How fitness trackers affect your skin

If you’ve experienced a rash or skin irritation from your fitness tracker, here’s why.

Staff Writer
Staff Writer
 min read
November 21, 2022

Fitness trackers have grown from a tech curio to a million-dollar industry, and they’re only getting more popular. Between Fitbit, Apple Watch, and plenty more, there are more incentives than ever to get your steps in, your blood pumping, and your muscles moving.

Still, if you’ve used a fitness tracker for any period of time before, you may have experienced a slight rash, itchy or blotchy skin, or discomfort. The good news is that this is all fairly common, and there are steps you can take to avoid it in the future.

Here’s how wearing a fitness tracker can affect your skin, and how you can ensure yours is more comfortable than ever.

Why your fitness tracker may give you a rash

Because fitness trackers are intended to be worn for multiple days at a time, and often to bed, they spend a lot of time in contact with your skin.

When you factor in the sweat that naturally comes from exercise, as well as changes in your body’s temperature and general movement, the underside of your fitness tracker can end up being full of bacteria, moisture, and more.

It can also lead to an allergic reaction, particularly if the tracker has nickel within. This is called “contact dermatitis,” and manifests itself as red marks, itchiness, and general discomfort. It’s nothing to be alarmed about, but can certainly make it feel like using a fitness tracker maybe isn’t for you.

How to avoid skin irritation with your fitness tracker

The good news is that this can be avoided with some simple tips.

Avoid wearing your tracker too tight - this may sound obvious, but you may be surprised at just how tight your tracker is on your wrist. Experiment with alternative setups, and consider switching to a larger strap. Many trackers include different size bands in the box, so it shouldn’t cost you any extra.

Try a different band - while many cheaper bands have a plastic-like appeal that makes them ideal for workouts, fabric bands are likely to be more breathable. Try different bands to see how they affect your skin and make changes accordingly.

Consider wearing the tracker less - if you’re not actively using the sleep tracking on your fitness tracker, consider leaving it on the nightstand at bedtime. This will give your skin a chance to breathe a little overnight.

Clean your tracker - you’d be surprised by the amount of dirt and bacteria that can build up on the underside of a fitness tracker. Consider cleaning it with some warm water and a paper towel to avoid damaging any of the sensors. You can also use alcohol wipes or swabs to really sanitize everything well. 

It’s also a good idea to regularly clean your wrist where the tracker sits, too. It’s not harmful to wear your tracker while showering (as long as it’s waterproof), but it’s important to regularly remove your fitness tracker and cleanse your wrist to make sure you’re scrubbing away any bacteria, dirt and sweat that might be causing skin irritation. 

Applying a fragrance-free or some form of gentle moisturizer can also help keep rashes and itchy skin at bay. 

And finally –

Consider checking whether you’re allergic - if you’re concerned that you may be showing signs of dermatitis, it may be worth investing in a patch test that you can do at home to identify whether or not wearing a fitness tracker is possible without discomfort.

It also may be worth switching fitness trackers, as you may experience sensitivities to the materials used in one tracker, but not another. 

If you’re still experiencing burning, welts or irritation after following these steps, we recommend contacting your healthcare provider and/or the manufacturer of the fitness tracker. 

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