Everything You Need to Know About White Ink Tattoos
Small, delicate artwork has dominated the tattoo scene for years, and the style is especially perfect for those looking to get inked without drawing too much attention. You’ll find many of them in standard black or dark ink, but lately, we’ve seen more people opting for dainty white ink tattoos. These understated tattoos are often seen in inconspicuous areas, such as behind the ears, on the inner ankles or on the sides of the fingers. Keep reading for everything you need to know about the trendy ink color and how it affects different skin tones.
What Are White Ink Tattoos?
“White ink tattoos are no different from regular tattoos in that they are both raised,” says Dr. Elizabeth Houshmand, board-certified dermatologist and Skincare.com consultant. With white ink tattoos, the raised area of the skin — and scar-like appearance — is much more visible because the black ink can cover some of that up. “The body handles white ink tattoos as a wound,” Dr. Houshmand continues. “When the wound-healing process starts, scar tissue forms.”
Do White Ink Tattoos Look Different on Light and Dark Skin Tones?
If your skin tone is light, white ink tattoos probably won’t be very noticeable, so they're a good pick for anyone looking for something subtle. Keep in mind, however, that white ink tattoos have a tendency to fade quickly and can change colors over time, according to Dr. Houshmand. Depending on how your skin heals, your white ink tattoo may look like a prominent scar on your skin later on.
But what about darker skin tones? “Many individuals, particularly those with darker skin tones, cannot absorb enough of the white ink for it to appear brightly on their skin,” says Dr. Houshmand. She notes that for most skin types and tones, the white ink will eventually begin to fade into the skin. “But when white ink tattoos are performed on dark skin tones, they tend to fade completely after the healing process, which is why many tattoo artists will not recommend these to dark-skinned individuals.”
How Should You Care for White Ink Tattoos?
Dr. Houshmand warns that it’s not uncommon for people to experience a reaction to white tattoo ink. “This is much more common than a reaction to black tattoo ink,” she says, adding that dark skin can form keloids, which is an overgrowth of scar tissue that develops around a wound.
There are ways you can help reduce the risk of a negative reaction if you are set on getting a white ink tattoo, though. “To avoid a keloid, the artist might need to adjust the way they work to suit your skin, by reducing the power and not going over the same area too frequently,” Dr. Houshmand says. Once your tattoo has healed, keep the area hydrated with a skin protectant such as the CeraVe Healing Ointment — and whatever you do don’t scratch at it.
Photo: Malaika Nicholas