Could a tattoo be a super cure? Christopher Lynn, an anthropologist at the University of Alabama, published a research article in 2016 with fellow researcher Michaella Howells theorising that getting multiple tattoos may boost your body’s immune response, making you less susceptible to infections.
So how can a tattoo which pierces the body creating a small wound actually help fight off infection?
The healing qualities of a tattoo
The process of receiving a tattoo is injecting ink via small punctures into the top layer of the skin (the dermis). As the needles pierce the skin with ink, your body’s immune system races in to fight off that foreign matter. This results in an immediate boost in your white blood cells to protect you from infection, creating antibodies to fight off any potential threat. The more your body receives tattoos, the more it can build up an accumulative protection effect, enabling resistance.
Samoan culture a key to research
Samoans have a long history of tattooing, so in 2018, Howells and Lynn travelled to Samoa to study Samoan tattooing culture. Whilst Lynn’s previous research focussed on a small study of women in Alabama in 2016, they wanted to extend their research to see if they were able to find the same link to an enhanced immune response with a wider sample of people who have a culture rich in tattooing.
By collecting saliva at the start and end of each session, researching a number of factors for each patient, as well as other measures, they determined the biological markers of Immunoglobulin A remains higher in the bloodstream, even after tattoos heal. Those with more tattoos, produced more salivary Immunoglobulin A, indicating an enhanced immune response to receiving a new tattoo compared to those with less or no tattoos at all.
What’s the catch?
So science shows us that getting a tattoo could boost your immune system, not to mention the impact it has on your mental health with the release of endorphins resulting in a momentary state of high. What’s the catch you say? Well, getting just one won’t cut it. You need to get multiple tattoos to see the enhanced immune system results.