While there are inherent risks involved with getting a tattoo, it’s actually quite a misconception to think that tattoos are damaging to our immune system. In fact, it might have just the opposite effect! Have a read on the studies that were conducted which seem to conclude that tattoos can strengthen your immune system.
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How Can Tattoos Have an Effect on Your Immune System?
During a 2016 medical study titled, Tattooing to “Toughen Up”, researchers found that the more tattoos that someone had over time, the healthier their immune systems became. They correlated this to the fact that each tattoo healed a little faster than the first.
Considering a tattoo is essentially a wound on your skin, how could this be possible? Well, your body and immune system respond to the wound by releasing white blood cells to the area to help it heal and protect against infection. It then formulates an adaptive response which is essentially like creating a barrier to fight off any future potential threats (the foreign ink particles, for example). This is why each tattoo session, the healing period becomes slightly faster and more effective.
Thus, the study concluded that exposing your body to the stress trigger of being tattooed helps strengthen your immune system. It becomes familiar with the stressor and what it is essentially dealing with and, subsequently, builds up your healing speed in the process.
The Ongoing Research
The only problem with this research, and another similar study done in the Samoan Islands by Christopher, D. Lynn, is that both focus groups for this study were rather small. Small focus groups could lead to biased results.
Both studies found that immunoglobulins were released following the trauma of getting a tattoo, and remained within the bloodstream following the tattoo - almost like soldiers on guard ready for the next ink session. Immunoglobulins are also the protein that fights against the common cold, thereby leading to the conclusion that, overall, your immune system is better prepared to fight off any and all infection.
The issue with this result is that correlation does not always equal causation. While there is some truth to each tattoo you get becoming easier and simpler to heal, much of that could also be equated to the fact that you are more knowledgable about the process, you have better aftercare habits, or you better understand what your skin requires to heal at an optimal level.
But the truth is that short-term stress can, in fact, induce a long-lasting increase in the memory of your immune system response. Since these findings concluded that, “psychophysiological stress response is nature's fundamental survival mechanism that could be therapeutically harnessed to augment immune function during vaccination, wound healing, or infection,“ perhaps this can be applied to tattooing, as well.
Our Final Thoughts
While more studies need to be done to truly conclude whether or not tattoos strengthen our immune system, there is truth to the fact that your body will begin to recognize the trauma and the foreign ink particles and tend to heal faster, the more tattoos you get. Does that mean you should go outside in winter with no coat on and skip out on your vitamins? No, but it definitely helps to know that each session will get a little easier!