Ink Different: Tattoos may interfere with some Apple Watch functions

“Your mother hates your tattoos. So does your Apple Watch, apparently,” David Goldman reports for CNN. “Tattooed wrists can prevent the Apple Watch’s heart rate sensor from functioning properly, according to some customers.”

“Since the Apple Watch uses your heart rate to determine whether you’re wearing it, you might not be able to use Apple Pay, receive notifications, place calls, or use certain apps if you have tattoos on your wrists,” Goldman reports. “The issue stems from the way that the Apple Watch senses your heartbeat. According to Apple, the back of the Watch rapidly flashes green and infrared light at your skin, which gets absorbed or reflected by your red blood. When your heart beats, there is more blood in your wrist, and there is less blood between beats. By sensing the timing between your heartbeats, the Apple Watch can calculate your heart rate.”

“As it turns out, solid-colored tattoos — particularly red ones — also absorb the green light and reflect red light. Black tattoos, which absorb both green and red light, can also screw up the Apple Watch’s heart rate sensor,” Goldman reports. “The Apple Watch works fine with dark-colored skin, scars and skin abrasions, which are translucent, allowing light to pass through. Tattoo ink is opaque, preventing outside light from penetrating your skin.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: Tattoos can interfere. Potential FUD alert, though, expect to possibly see some attempt by rivals, shorts, etc. to make Apple Watch seem discriminatory toward users with darker skin.


  1. I’ve had heart by-pass surgery and the radial arteries were harvested for the by-pass grafts. That’s the artery that your pulse is taken from so it will be interesting to see if there are any sensor reading problems. It is interesting to watch someone who doesn’t know me try to take my pulse.

    1. It shouldn’t make any difference . Usually pulse oximetry is tested to make sure the Ulnar artery provides enough collateral circulation to supply the wrist and hand .
      The plethysmographic sensors are measuring changes in the skin blood flow , not the radial artery directly .

  2. Sounds like a ” Class Action” in the making.

    So those with full arm tatoos get out there and demand something be done about it. ( or compensation for consequential loss )

    PS. US residents only.

  3. Inkgate. Get ready for the “In case your watch doesn’t work hold it like this.” response.

    I’m sure there are other potential situations where the watch will have trouble functioning, say if you wore your watch over your shirt. Fortunately people have the right to bare arms.

    P.S. All global citizens have that right, unless of course your arms have been tortured off.

  4. Wow! Surprising!

    In other surprising news, it has been found that putting a piece of paper with a thickly inked, multi colored drawing between your watch and your skin will interfere with the heart sensor.

  5. Another reason not to have some so-called ‘artist’ jam ink under your skin like trailer trash.

    Not sure when the memo went out that tats were acceptable. In my workplace they are covered or you go home. If I were in HR they would be cause for dismissal. Tats mark the underclass, hipsters and poseurs.

    1. Not sure when the memo went out but its moronic to generalize about people because they are different from you. People are different in all kinds of ways, including aesthetically. Get over yourself.

      You are not in HR because you would fail on the first day.

        1. I remember I was in this bar called Sam’s in Tiburon drinking with some buddies and minding my own business. All of a sudden a few cougars came up and started chatting me up. I was already taken as it were, or I’d have been more into “the experience” if you get my meaning. Anyway, a short time later one of the cougar’s husbands shows up and already hates my guts. I buy him a drink and put his worries to rest over a conversation. At some point, and he’s pretty drunk, he starts in on my tats. I was like haha whatever. He starts going on about how he’d never hire me at his law firm and whatnot. Well, it turns out he’s easily plied for info when he’s drunk, and it turns out I made significantly more money. Given his age and career he had no hope of catching me financially and I was far younger. Well, I was like funny right? You can’t even afford me much less hire me. His poor face…

    2. There are some countries where tattoos have immense cultural significance, and the most respected actually have the most tattoos. Your statements are ignorant.

    1. I don’t claim to be ANY kind of expert on this stuff, but isn’t this the reason that Apple included infrared sensors in the Watch’s heartbeat sensor? Also, I recall reading about the extensive testing they did of the sensors before the Watch was released (18 – 20 thousand tests or something like that??). I find it a little hard to believe that the testing was all done on people NOT of color.

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