Wearables measure your health all day long via complex sensors. They are always in direct contact with your skin. Can that hurt? In this article you can read everything about wearables and your skin.
Wearables and your skin: everything you need to know
Have you ever looked at the bottom of your wearables? That can look pretty intense because of all the sensors. These are in direct contact with your largest organ all day long: the skin.
Our skin protects us from external influences, but can also be quite vulnerable. Not only for wounds and bruises if you are a bit clumsy, but also the radiation from the sun is actually too intense for us. So what about wearables?
Are wearables bad for your skin?
Let’s start with the good news: research shows that the use of small, electronic gadgets does not increase the risk of getting cancer. Yet we have only been using these devices for such a short time that you cannot say with certainty that it has no effect in the long term. However, the World Health Organization says it has no reason to assume that.
You can read more about the relationship between wearing wearables and your health here, including links to these studies. There you can read, among other things: “The ‘radiation’ of wearables and smartphones cannot damage your DNA, but it can warm up your body a little bit. To avoid this, gadget makers must adhere to strict safety standards.”
Irritation of the skin
It can happen that a wearable irritates your skin. It may turn red or itch. If this continues, there is a chance that you are allergic to a component in the wearable.
At that point, the question is whether you are allergic to the material in the device or in the strap. You can easily exchange the strap for another material. For example, if you do not respond well to a silicone strap, you can try a woven strap and see if this solves the problem. Otherwise, you could consult a dermatologist.
Do wearables work well with tattoos?
If you have tattoos, it can prevent wearables from working properly. Many wearables use light to collect information about your health. Light reflects better on lighter colors. With black tattoos or other dark colors, the wearable may have trouble recognizing your wrist and seeing your heart rate.
One way to avoid that problem is not to get a tattoo on your wrist. At least not on the wrist where you wear a watch.
If you already have tattoos on your wrists and you want to wear a wearable on your wrist, you can try putting cheap “epoxy stickers” on the bottom of the wearable, as recommended in the Galaxy Watch Reddit. Please note that other functions may not work due to that sticker, such as an ECG measurement.
You can also choose to wear a smart ring instead of a smartwatch. Or if your heart rate is important during exercise, wear a band around your chest. Such a band does not use light, so you can also use it if your chest is tattooed black.
Does skin color affect how well wearables work?
But if light works better with lighter than dark colors, what about skin tone? Unfortunately, wearables can indeed work worse for people with darker skin tones. Research in 2022 shows that the results that wearables give are less accurate for black people.
In particular, the heart rate measurement and the spotting of cardiac arrhythmias are not always correct. Heart rate is usually measured by shining light on the skin and then measuring how much light is absorbed. A skin with more melanin, which is therefore darker, absorbs more light.
Tips to protect your skin
While smartwatches and fitness trackers are made to be worn day and night these days, it’s not wise to do so all the time. If you always cover the skin, you are more likely to get irritated. Your skin needs time to breathe and recover.
Don’t over-tighten the wearable either. During exercise, it is smart to place the watch or fitness tracker very close to the skin so that your activity and heart rate are measured as accurately as possible. Then loosen the wearable a bit.
Also think about hygiene. Precisely because the device is so close to your skin, it can get a bit dirty. Clean both the device and the strap regularly.
Wearables and your health
Wearables are extremely valuable. We list 10 ways in which wearables are good for your health. Wearables can also help you with your mental health.