to inject the ink. The needle penetrates into the second layer of skin, also called “dermis”. That’s where our sweat glands are. Similar to a cut or an abrasion wound, the so-called basement membrane, which is located under the first layer of skin, is also injured during tattooing and has to reform.


DR. YAEL ADLER,  Bestselling author of the book “Haut nah”



A tattoo is therefore comparable to a small wound that the body has to heal. The formation of replacement tissue by so-called collagen fibers therefore occurs in many places even with tattoos. Eagle. However, in addition to that, the paint particles in the tattoo for our body represent foreign body material that is to be eliminated. There are therefore triggered by so-called inflammatory cells reactions that are intended to ward off these foreign substances. Dr. Yael Adler describes this in her book “Haut nah” as follows:

“Inside the dermis, cleanup crews (the scavenger cells) and garbage collector (the lymph) are trying to stem the damage and clean up the mess. Part of the color pigments is enclosed by immune cells and thus remains forever in the dermis as a foreign body package. Another part of the tattoo is transported via the lymph in the hope that perhaps the lymph nodes can do something with it. But even they do not know how to dispose of this toxic waste. They will therefore become a kind of repository. “

This explains why some tattooed people have already found color in the lymph nodes.

But back to the current study: When tattooing, it may well happen that the tissue and thus the sweat glands are permanently damaged. This suspected also Maurie Luetkemeier.

But how can the high sodium content in the sweat of the tattooed be explained?

Dr. Adler suspects that this circumstance is most likely due to a malfunction of the sweat glands due to inflammation or poison in the colors. As a result, the sweat glands are no longer able to ensure the recovery of sodium. That is why it is increasingly leaving the body.

But what does that mean for the tattooed among us? Finally, in addition to the annoying side effects, sweat has the important function of cooling our body and protecting it from overheating. Does David Beckham have to worry now?

Probably not, says the Mönchengladbach dermatologist Dr. med. Carina Neess in a conversation with us. That tattoos can affect the sweating of our body enough to cause physical damage, they consider unlikely. To heat oneself to death, therefore, under his tattoos most likely no one. Nevertheless, the effects of tattoos on our body are still largely unexplored. And finally, the question remains as to how it deals with the sweating of people who are tattooed over the entire body over the entire body and not only in individual places have tattoos. Especially for extreme athletes this question could be of concern.

Since this was the first examination of this kind, Dr. Luetkemeier and his team plan to conduct larger-scale, higher-volume trials to further investigate the effects of tattoos on perspiration. In order to achieve clearer results, the subjects should then not be made to sweat by a chemical reaction, but by natural physical exertion.