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The Scientific Pros and Cons of Tattoos

Whether it is for artistic purposes or not, tattoos are often known as images or caricatures on the skin that symbolize a message. When a person gets a tattoo, a clean needle gets inside the dermis of the skin and injects ink. Our skin often sheds the top layer, the epidermis, off every second that we are alive; however, since the ink is in the dermis, the layer underneath the epidermis, it does not fade away. Due to a number of nerves in the dermis, the ink activates an immune response. Yet due to the ink’s large size, immune cells have trouble getting rid of it. As a result, most tattoos are consequently permanent. Therefore, the question is: Are there any scientific benefits with tattoos?

For many years, the answer has always been no. Tattoo inks have not been regulated for skin usage. Most color inks are primarily geared towards printer inks or car paints. Furthermore, the FDA has not made a general rule for the manufacture of ink for tattoos. With this in mind, these ink, most often the colored ones, may cause an allergic reaction. These allergic reactions may cause inflammation or redness around the skin and possibly swell. By injecting a “foreign invader” into the body, the immune system often has to act quickly to understand whether or not it is a threat.

Additionally, there is also a medical consequence for tattoos. MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) allow doctors to look inside the body. However, some inks react with the strong magnet in the MRI machine, which can lead the ink to heat up. This can lead to burns and distortion of the tattoos. Therefore, it is advised that people inform doctors if they do have a tattoo in order to look for other alternatives if a person has a medical condition.

However, there has been research on the health benefits surrounding tattoos. According to Christopher Lynn and his team at the University of Alabama, “they recruited 29 people who were planning on getting a tattoo” and used their saliva in order to assess the amount of cortisol, a hormone when one is stressed. Each person had to put a cotton swab under his or her tongue for up to two minutes before and after getting the tattoo. The results show that people with more tattoos had less cortisol and less a drop in an immune protein named IgA. This concluded that with more tattoo experiences, the immune system gets primed to recognizing invaders. This means that when there is an infection, the body can recuperate a lot easier and react faster.

This could be understood by how, as previously mentioned, the ink can stimulate an immune response. Since the ink is placed in the dermis, the immune system has no choice but to defend against the “foreign invader.” Since it cannot be engulfed by the white blood cells, this makes the tattoo permanent. However, this can also train the body in becoming more responsive in the future for other foreign invaders that are the real, deadly ones such as pathogens or viruses. As a result, there are scientific benefits in receiving tattoos as well.

Overall, tattoos are a sign of artistic expression. Scientifically, they can be quite harmful and beneficial at the same time. Thus, you should probably think twice before impulsively getting a tattoo!