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Ink For Immunity: How Tattoos Could Be Beneficial To Your Health

Recent studies have shown the health implications of having tattoos. Are they good or bad for you? Learn about the research so you can make an informed decision about whether to get one (or more).

Statistics show that about one in five adults in the U.S. (20 percent), has at least one tattoo. Although the reasons people choose to get inked vary, good (or bad) health is hardly ever a consideration. But new studies show that it should be! There are a host of problems (other than regret) that are associated with getting a tattoo, but one interesting study shows there actually may be a “pro” to getting your favorite mantra permanently placed on your arm.

A new study published in the American Journal of Human Biology found that people who had multiple tattoos had stronger immune systems, potentially making them better able to fight off infections.

Scientists at the University of Alabama studied volunteers from a local tattoo shop and found that those who had only one tattoo had higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol and lower levels of immunoglobulin A (the antibody responsible for fighting colds and infections), making them more susceptible to getting sick. However, interestingly, the people who had multiple tattoos had higher levels of immunoglobulin A. Scientists believe that this happens because your body gets used to being stressed and beautifully compensates and adapts by strengthening its immune system in order to avoid getting sick.

If you’re now thinking that a boosted immune system is the perfect excuse to write your lover’s name down your leg, you may want to think again. Although it’s not widespread, about 10 percent of people with tattoos experience abnormal reactions. They range from not too harmful to really horrible. Here they are…listed from bad to worst:

Allergic reactions

Tattoo dyes aren’t regulated in the U.S. and can cause allergic skin reactions, such as an itchy rash at the tattoo site. Studies have found that the red dye, which contains nitrogen compounds, can cause reactions in some people. Studies also found that the more often red is used (and used with multiple colors), the more often problems arise.

Skin infections and other skin problems

Not only can the area around your tattoo become infected but unsightly bumps called granulomas can also form around the tattoo. Additionally, raised areas caused by an overgrowth of scar tissue (called keloids) can grow.

Bloodborne diseases

If the equipment used to create your tattoo is contaminated with infected blood, you can contract nasty bloodborne diseases like tetanus, hepatitis B, and hepatitis C.

Neurological problems and cancer

Studies show that the nanoparticles that are found most particularly in black ink are readily penetrated into your bloodstream and can be toxic to your brain and cause nerve damage and possibly cancer.

Once ink regret has set in, the unfortunate part of getting rid of the tattoo comes with its own set of problems. There is always risk of infection, you can be left with a “ghost image” (the tattoo doesn’t fully disappear and you can still partly see it), and there’s a small possibility of a dangerous anaphylactic reaction (allergic reaction that involves the closing of the throat and a sharp drop in blood pressure).

Whether you’re a rebellious adult, doing as a rite of passage, or simply love the look of art on your body, the most prudent advice would be to “think before you ink.”

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