White ink tattoos look raised because the skin makes scar tissue when it heals, and it looks more pronounced because the ink is very light. The pink scar tissue is more visible under white ink. All tattoos raise the ink and create scar tissue, but it is less visible or prominent.
Why Do White Ink Tattoos Raise The Skin?
All tattoos raise the skin slightly. The skin becomes traumatized, bleeds, and forms scabs and scar tissue. White ink allows the process to be much more visible than when darker inks are used.
It seems to be the norm that white ink tattoos look more like scarification scars than a tattoo. It may be challenging to use white ink on sensitive skin since it might cause a reaction to the ink and become raised.
White ink tattoos are not every artist’s specialty. White ink is notoriously difficult to deposit into the skin because of its translucency. This can result in a tattoo artist putting more force on the needles because they cannot see if the ink is deposited properly.
A hard-handed tattoo artist can cause your skin to become traumatized more than usual, and the scar tissue will be more visible.
Is It Safe To Tattoo With White Ink?
Because tattooing is considered a cosmetic procedure, the FDA is not the regulatory body that decides what is safe, but rather the local jurisdictions. It should be mentioned that the FDA doesn’t approve ink used for tattooing.
White ink is different from other colors due to its translucency and viscosity. It can be manufactured from one of the following pigments, namely –
- Zinc Oxide
- Lead Carbonate
- Titanium Dioxide
- Lead Carbonate
- Barium Sulfate
Many of these pigments can potentially cause a reaction in some people, which can cause the white ink tattoo to become raised. If the body rejects the white ink, it will push it out, leaving a scar that will remain raised in the skin.
While generally considered safe to get a white ink tattoo, it is recommended that you consult your tattoo artist and understand informed consent.
What Can Cause A White Ink Tattoo To Look Raised?
Besides the information mentioned above regarding white ink tattoos that can look raised, there are more reasons you may not have considered as follows –
- White ink is thicker than other colors – the viscosity of white ink makes it harder to deposit into the skin. The tattoo artist may have to press down harder and traumatize the skin more, and in rare cases, it goes too deep. This will undoubtedly cause scarring and a raised appearance.
- Sunlight can react with the white ink – If you expose the white ink tattoo to direct sun, it is possible the ink may react to the UV and pop up, giving it a raised look. The darker your skin becomes if you tan, the more your white ink tattoo will fade, leaving the scar tissue behind.
- A tattoo artist that does not specialize in white ink tattoos may not be a good choice. Inexperience may end up hurting you and causing unnecessary scarring. White ink tattoos need an experienced artist that will tackle the design. Do lots of research and ask questions. Ask to see previous white ink work and, more importantly, white ink tattoos a couple of months or years old.
- Your skin does not heal well – Unfortunately, some people are genetically predisposed to not healing very fast or has a tendency to scar badly. This is not so visible with colored ink tattoos, but the scarring will be more prominent and look very raised with a white ink tattoo. After healing, the raised area may well be permanent.
Are There Serious Risks Involved In White Ink Tattoos?
Like with any color ink tattoo, white ink tattoos have certain risks attached. Any one of these can cause a white ink tattoo to become raised.
- Allergic skin reactions – An allergic reaction to a substance can have a rapid onset and cannot be predicted. In rare cases, certain persons may be allergic to any of the ingredients or pigments. As mentioned, the FDA does not regulate and approve tattoo ink. It is the jurisdiction of the local governments to determine what is safe because tattooing is considered a cosmetic modification.
- Skin Infection – Several things can cause a skin infection while tattooing with white ink causing it to look raised, red and inflamed. Compromised tattoo ink, tattoo needles that are not sterile, unsterilized tattoo equipment, beds, or petroleum jelly. Infections such as MRSA, general Staph, Cellulitis, and blistering are all risks that can follow a white ink tattoo. These skin infections will cause your white ink tattoo to look raised.
- Re-used White Ink – Some tattoo studios take the leftover in from a session and add it to the main ink container. This type of practice can severely contaminate the ink and cause infections, ink rejection, and severe scarring if used repeatedly. Dirty ink will make your white ink tattoo look raised.
- Keloids – Keloid formation occurs when traumatized skin scars beyond the norm. Usually, white ink tattoos will appear slightly raised and red for a few days, but it will not get better but rather worse with Keloid formation.
- Granuloma/Nodules – When the immune system is alerted to a foreign body entering the sealed-off biome of the skin, it sends out signals that it should attack the object. In some cases, white tattoo ink can be seen as a foreign body, and the body will form a nodule around the ink pigment particles, especially if it contains metal, trying to protect itself. Tattoo ink granulomas can appear months to years after receiving the white ink tattoo. Granulomas will make your white ink tattoo appear raised.
- MRI Imaging Complications – The MRI machine is a powerful magnetic resonance apparatus. If you need an MRI scan done, tell the radiologist if your white ink tattoo has metal-based pigment. Exposure to the magnet can cause the white ink to burn, raise, and red with some discomfort. Usually, it doesn’t last too long and should not be permanent.
White ink tattoos look different on every person and skin type. After a year or two, the white fades faster and may appear to be a scar rather than a pretty white ink tattoo.
There are many reasons for white ink to look raised or to become raised on the skin, but if it should happen, a white ink tattoo is easily covered up with darker ink.
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):