If you were to ever share with anyone your plans to get a tattoo, you’d be more likely than not to face opposition. While some would tell you that tattoos made you unemployable, others would focus on the risk of infection and skin allergy involved.

There is one positive to getting a tattoo that you always have recourse to, though — the boost to the immune system that it provides.

Since when do tattoos mean better health?

It may be one of the most counterintuitive health connections known, but it’s real. The assertion comes from a well-received study published in the American Journal of Human Biology in March 2016. Named Tattooing to “Toughen up”: Tattoo Experience and Secretory Immunoglobulin A, the study looks into the way that the body responds to the minor soft tissue trauma involved in the tattooing process. The response is similar to the way the body responds to vaccination — the body toughens up the immune system, making it more capable of dealing with future threats.

Not just any old tattoo will do the trick

The first couple of times that you get a tattoo, the new-found threat to the integrity of the body’s immune system usually succeeds only in weakening it. With multiple tattoos comes sustained inflammation, and an urgent push by the body for improved immune system health.

It’s just the way the body works — when you first begin to work out after years of inactivity, usually, your body suffers at first. Plenty of people getting exercise for the first time drop out for reasons of minor infections, a cold or a cough. Those who keep going get to reap the benefits of improved health and immune system efficiency as the body learns to cope.

If you’re serious about reaping the health benefits of the tattoos that you’re getting, you need to make sure that you get inked about ten times. The more complex the tattoos, the more the time the artist needs to spend on them, the longer it takes for you to heal, and the better the immunological strengthening.

How does it work?

Studies looking at the immunological response to the injuries involved in tattoo work test saliva samples of subjects before and after they receive tattoos. The saliva shows up immunological strength through its levels of cortisol, a stress hormone, and its levels of the antibody immunoglobulin A.

In a first timer, the levels of the stress hormone cortisol rise significantly in response, and immunoglobulin A levels fall. Inexperienced tattoo enthusiasts, however, immunoglobulin A levels remain more or less steady, showing the body’s ability to continue to fight in high-stress situations.

So what should you do?

Certainly, it wouldn’t make sense to get inked all over just for the immunological advantage. There are too many other disadvantages involved in getting tattoos, both biological and practical. If you do like tattoos, though, and would like to get them anyway, it can be worthwhile to know that there are health benefits involved in getting dense, complex patterns that involve greater skin trauma. The more you get of these tattoos the better.