We describe the use of HNQ (2-hydroxy-1,4-naphthoquinone or Lawsone) as a potential sweat sensor material to detect the hydration levels of human beings. We have conducted optical measurements using both artificial and human sweat to validate our approach. We have determined that the dominant compound that affects HNQ absorbance in artificial sweat is sodium. The presence of lactate decreases the reactivity of HNQ while urea promotes more interactions of sodium and potassium ions with HNQ. The interactions between the hydroxyl group of HNQ and the artificial sweat components (salts, lactic acid, and urea) were investigated comprehensively. We have also proposed and developed a portable diode laser absorption sensor system that converts the absorbance at a particular wavelength range (at 455±5nm, where HNQ has an absorbance peak) into light intensity measurements via a photocell. The absorbance intensity values obtained from our portable sensor system agrees within 10.4% with measurements from a laboratory based ultraviolet-visible spectrometer. Findings of this research will provide significant information for researchers who are focusing on real-time, in-situ hydration level detection.