White Tattoos - by Jon Poulson

I got two more calls yesterday about white tattoos. It seems like they're becoming more and more popular with the ever-present phrase "do you do white tattoos?" 

Like every "poplar" tattoo white tattoos come in and out of style, but it seems like this one is here to stay. I understand why; most that ask me about getting a white tattoo are noobs to tattooing. (usually it's their first tattoo). It almost seems like they are trying to dip their toes into the waters of tattooing without actually committing to jumping in. So, I get it. With the dramatic increase in popularity over the past 5 years, it's almost become the norm for 20-somethings to have a tattoo that they can show-off. But, like I've often said, "Tattoos aren't for everyone". Heh-since when has that ever stopped a young person from trying out a new trend...

Basically, there is nothing wrong with a white tattoo. I get it; you can easy conceal it; it doesn't attract attention the way a solid black tattoo does; The fact is, you can barely see it. So it's easy to hide from parents, from judge-mental friends, and current and future employers. And you can even look cool to your friends, sexy to the opposite-sex, and seem like a bad-ass that's breaking the rules, without having to really commit.  So, I really do get it.

However, there are some down-sides to it as well. First, it's white! White is already a light color. Most people don't realize that the tattoo pigment we put into your body is just like any other paint in many ways. The pigments used to die the medium to get the vivant colors are the exact same things. (kinda scary, I know) But, like any other pigment, the sun damages them over time. Meaning after years of sun exposure, they lighten up and aren't so bright anymore. Now, that's a long-term problem that many of us face, and I'll get into that more another time. But, my point is... it's gonna all but disappear at some point. And, not in the way that you want either. Spots and areas degrade, leaving blotches of un-recognizable ink and something completely unrecognisable. - Now, that's a worse case scenario. But, it happens.

Beyond that, white pigment doesn't appear to be white under the skin. Let me say that again! White Tattoo Pigment Does Not Look White Under YOUR SKIN! And it never will. You see, every one's skin has a color to it. Look around, and you'll see the range in color; Nobody is the same shade. I'm bringing this up because... Again,  most people don't realize this either; We put the ink (tattoo) into the second layer of the skin, called the Dermis. It's just below the epidermis, but above the Subcutaneous fat in your body. The Dermis is a stable area for the ink to reside. If we go too deep, and it reaches the fat layers, the ink spreads out and looks smudged. If we don't go deep enough, and end up in the epidermis, the ink just falls out when the epidermis exfoliates (or falls off, revealing a new layer). The pigment sits below these layers of skin all of which have your skin color in them. So; Think of your layers of skin as a stained glass window. Each of us has skin of a different color or tone. The ink is behind that layer of "stained glass" skin. So, you see white through your skin tone. (all tattoo pigment is viewed from behind this "stained glass" layers of skin). So, your skin color distorts the color of the pigment. In the case of white, it appears to be a lightened verson of your skin color. Usually a Yellow-ish ocre color. It looks a bit like a scar in some people, but usually it doesn't look pretty. And more-often than not, it doesn't look good once it's all healed.

Now, fresh white tattoos, Look great! They look bright white and pop off the skin. Who wouldn't want that! But the reality is, over a few weeks, your new skin forms over the fresh tattoo, and you lose the brilliance. Then over the long-term the pigment degrades even more due to damage caused by unprotected exposure to the elements; mainly the sun.

And lastly, you are extremely limited in what you can get with a white tattoo. Usually you can't do any shading; and if you can, only small amounts work. You're limited to simple designs that aren't too small.

So, If you're thinking about getting a white tattoo for what-ever reason, think twice. We certainly do white tattoos @ Aloha Salt Lake Tattoos. But, we're going to try and talk you out of it first. In addition, we don't offer complimentary touch-ups on white tattoos for the reasons mentioned above.

If you still want to schedule an appointment to get a white tattoo; Contact us and we'll set-up a consultation so we can discuss the specifics of what you want, and the potential problems. But, realize that we ultimately understand that it's your tattoo, and you get to live with it. So, if you decide that White is the color for you; do all of your research so that you know what you are getting into and call us. We'll take great care of you.

-Jon Poulson
Aloha Salt Lake Tattoos
Professional Tattoos and Piercings


Jon Poulson

Owner, Artist Aloha Salt Lake Tattoos in Murray, Utah. Clean, Professional Tattoos by top artists.