Chromhidrosis: What is the rare coloured sweat condition a mum-to-be documented in a viral TikTok video?

Screengrabs of Keisha Sethi in her viral video alongside photos of blue-stained toilet seat and top
"I'm genuinely baffled - I thought I was becoming an Avatar." Photo credit: @fitnesswithkeisha / TikTok

When one thinks of the colour blue, blueberries, Smurfs, and Avatar likely come to mind - not pregnant women. However, a viral video by a mum-to-be who was shocked when her sweat began turning blue has led to a surge of interest in chromhidrosis, a little-known condition that can present at any time, including during pregnancy.

In a video shared to TikTok earlier this year, then-pregnant fitness coach Keisha Sethi - who gave birth to her daughter last month - spoke out about "the weirdest symptom" she had experienced during her pregnancy, telling her followers: "I'm literally turning surfaces blue."  

"Yesterday when I got up off the toilet seat, it was blue - literally blue," Sethi said in the video, which has since amassed almost 50,000 likes and over 759,000 views at the time of writing.  

"I was not even wearing any blue.  

"This is the top I wore to bed last night and when I took it off this morning, it was blue - even my pretty pink sheets," she continued, alongside photos documenting the blue stains on her clothing and bed linen.

"Me and my partner were Googling until about 1am... it was very relieving to know that other women have experienced this too, and that it's a phenomenon that some people go through.   

"But I'm genuinely baffled - I thought I was becoming an Avatar," she joked. "That's why I decided to wear blue today, so I don't end up changing the colour of my outfit."  

Sethi concluded her video by urging other women who have or had chromhidrosis to come forward, prompting many of her viewers to share their own experiences with the condition in the comments section.  

"Babe it's OK, I had the same, I had chromhidrosis," one woman commented, with a second adding: "IT HAPPENED TO ME! I thought I was turning into a Smurf!"  

"THIS HAPPENED TO ME. Eight weeks pp [postpartum] and my toilet is still blue," said another, with a fourth writing: "This happened to me! And I was not pregnant... thought I was imagining it."  

"This happened to me when I was pregnant with my second child, I didn’t know this was a thing," another viewer weighed in, while one countered: "This has happened to me before and I've never been pregnant."  

The claim that being pregnant can 'turn your toilet seat blue' isn't a new phenomenon: anecdotes of women staining their surfaces blue during pregnancy have been well-documented online. Yet despite many women associating chromhidrosis with pregnancy, the condition can present at any time - in pregnant and non-pregnant people - and across all genders.

According to the International Hyperhidrosis Society, chromhidrosis is a disorder of the sweat glands that causes coloured sweat primarily on the face, in the underarms, or on the areola of the breasts, although it can affect other areas of the body.

The sweat may be yellow, green, blue, brown or black due to a pigment produced in the sweat glands called lipofuscin. Lipofuscin is common in human cells but people with chromhidrosis have higher concentrations of lipofuscin, or lipofuscin that is in a higher-than-normal state of oxidation, the organisation says.   

"Some people with chromhidrosis may report a feeling of warmth or a prickly sensation before the onset of coloured sweat. Others may have such mild sweat discoloration that they do not even notice it," it continues.   

"Chromhidrosis is quite rare with limited information about the percentage of people potentially affected. There appears to be no link between chromhidrosis and gender, geographic location, the season, or the weather."  

An article on chromhidrosis by Healthline noted: "We couldn't find any evidence in the medical literature that chromhidrosis is more common among people who are pregnant.  

"We don't have a truly satisfying explanation for why this happens to some people, pregnant or not, who haven't been wearing new jeans."  

This is backed by the US National Library of Medicine (NLM), which wrote: "Chromhidrosis displays no occupational or geographical predisposition and is not influenced by climatic or seasonal variation. There is no gender predilection.  

"Patients with chromhidrosis will present with coloured sweat, with or without staining of their clothing. Some patients may describe warmth or a prickly sensation upon emotional or physical stress preceding the appearance of coloured sweat."  

However, both the NLM and International Hyperhidrosis Society noted that research has found the condition is reported more commonly in Black patients.  

A more common type of discoloured sweat is called pseudochromhidrosis: when sweat takes on an unusual colour after secretion comes into contact with dyes, chemicals, or chromogenic bacteria (bacteria that produce pigments) on the skin.  

With all that being said, if you are experiencing blue or coloured sweat - whether you're pregnant or not - it's definitely worth paying a visit to your GP or a medical professional.