What Do Tattoos Do To Your Immune System?

Purple Flower Hip Tattoo @rui_tattooartist

Over the past century, tattoos have become increasingly popular as a means of self-expression. From minimalistic one-word designs to elaborate full sleeves, the realm of tattoos has expanded, becoming more diverse and creative.

Not only that, but, over the last few decades, body art has been linked to our well-being. While tattoos can contribute to positive mental health outcomes, such as enhanced self-confidence and self-love, they have also been found to offer certain physical health benefits.

Porcelain Hand Tattoo With Dragon And Flower Pattern @e.nal.tattoo

The Process of Getting Tattooed

Getting a tattoo isn’t for the faint of heart. The process can be extreme, depending on the tattoo you’re getting and where on your body you’re getting inked.

Once you’ve decided on your design and placement and the stencil is on your skin, your tattoo artist will use a tattoo machine to poke holes into the deeper dermis layer of your skin to deposit the ink. You may experience a sensation ranging from mild discomfort to a sharper or scratching feeling. 

You are basically getting an open wound. Getting multiple holes stabbed into your skin repeatedly can’t be that good for your health, can it? 

Black Ink Roses Ankle Tattoo @meojestic

How Tattoos Can Impact Your Mental Health 

Getting a tattoo can be a healing experience because of the endorphins that are released during the process. 

“[Endorphins] are your body’s natural pain relievers. These chemicals come directly from the brain, flooding your body. Endorphins are ‘feel-good’ chemicals and help us realize on some level that we are more resilient to pain than we think,”


A lot of emotions can come up when you get a tattoo, which can be a cathartic experience.

Simple Black Ink Flower Collarbone Tattoo @jacktattoo87

How Tattoos Affect Your Immune System 

When you think about a tattoo as a wound and tattoo ink as a foreign invader, it makes sense that your body reacts the way it does.

After all, when you get a burn or a scratch, your body works hard to try and get your skin back to the way it was. From the day you get inked, your body attempts to break down your tattoo – this is one of the reasons why tattoos fade. 

There are studies that suggest that attacking tattoo ink can make an immune system stronger. 

“Our data suggest that the body habituates over time to the tattooing stressor. It is possible that individuals with healthy immune systems heal faster, making them more likely to get multiple tattoos,”

American Journal of Human Biology
Tiny Stars Behind The Ear Tattoo @wittybutton_tattoo

So, a higher level of antibodies that are present in the body for the purpose of combating tattoo ink could toughen up your immune system’s overall response once you’ve got a few tattoos. 

“…people with more time under the tattoo needle produced more salivary immunoglobulin A [an antibody that plays a crucial role in the defense against pathogens], suggesting an enhanced immune response to receiving a new tattoo compared to those with less or no tattoo experience,”


So, tattoos have a priming effect – once you get one, your body is on guard for the next.

Traditional Flash Tattoo @dylantattoosme

Tattoos And Stress

Tattoos also have an impact on chronic stress levels.

The same American Journal of Human Biology study discovered that getting multiple tattoos decreases cortisol, the stress hormone.

“It has been found that the more tattoos a person has, the lower their overall cortisol levels become,”


Cortisol can wreak havoc on our well-being. Too-high cortisol levels can increase the risk of depression and high blood pressure.  

While there are amazing benefits to getting tattooed, this form of body art still comes with risks…

Red Ink Butterfly Tattoo @bitchpokes

What Are The Risks Of Getting A Tattoo?

Tattoos are considered to be safe – within reason, though. There are a few things that can impact the tattoo process and cause you harm:


Remember, getting a tattoo is opening your skin and creating a wound. So, it’s essential that good hygiene practices are followed so that infections can’t take root.

When choosing your tattoo artist, make sure the person you choose uses sterilized equipment, disposable needles, and wears gloves throughout the process. This is why it’s crucial to go to a professional tattoo artist – by and large professionals know what to do to facilitate a safe tattoo process. 

Going to an amateur tattooist who doesn’t pay attention to professional standards can increase the risk of infection.

Self Love Bicep Tattoo @riccardo_tsb


It is possible to have an allergic reaction to tattoo ink.

“If you’re having an allergic reaction to your tattoo, you might get a rash that’s red, bumpy, or itchy. These symptoms can crop up in the days after you first get your tattoo or can appear months or years later. You can most likely treat the area with a steroid ointment,”


Red ink is often the culprit behind allergic reactions, so you may want to stay away from that color. You can ask your tattoo artist for a patch test before your tattoo appointment. 

Witch House Tattoo @rachelannatattoo


You’ve got to pay attention to the healing process after getting a tattoo to avoid infection. Keep your new tattoo clean and well moisturized, and avoid places where bacteria can get into your tattoo, such as hot tubs, the gym, and swimming pools. 

Fox Shin Tattoo @nell_nebula

Like so many aspects of life, getting a tattoo has its pros and cons.

While there is evidence suggesting that tattoos can have a positive impact on your well-being, it is crucial to prioritize getting a tattoo from a skilled professional and maintain proper aftercare to ensure its long-term benefits and minimize potential risks.

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