Do White Tattoos Hurt More Than Black?

It’s no secret that getting inked is not exactly a pain-free experience- yet we are always keen for more! White tattoos are currently all the rage; however, they have a reputation for raising the ouch factor from mildly uncomfortable to somewhat unbearable.

White tattoos typically hurt more because, unlike black ink, the lighter pigment requires several passes with the needle to saturate the skin. Since white ink is usually added towards the end of the session, overworking the fresh and tender tattoo with a needle can result in pain and scarring.

Are you interested in getting an all-white tattoo or just adding a touch of white to your design? Is it true that specific ink colors are more painful? Discover more about white tattoos and why they are notorious for hurting more than black ones:

White Tattoo Fast Facts

In the past few years, white tattoos have gained much attention due to their subtle, unique, and delicate appearance. They are often considered the gateway ink into the tattoo world.

In general, white ink tattoos tend to look better with linework rather than shading. They are an attractive option for individuals who prefer a discreet design that is less noticeable than the typical black or colored tattoo.

White ink is primarily preferred as a highlight color to add contrast, light, and depth to the tattoo design.

One commonly held misconception is that all white ink tattoos will glow in the dark. UV ink is required for it to glow.

Why Are White Tattoos More Painful?

There is a common belief that white tattoos hurt more than regular black or grey tattoos. It is important to remember that the color of the ink does not directly contribute to the pain but rather a combination of other factors:

White Ink Tattoos Can Cause Scarring

As opposed to black ink or other tattoo colors, white ink has a very light, almost translucent pigment that makes it difficult to see on the skin. The tattoo artist needs to go over the same area several times in order for the white ink to fully show and become saturated.

As a result of the tattoo artist overworking your skin, scarring occurs, leading to inflammation, pain, or general discomfort.

White Highlights Are Added At The End

Most tattoo enthusiasts would agree that white highlights are the most uncomfortable part of the process, which is understandable. Once again, the pain is not a result of the color, but rather the repetitive penetration of the needle in the same area to enable the white ink to fully saturate.

White ink is typically used to add the finishing touches to a tattoo. This is usually in the form of white highlights, which create an impressive contrast and dimension to black, grey, or colored tattoos.

In most cases, white highlights are added towards the end of the tattoo session when the skin has already gone through hours of shading, lining, and color saturation. A tattoo is essentially an open wound that will naturally be inflamed and extremely sensitive to any needlework.

White Tattoos Require A Touch-Up Session

For the white ink to be as vibrant as possible, most tattoo artists recommend that the client return for a touch-up session, which means double the pain! This is another reason why white tattoos are associated with more significant discomfort.

Pain From Tattoos Is Subjective

Lastly, every tattoo experience is highly individualized. The following factors can also affect how much pain you will endure with a white tattoo:

  • Tattoo placement

When it comes to tattoo pain, the tattoo’s placement plays a crucial role. Areas with really thin skin or many nerve endings tend to be more sensitive. These body areas include:

  • Ribcage
  • Groin area
  • Chest
  • Thighs, ankles, and shins
  • Armpits
  • Spine
  • Face and neck area
  • Gender

Although women generally handle pain better than men, they actually experience tattoo pain more intensely.

  • Tattoo size and style

There are no surprises here: larger tattoos or designs with lots of detail, shading, and line work will take longer to complete and typically hurt more.

Your body will need to endure an extensive period of needles repeatedly piercing the skin. The needle loses its sharpness over time, resulting in skin damage and more pain.

  • Tattoo artist’s style and technique

A gentle and cautious tattooist will typically cause less pain than one who is rough and heavy-handed with the needle.

Additionally, the tattoo machine may influence the level of pain experienced, depending on its power and the needle quality, depth, and speed.

  • Your pain threshold

Pain threshold varies from person to person. While some people will perceive the tattoo as painful, others won’t experience any discomfort.

Things To Consider Before You Get A White Tattoo

As enticing as white tattoos may seem, they do have a few downsides. Keep these factors in mind before you consider white ink:

  • Most artists strongly discourage all-white tattoos, as the finished result is often disappointing.
  • As with any tattoo, white ink tattoos require an experienced and professional tattoo artist. Ensure that you book with an artist who specializes in white tattoos.
  • Request samples of the artist’s previous work and make sure they use high-quality, thick white ink.
  • People with paler skin tones are advised against white tattoos, as the finished design can end up looking like scar tissue. 
  • A white tattoo can be prone to blurring because it lacks an outline to hold the color in place.
  • The white pigment tends to fade rapidly and may turn yellow over time.
  • To prevent further fading, place the tattoo on an area of the body that isn’t exposed to the sun.
  • White tattoos require more attention and care during the healing process.

Final Thoughts

Inconspicuous and unique, a white tattoo certainly has an appeal and intricate barely-there beauty that makes it so enticing. Although pain is highly subjective and not a direct result of the ink color, white tattoos typically hurt more due to pigment saturation, highlighting, and scarring.


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