Getting a new tattoo can be scary, especially for a first-timer. There are many things to consider before getting inked, and just as many things to consider after. The aftercare process is critical to the long-term health of your tattoo, and you should follow any instructions given to you by your artist. For many people, the most confusing aspect of the aftercare process is sweat. What happens if I sweat too much? Will my tattoo turn into a shapeless smudge after a single gym session? Let’s take a look at the facts to calm those fears!
The Power of Sweat
Sweating is a crucial part of the body’s temperature regulation system. Produced in sweat glands located all over our skin (but especially the hands and feet), the evaporation of sweat on the skin’s surface releases heat from the body and prevents overheating. People unable to sweat have a hard time staying cool. But studies have shown that tattoos can disrupt the cooling process.
Ink vs. Sweat
Researchers at Alma College in Michigan have found that the tattooing process can disrupt the normal function of sweat glands. Because the sweat glands and tattoo ink are found at similar skin depths, the ink can block sweat glands from absorbing sodium from the skin. This can make it harder for the body to cool down during exercise, potentially affecting performance.
So tattoos can affect sweat, but sweat can also affect tattoos. Let’s take a look at some of the problems that can arise when sweat and ink mix, and how to best mitigate the damage.
Germs, Germs, Germs
It can be easy to forget that a tattoo is an open wound, and like all wounds, you want to keep outside substances out of it as much as possible. Sweat is no exception. Excess moisture, including sweat, that pools in a tattoo wound provides a home for all kinds of microbes to grow and multiply. These bacteria can easily lead to a nasty skin infection.
Infection isn’t the only risk sweat can bring; it can also disrupt the tattoo healing process.
It’s important to keep in mind how tattoo healing functions. As the wound heals, immune cells called macrophages absorb the ink into themselves, trapping it there and keeping the tattoo intact. If sweat invades the wound it can break apart the ink before this process has finished, distorting the tattoo’s shape and causing it to blur or fade.
What To Do
All of these facts can seem overwhelming and a little scary, but the reality is that only a large amount of sweat will cause significant problems. Keeping exercise mild and sweat-free, quickly cleaning sweat off of your tattoo, and proper aftercare products and techniques will help keep your tattoo safe and sound throughout the healing process. So go ahead and hit the gym! Just keep an eye on your new ink, and treat it with the respect it deserves.
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