Though tattoos have been the subject of controversy since they slipped from counterculture into the mainstream, as it turns out, getting multiple tats may actually be good for your immune system.
The public has long-associated tattoos with disease — a reputation earned for sleazy, unsanitary, backroom tattoo shops that don’t properly care for their tools. But a new study by the University of Alabama has found getting multiple tattoos comes with an unexpected bonus: a significant boost to the immune system.
According to researchers, who studied volunteers receiving their first or subsequent inkings by artists in shops in Leeds and Tuscaloosa, the benefits occur after the subject receives their second tattoo. Measuring the participants’ levels of the antibody immunoglobulin A, as well as the presence of the stress hormone cortisol, researchers found something significant:
“Among the participants who had their first tattoo, the escalating cortisol levels caused a huge decrease in immunoglobulin A,” Tech Timesreported. “But for those with multiple tattoos, they had only slight drops in immunoglobulin A levels before and after the sessions. Researchers suggested this could be due to a stronger immune response.”
After such a stress response by the body, it returns to a set equilibrium. But after receiving multiple tattoos — which are repeated stressors — the body’s set points are raised, suggesting the immune system is strengthening. Immunoglobulin A is one of the best defenses against common infections such as an ordinary cold.
“People with more tattoo experience have a statistically smaller decrease in immunoglobulin A from before to after,”explained Dr. Christopher Lynn, an associate anthropology professor from University of Alabama.
Though the study was limited in scope, with only 24 female and five male participants between the ages of 18 and 47, its findings show a great deal of promise for the study of the immune system. Results were published in the American Journal of Human Biology last week.