Can Tattoos Improve Your Immune System?



It seems like a strange concept, but have you ever thought about whether tattoos can improve the immune system?

Most studies on tattoos emphasise issues such as the risk of infection, but new research on the immune system is coming to light – and may suggest that tattoos can actually have health benefits, especially when it comes to strengthening our bodies’ immune responses.

We are curious about this so, in this article, we’re looking at all the reasons why getting a tattoo might be good for you!

What Happens When We Get Tattooed?

While this may seem a bit far-fetched, you just have to consider what a tattoo really is – a permanent image etched onto the skin by inserting ink under its topmost layer. Our bodies and, more specifically, our immune systems, are programmed to react to any foreign material in order to defend us from a perceived threat.

This means that the tattoo is interpreted as a wound and your immune system responds by sending white blood cells (macrophages) to destroy the invaders, as well as to protect you against infection.

Your body also launches something called adaptive responses, in which proteins in the blood, such as antibodies or immunoglobulins, seek to fight invaders recognised as problems. These proteins will then continue to circulate in the bloodstream, ready to face the same intruder if it appears again.

Studies on Tattoos and the Immune System

A previous study by Dr Christopher Lynn at the University of Alabama revealed that people getting their first tattoo had a large drop in the antibody immunoglobulin A because of rising cortisol (a stress hormone) levels. Immunoglobulin A is linked to the defence of the immune system and protects against illnesses like the common cold.


For people with other tattoos, the level of antibodies decreased a little but not as much as it did with first timers. According to the research team, this can indicate that the immune system is improving its response to the same ‘invader’.

Dr Lynn has recently done a similar study to the Alabama one, this time in the Samoan Islands, where the tattoo culture and history is massive. The reason behind recreating the original study is that just one isn’t enough to draw scientific conclusions on the issue.

Repeating the same study and getting the same results can help people understand if there’s some kind of association between getting a tattoo and a boost to the immune system.

The Samoan study also measured the levels of immunoglobulins and cortisol in the saliva of people getting tattooed, both before and after the tattoo. This study achieved the same results as the first one and determined that the level of immunoglobulin A remains higher in the bloodstream even after the tattoo has healed.

This is good news for people with several tattoos who are interested in getting even more, as the secret to an enhanced immune system appears to be getting multiple tattoos. After all, people who had been tattooed before produced more immunoglobulin A, so there were more antibodies in their bloodstream.

The immune-boosting benefits of tattoos appear to be, therefore, cumulative.

Do Tattoos Really Improve Your Immune System?

While the studies certainly seem to suggest that tattoos give our immune system a boost, it can be difficult to know for sure whether improved immunity is due to having tattoos or whether healthier people heal better from the process and like to have multiple tattoos.

The body appears to undergo less stress after the first tattoo, which is natural, considering the first experience is unknown – after that, the body knows what to expect. So, whether or not tattoos offer health benefits, the developing studies on the subject appear favourable.


While we can’t tell you with absolute confidence that inking your clients will help them to achieve a stronger immune system, we do provide you with the best tattoo equipment for all of your creations.

You can find a wide range of tattoo supplies to meet your every need at Body Shock, including plenty of tattoo guns to stock your parlour with. We’re more than happy to answer any questions you may have about them.