Would you believe that tattoos are a billion dollar industry? According to recent statistics, over 45 million Americans have been permanently inked, driving the industry’s revenue over the billion dollar mark in the United States alone. So today, we’ll look at the health benefits of tattoos.
Tattoos are heavily part of society’s pop culture and they have come into the foreground over the last decade with reality shows and documentaries. These shows give us a glimpse into life as a tattoo artist and the inner thinking of a person deciding to get inked.
Getting a tattoo is a completely voluntary and personal decision. It takes nerve and mental preparation, it’s permanent, and it hurts! So why do it? Perhaps it’s because of what you get in return. It’s one of those life events that excite your body in a unique way. Getting a tattoo can generate a natural surge of hormones that have many benefits, both mentally and physically.
Why do People Tattoo?
If you are not a tattoo enthusiast, you may wonder why anyone would want to permanently mark their skin. The pain factor and risks of infection, allergic reaction, or making a huge mistake outweigh the rush for some people. People who do get inked do so for many different reasons. The experience of getting inked can release adrenaline and endorphins, the same feel good hormones that releases during healthy physical activity and arousal.
For the addictive personality, it keeps the customer coming back for more. Skeptics may wonder how pain can be addicting, and the simple answer is that for some people it’s the adrenaline rush that keeps them coming back. The pain can turn into pleasure and comfort as your body adjusts to the experience. One study comparing personality differences between tattooed and non-tattooed individuals indicated that the most common personality traits likely to get inked are extraversion, need for uniqueness, experience seeking, and sensation seeking.
Let’s not forget the spiritual element, which seems to be where tattoos originated. Historically, tattooing was said to bring safety to those who permanently marked their skin with tribal images. The very act of inflicting wounds to the skin and permanently discolouring them was said to release sacred life forces and bring about good health and fortune. Tattooing was also used as medical treatment on ill parts of the body. The trend of putting spiritual meaning behind a tattoo is still very personal and sacred. In addition, the centuries long perceived health benefits of tattoos are now being backed by science.
Health Benefits of Tattoos
A common misconception about the tattooing process is that the tattoo needles inject ink deep into the skin. What actually happens is the needle pierces just the first two layers of skin and then ink is sucked down into the puncture holes. As soon as the skin is pierced the body’s immune system immediately responds by sucking down the ink and attempting to destroy it. The result is ink permanently embedded in the second layer of skin.
A recent study published in the American Journal of Human Biology suggests that the immune system response associated with the tattooing process increases the body’s level of IgA (immunoglobulin A), an antibody secreted to protect the stomach and intestinal linings. IgA plays a significant role in immune system function. Although this was a small study considering only those who were pre and post tattoo observed, the results showed a significant increase in IgA suggesting that imposed stress on the body helps increase immune system function.
“Our data suggests that the body habituates over time to the tattooing stressor…” – Lynn, Dominguez, and Dicaro
The natural surge of adrenalin and endorphins generated by the experience can also have a significant mental health benefit.
Mental Health Benefits of Tattoos
Many people find tattooing to be very therapeutic and calming. People Tell The Stories Behind Their First Tattoos-A Celebration Of Ink is a fascinating blog depicting the vivid memories of individuals’ first tattooing experiences. The stories are moving and consistently revolve around personal meaning and permanently marking significant events in their lives. Many of whom become repeat customers after their first experience. For some, tattooing has been a creative and controlled method of finding reprieve from mental distress.
“…there is something both violent and healing about the process of repeatedly marking your canvas with a sharp implement to create something beautiful in the end.” – A Celebration of Ink
Thoughts for the Tattoo Virgin
I remember the night I got my tattoo. I’ll never forget the friend I was with and the rush. Yes it hurt like hell for the first few minutes, but then the whole experience turned surreal and I started to feel very proud of myself for going through with it. To this day, I look at my ink and it takes me right back to that night.
The advice I was given long prior to making the decision to get inked is to spend a lot of time thinking about it before doing it. Make sure that what you feel now is something you won’t mind being reminded of in 20 years. Take a good look at the risk, permanency, pain factor, and understanding the process. Still curious? Go check out a reputable parlour and ask questions, see tattooing in action, and have a consultation with an artist. If you do decide to go for it, you may find you get more than you expect. Getting a tattoo is like nothing else and you may just find that getting permanently inked permanently changes your point of view.
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