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Psychoneuroimmunology and Tattooing

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Though it injures the body in many ways, tattooing may also prepare it for later dermal stress through psychoneuroimmunological means.


To test this, we examined salivary endocrine (cortisol), immune (secretory immunoglobulin A), and inflammatory (C-reactive protein) responses to receiving a new tattoo relative to previous tattoo experience among 48 adults attending a tattoo festival.


We found no effect of previous tattoo experience on pre-posttest cortisol but a significant main effect of extent of previous tattoo experience on pre-posttest cortisol and secretory immunoglobulin A and significant extent of body-by-hour tattooed interaction effect on C-reactive protein.


These findings suggest that the positive psychological evaluation of tattooing as eustress may contribute to biochemical adaptation through tattooing.

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Data Availability

The materials that support the findings of this study are openly available in The University of Alabama Institutional Repository at


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112 backers via ( (CDL, MEH).

Wenner-Gren Foundation Grant No. 7985665216 (CDL, MEH).


Baylor University (MPM).

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Authors and Affiliations



Conceptualization: CDL, MEH, MPM.

Methodology: CDL, MEH.

Investigation: CDL, MEH, GEC, HW.

Visualization: CDL.

Funding acquisition: CDL, MEH.

Project administration: CDL.

Supervision: CDL, MEH, MPM.

Laboratory analyses: TJN, JG.

Writing – original draft: CDL.

Writing – review & editing: CDL, MEH, MPM, GEC, HW, JG.


Muiz Awan, Liana Donsbach, Rebecca Modisette, and Vy Nguyen assisted with laboratory assays. Teresa Gladen provided onsite support.

Blue Chen-Fruean and Whitey Chen invited our team and provided on-site accommodations to collect data at the tattoo festival.

We thank all involved tattooists and their participating clients for their forbearance in this study.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Christopher D. Lynn.

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Authors declare that they have no competing interests.

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One-Sentence Summary

The psychological and physical experience of being tattooed may contribute to physiological adaptations that prepare the skin for other injury.

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Lynn, C.D., Howells, M.E., Muehlenbein, M.P. et al. Psychoneuroimmunology and Tattooing. Adaptive Human Behavior and Physiology 8, 355–369 (2022).

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