Surprising Health Benefits of Tattoos: Boost Your Mental Health and Immune System

May 15th, 2020

By Dillon Forte

Guest Writer for Wake Up World

The art of tattooing has been utilized by ancient cultures for thousands of years. Tattooing has been, and can be, an expression of identity, a right of passage, a form of intimidation in war, and sometimes even in medicine. In fact, the oldest discovery of tattooed human skin to date was found on the body of Ötzi the Iceman. Ötzi had 61 tattoos and was alive sometime between 3370 and 3100 BC. Given many of these tattoos align with acupuncture points, researchers speculate that the designs were actually a form of medical treatment.

Ancient cultures knew the health benefits of tattoos, and now modern science has affirmed their truth. Not only can getting tattooed improve your mental health, it can also increase your ability to fight off infections, and boost your immunity.

A Stronger Immune System

From the release of hormones like endorphins and cortisol, to the rapid electric messages being delivered from your nerve endings to your brain, there is a lot happening inside of your body during the tattoo process. While some of these bodily reactions may be temporarily unenjoyable, the lasting effects of a tattoo’s impact on the immune system is something to smile about.

A great study in the American Journal of Human Biology helped explain this in further detail, but essentially, as your body is enduring the tattoo process your immune system triggers a defense response to protect itself from harm. As the body continues to react to the tattoo experience over time, it’s explained that the immune system is prepared to better heal at a faster rate than before getting tattooed. This doesn’t explain why tattoos are sometimes addicting, but it’s nice to know that a bolstered immune system works in favor of much more than protecting us from post tattoo pain and healing.

Improved Mental Health

For 13 years I have had the pleasure of watching clients leave my shop with shoulders back and heads held high. It’s easy to assume that these reactions are simply physical responses to being satisfied with the outcome of a new tattoo, but in reality the psychological effects go much deeper. This is because there is a direct correlation between tattoos and positive self-image, a fact proven by an insightful study of 2,395 students from six American public universities.

Improved Athletic Benefits

The process of getting tattooed is not only permanent but also puts your body through a process that activates your immune system while getting inked and even after the work. Since your body’s immune system is basically fighting the tattoo process and ink invading your skin, your immune system is boosted to help protect against what it thinks is damaging. Tattoos are also known to reduce cortisol levels, which at higher levels are associated with stress, weight gain and high blood pressure. Improved cortisol levels can benefit your workouts for these and more reasons, so go ahead and go get that next tattoo and hit the gym!

For some, tattoos are purely a part of their personal aesthetic. A way to convey their unique personalities through an artistic medium. But for many, a tattoo can serve as a daily reminder of the pursuit of positivity, a milestone of resilience, or an homage to loss. While a tattoo design may seem like nothing special to the outside observer, to the individual bearing the design, their tattoo can carry the weight of their entire life’s story. For this reason alone I would urge you to seriously consider if it’s the right time/place before asking a person if there is meaning behind their tattoo. Over the years I have even had many clients describe the tattoo process as a type of “therapy” and a literal manifestation of beauty’s relationship with pain.

About the author:

World-renowned artist, Dillon Forte, is known for his contemporary style of Sacred Geometry in tattooing. Forte believes in viewing the body as a whole, creating harmonious designs to flow seamlessly with the skin. Since opening his first Sri Yantra Tattoo studio 8 years ago in Oakland, Forte has developed an incredible online following and high-profile, international client base.

His other notable ventures include photography, painting, fashion/tech design, murals, gallery exhibitions and his product line Forte Tattoo Tech, which is his recently launched line of biodegradable tattoo supplies. Forte is available by appointment only, and more about his Oakland or Venice studios, artists on staff and guest tattooists can be found at

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