news How to use wearable technology if you have a tattoo

If you have tattoos and are interested in experimenting with wearable tech, there are a few things to consider before getting your hands on a wallet.

The bad news is that tattoos and wearable devices aren’t always compatible. This is a known issue among wearable manufacturers, but not obvious to many consumers. Sometimes you’ll come across social media posts of people with tattoos strapping on their new smartwatches and noticing that the device isn’t working as well. It may prevent the device from recognizing that you are actually wearing it.

This is because the majority of wrist-based wearables rely on photoplethysmography (PPG) sensors. These optical sensors work by shining light on the skin and determining various biometric data based on the amount of light reflected. It’s a neat, non-invasive way to track health indicators, but it’s inherently flawed. Easier to absorb. This is why these PPG sensors of his could be confused by people with darker skin or more tattoo ink.

Most smartwatches use a PPG sensor to detect your heart rate and determine if you’re wearing the watch.
Photo by Amelia Holowaty Krales/The Verge

Not a fun answer, but right now, the only way to ensure wrist-based wearables work as intended is to keep at least one upper wrist tattoo-free. Make a note of where the sensor array is on your skin and work with your tattoo artist to design it around it.) But what if you already have tattoos all the way down both wrists?

epoxy sticker

A popular Reddit hack for getting smartwatches to work with tattoos is the epoxy bottle cap sticker. These stickers are inexpensive (often less than $10 for 50-100 stickers on Amazon) and can be applied to sensor arrays. As an anecdote, many users have found that this tends to solve wrist detection issues, and in some cases, heart rate monitoring and workout tracking issues as well. This means your mileage may vary. For example, on the Samsung Galaxy Watch 4 and 5, stickers may interfere with body composition analysis.

Still, it’s a cheap enough workaround, and if you have access to a friend’s smartwatch, it’s easy to test before actually buying the device.

A chest strap is your friend

If heart rate data during exercise is your main goal, it’s an easy fix. Chest straps such as the Polar H10 and Garmin HRM-Dual are great and affordable alternatives.

Unlike smartwatches and fitness trackers, chest straps do not use optical sensors. Instead, use an electrocardiogram. These straps have electrodes that read the heart’s electrical activity to determine heart rate. Simply pre-moisten the electrodes, electrify them, and make sure the chest strap (usually an adjustable elastic band) is securely fastened. that’s it. No fancy LEDs needed.

Technically, chest straps are more accurate than smartwatches. This is because the ECG measures your actual heartbeat, while the PPG sensor measures your pulse instead of your heartbeat. That’s why chest straps were considered the gold standard in the early days of wearable technology. Now the company is dramatically improving his PPG sensors and heart rate algorithms in smartwatches and fitness trackers, but chest straps are still less prone to error.

Many chest straps also include Bluetooth and ANT Plus connectivity so you can easily communicate with your gym equipment or fitness apps on your smartphone. You can also pair it with your smartwatch to get heart rate data. This may be a workaround for some people, but unfortunately tattoo ink may not be able to recognize that the smartwatch is actually wearing it. There’s no real way to determine which type of tattoo will confuse smartwatches the most, but they tend to be the ones with darker designs and thicker ink.

The problem with chest straps is that they never win awards for comfort. If the elastic wears out or you don’t keep the band in place, it can fall off your waist during your workout. Wearing a sports bra can make your breasts feel tight. Depending on how the chest strap is attached, you may be concerned about rubbing. Also, it is not suitable for 24/7 heart rate monitoring. If that’s your end goal, choosing a different wearable form factor may be more convenient.

Regular rings, Oura Ring Gen 3 (middle) and Oura Ring Gen 2 (left)

The Oura Ring Generation 3 (middle finger) and Oura Ring Generation 2 (ring finger) are discreet and excellent trackers for all-day use if at least one finger is free of tattoos.
Photo by Victoria Song/The Verge

smart ring

If you don’t have tattoos on the underside of all 10 fingers, the smart ring may be suitable for all-day fitness tracking. While not as popular as smartwatches, they do have some advantages. They’re more discreet and more comfortable to wear, and the PPG sensor shines light on the underside of the finger. It is suitable. Additionally, the skin on the underside of the finger has less melanin (and possibly ink), which confuses the PPG sensor.

The Oura ring is the most successful and widely known smart ring. It’s primarily a sleep and recovery tracker, but has since added workout heart rate, blood oxygen monitoring, and duration tracking. You can also use basic functions such as In addition, it includes several metrics that smartwatches and fitness trackers have recently started adding, such as body temperature, breathing rate, and heart rate variability during sleep. A dollar and an expensive thing. And advanced smartwatches with proactive health features like abnormal heart rate alerts and atrial fibrillation detection, as well as push notifications, timers, alarms, and emergency calls.

Renderings of all three Evie ring designs

The Evie Ring is an example of a smart ring pending FDA approval and, if successful, would be a great alternative.
Image: Movano

This is still an early wearable form factor, so it’s an area to watch. Movano Health, for example, is working on her Evie, a smart his ring that is currently pending FDA approval. If successful, the Evie ring will be a medical-grade device with numerous clinical trials tracking massive heart rate metrics and blood oxygen. While not a solution at the moment, smart rings show promise as an alternative for those with sleeve or wrist tattoos.

Wearables worn elsewhere

For those who don’t like chest straps When If you happen to have open patches of skin on your arm or forearm, there are armband heart rate monitors like the Polar OH1 and Peloton Arm Band. These use optical sensors, but are more comfortable and conveniently located than a chest strap.Unlike a chest strap, you can also see feedback about your heart rate zones more easily.

Alternatively, if you want to listen to music or podcasts while working out, there are earbuds with heart rate monitoring such as the Amazfit Powerbuds Pro and the Anker Soundcore Liberty 4. Technically, the ear is superior to the wrist in terms of precision as well. Get the right fit. This is notoriously difficult to get a snug fit on regular earbuds, so it can be tricky, but it’s an option.

Whoop 4.0 in a special pocket in the sports bra

Whoop has a clothing line that allows you to wear sensors on different parts of your body.
Photo by Victoria Song/The Verge

Or you can invest in niche wearables like Whoop 4.0. At $30 a month, it’s pricey, but it does have the advantage of supporting 24/7 health tracking. Similar to the Aura Ring. You won’t receive notifications or proactive health alerts, but you’ll get detailed recovery metrics, heart rate data, and sleep tracking.

Another benefit is that Whoop has also launched its own clothing line. Therefore, the tracking device can be inserted into specially made bras, boxers, leggings, compression shorts, shirts and arm sleeves. For example, Whoop’s sports bra has a special pocket on the side near the ribs. If you insert a tracker there, it will read your heart rate from that part of your skin. As for accuracy, the company claims the tracker has been validated for use on arms, wrists, torso, legs, and hips. An expensive alternative, sure, but he’s one of the few who can wear a tracker on any part of his body.

None of these solutions are 100% perfect, but as mentioned above, the PPG sensors preferred in smartwatches and fitness trackers are inherently flawed. No matter how much companies improve their algorithms, they can’t change the fact that dark colors reflect light poorly.

Tattoos are a form of artistic expression and often hold emotional value. You don’t have to change or remove your tattoo to use wearable technology. But until companies get more creative and find alternatives to his wrist-based PPG sensor, these are some of the best alternatives available.

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