Getting Multiple Tattoos May Actually Toughen up the Body

March 26th 2016

Tattoos are thought of as something people enjoy for aesthetic reasons, and it turns out that getting multiple tats is easier on your body than getting just one. People with more than one tattoo often developed a better immune response to the process after their first one, according to a new study in the American Journal of Human Biology.

"When the body is stressed, there is a fight-or-flight response, which includes immunosuppression," Christopher D. Lynn, an associate professor in anthropology at the University of Alabama and an author of the study, told ATTN:. This is because it has to "reallocate energy to aid in survival," he explained.

When you get more than one tattoo, your body responds with a lower stress reaction.

It's similar to your body's response to going to the gym if you go often, Lynn said. "What we saw in folks with lots of tattoo experience is that, instead of suppressing immune response, there was an elevation," Lynn said. "This is important, because you don’t want your immune system to be suppressed every time you go to the gym or every time you get a new tattoo, if it’s something you do often."

tattoo inkWikimedia/Franki2001 -

The study looked at 29 volunteers and sampled their saliva before and after getting tattooed. The researchers looked at immunoglobulin A and cortisol levels in the saliva. Immunoglobulin A is an antibody that helps fight certain infections, and cortisol is a hormone released in periods of stress.

Nine of the participants were getting tattooed for the first time. They had much lower levels of immunoglobulin A at the end, meaning their bodies had harder times dealing with the stress from the tattoo.

It would be easy to conclude from this study that getting more tattoos means you will be able to fight off colds more easily. That's not quite what the research indicates, Jezebel reported. The research simply found that people who got several tattoos were better able to handle that kind of physical stress than those who only got one.

The research also suggested that having more tattoos is a sign of physical health, as people who had a bad physiological response to their first tattoo were less likely to go in for another.

Your brain might have something to do with it.

tapping tattooFlickr/Evan Blaser -

Joanne Martian, co-owner of the popular Martian Arts Tattoo Studio in Portland, Ore., said she thinks there's more to it.

"I think a lot of mental stamina needs to be accounted for, since mind over matter is usually what helps get you through longer sessions," Martian said. A person who is more freaked out about the pain or possible dangers of getting tattooed will likely have a stronger stress response. "Also, one cannot discount the importance of a healthy lifestyle in between tattoos," she said. "Sometimes people treat themselves better after they get tattooed than in regular daily life, especially if they are getting large scale work done. It makes you slow down and be more careful, I suppose."

One problem with the study is its small sample size. Lynn said he's planning on following up his study with another one focusing on a much larger sample. "My immediate future plan is to try to do follow-up in Samoa," Lynn said. "Samoans have a long-standing tattoo tradition that involves large, intensive tattoos for males and females." Samoans also frequently use traditional tattooing devices, which can cause more pain and stress, he said.

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