White ink is used in almost any tattoo to create highlights, lighten other colors, or, more recently, a stand-alone white ink tattoo. While white-only ink tattoos may not be for everyone, white ink looks spectacular on some skin tones but do white ink tattoos turn yellow?
White tattoos can turn yellow for various reasons, like the skin type, the type of white ink used, aftercare, the depth at which the white ink is deposited, and sun exposure. Not all white ink tattoos will turn yellow; some fade to a more opaque shade or resemble a scar rather than a tattoo.
While white tattoos seem like a new fad and everyone is getting one, it would be good to understand the ins and outs of getting a white ink tattoo before spending money and covering it up later. Let’s investigate why do white ink tattoos turn yellow?
Why Do White Ink Tattoos Turn Yellow?
White ink tattoos look amazing when freshly applied and afterward for the first couple of weeks. Some white ink tattoos, unfortunately, turn yellow after some time and happens for one of the following reasons –
- Skin type – acidity, oiliness, and skin tone
- Sun exposure – If you love the sun, white ink tattoos are not for you
- Type of white ink – different inks are made from different pigments
- Aftercare regime – If you take care of your tattoo as instructed, it will heal correctly
- Ink depth – Sometimes, the white ink is deposited too shallow and will fall out with the scab.
A big drawback of getting a white ink tattoo is that it tends to fade away quickly. Compared to color ink or black ink tattoos, white ink tattoos appear fragile on some skin types.
White ink tattoos start to fade after a few weeks and become more discolored as time passes.
Why Are White Ink Tattoos Unique?
Because white ink looks so fragile when applied to the skin, the designs are typically very delicate and intricate. Traditionally, white ink is used for line work in tattoos, to create shape and depth, or to add to colors or some shading.
White ink tattoos appeal to some people because the white ink fades and blends into the dominant skin tone and presents as slightly raised skin. This means the white ink tattoo is more translucent or opaque/ yellow and can easily be hidden.
Do White Ink Tattoos Work On Any Skin Tone?
In general, lighter color ink tattoos can fade away faster than more vibrant or darker color tattoos, and white ink is the most extreme example of this happening. White ink tattoos are extremely difficult to apply correctly since the ink is almost translucent.
It requires a very skilled artist with experience to tattoo with only white ink. Your skin color can show through a tattoo, especially light inks like white and yellow. The dominant shade of your skin tone will almost always show through a white ink tattoo.
White ink tattoos usually look better on darker skin than on lighter skin, and the tattoo result depends on how your skin looks with the ink in it and how it heals in general. White ink tattoos differ from person to person and will not stay white very long after.
On lighter skin tones, white ink tattoos that have healed and are a few months old may start resembling a scar rather than a tattoo, and the skin may appear raised and pinkish. The raised look is very different from a scarification scar and should not be confused.
Can The Ink Pigment Make White Ink Tattoos Turn Yellow?
Depending on your biological makeup, certain pigments may react to your unique pH level and biochemistry causing the white ink to turn yellow. The pigment used to make white ink can be one of three types.
- Zinc Oxide
- Titanium Dioxide –
- Corundum or Aluminium Oxide
Some believe that the oxidation of the ink while tattooing or through a reaction with the skin while exposed to sunlight may be the reason the white ink turns yellow. It is not conclusive evidence, but it could play a part.
What Are Common Issues With White Ink Tattoos?
Getting any color ink tattoo requires research, consultation, and money. Before getting a white ink tattoo, do thorough homework on the artist and their past works and check their reviews. Book a consultation with the tattoo studio and ask as many questions as possible.
A good starting point would be to know the basics of white ink tattoos and the common issues besides the ink potentially turning yellow once healed. Going in well informed is crucial. Here are some potential issues with white ink tattoos –
- Skin Reactions – Individuals may find their skin reacts to white ink. It is potentially due to the pigment used to produce the ink. Sometimes white ink may start to itch, and if the body rejects the ink, it will cause a rash. It may become red and ooze liquid resulting in the ink being pushed out of the skin.
- Tattoo Placement – Unlike colored ink tattoos, white ink tattoos are not ideal or suitable for any body area. They need more protection from the sun than colored ink because prolonged exposure will cause them to become red and raised. They will turn yellow or opaque and fade. White ink tattoos on your hands and fingers should be avoided.
Best Areas To Apply A White Ink Tattoo –
The best area to apply a white ink tattoo would be skin that is not constantly exposed to elements such as UV light or direct sun, for example –
- Back of the shoulders
- Inner upper arm
- Upper thigh
- Flank or ribcage
What Can You Do If Your White Ink Tattoo Turns Yellow?
If you are unfortunate and your beautiful white ink tattoo starts to fade or turn yellow, you may have some options.
- Go for a touch-up – This may look fine for some time but may turn yellow again over time.
- Cover it up – This seems like the most logical thing to do if the tattoo is an eyesore or has become too translucent.
Go to see an artist that has worked with white ink and is an expert in cover-ups to assist.
Because of the ethereal and fragile look obtained with white ink tattoos, it’s easy to see the appeal. Unlike colored tattoos, white ink reacts differently to each skin type and tone.
A perfect result and paper-white ink tattoos cannot be guaranteed as too many factors are involved that cause them to turn yellow.
Some of my favorite designs, tattoo books, and aftercare products, selected for you
Thank you for reading my article, I hope that you have found it helpful. If you would have trouble finding ideas for your tattoo, wonder what is meaning of design that you have found or what to buy for aftercare, to make sure that your tattoo will be healing quickly and easily, here are some of my favorite products in one place, hope that this will also help.
Design and tattoo ideas
For some ideas you can have a look at those 3 books with hundreds of designs that I use with my clients, they are available on Amazon for Kindle or in classic, paper version (links below):
- Great Book of Tattoo Designs, Revised Edition: More than 500 Body Art Designs (Fox Chapel Publishing) Fantasy, Celtic, Floral, Wildlife, and Symbol Designs for the Skin by Lora Irish
- The Big Book of Small Tattoos – Vol.1: 400 small original tattoos for women and men by Roberto Gemori
- Tiny Tattoos: Over 1,000 Small Inspirational Artworks by Rebecca Vincent.
If you would like to read more about the meaning of different tattoo styles and designs before you will decide what you would like to have, I can recommend a book that was really useful for me when I was starting my tattoo adventure – it’s “Conscious Ink: The Hidden Meaning of Tattoos” by Lisa Barretta (through the link you can find it on Amazon for around $10).
The skin at the tattoo site often dries out. To prevent it and speed up healing for my clients, I usually recommend one of those tattoo aftercare balms (you can find them on Amazon):