Tattoos may stop Apple Watch from working

What it's like to shop for the Apple Watch

Your mother hates your tattoos. So does your Apple Watch, apparently.

Tattooed wrists can prevent the Apple Watch's heart rate sensor from functioning properly, according to some customers.

Since the Apple (AAPL, Tech30) 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.

Some Apple Watch wearers on Reddit and Twitter complained about the tattoo issue, and Apple blog iMore confirmed that the problem exists.

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.

apple watch tattoo
Reddit user guinne55fan complained that his wrist tattoos interfered with the Apple Watch's sensor.

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.

One Reddit user found that he could turn off the Apple Watch's wrist detection, allowing notifications to come in. But he couldn't use Apple Pay or receive calls without the wrist detection setting turned on.

A spokeswoman from Apple did not respond to a request for comment.

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