White Ink Healing Problems

Spookshow-baby-79 has been having some unusual problems with her white ink tattoos. They’re now a full nine months old, and are still not settled… You can see two more close-ups after the break and you can see that it goes through phases of “crocodile skin” and being covered in tiny blackheads which open up and bleed. Not fun, and I expect medical intervention will be required — when a tattoo doesn’t settle down after that long, it quite likely never will.

If anyone has any useful advice or experience, please do post it.




71 thoughts on “White Ink Healing Problems

  1. Great pictures !
    In modify (the documentary). When the interview with Steve Joyner a song i played in the background, does anybody know the name of that song ? it sounds great.

  2. Bio oil might be worth a shot- I’ve used it on scars and it works wonderfully. Since the tattoo is white, there won’t be an issue with the colour fading or changing.Beautiful tattoo design!

  3. It almost looks like when you soak your tattoo in water before it heals – it gets little pockmarks.
    Looks really painful!

    What kind of “medical intervention” can you get for that?
    Seems like there were be a huge limit on what they could do with it… 🙁

  4. All my tattoos are white ink, and they look like that when fresh (under two weeks old) but they’ve always settled down pretty quick. I can’t think what it might be apart from a skin allergy; exposure to allergens; a grumbling infection perhaps; or maybe an allergy to the ink…Is this her only tattoo? Or the first one with white ink?
    It’s very strange, I feel very sorry for her, the only thing I can think to suggest would be a serious bout of antibiotics, and maybe a biopsy to see if there’s something going on that’s exascerbating the problem? That’s a fairly medical perspective, but if it’s not healed at 9 months, then as Shannon says it’s pretty much as healed as it’s likely to get on its own.

    I really hope this settles down for her, good luck with it. Keep us updated.

  5. i dont understand fully i think. i know that people can have poor reactions to red ink, but is there something in white ink thats different then other pigment that could cause this?

    I’m not exactly sure what i would do other then lots of h2ocean. at this point i highly doubt that would even help.

  6. Looks like an ink allergy, esp the 2nd picture. First time I’ve seen it with white though. Hit up a dermatologist.

  7. I had an allergic reaction to one studio’s white ink. The area got a zit-like thing (which I did NOT pop). Then all the skin with white turned mushy and came off. Thankfully it was only white in a tiny area. The doctor prescribed prescription-strength hydrocortizone cream and antibiotics to prevent infection in the open wounds.

    I have white in other tattoos, with no problems. It must have just been the one brand.

  8. #6 h2ocean is actually pretty much useless anyway, modern day snake oil, dont waste your money.

  9. H2Ocean halps, when ypu can use a slight antibacterial formulation and a little bit of salt. So it helps on fresh, non-infected wounds.
    But that’s it.
    With the skin problem here – either skin care formulations like that “Bio oil” with Vitamines and several antiinflammatory substances AND anti-infective potential (as this problem leads to open wounds). Maybe also concentrated alt may halp, as some people with cronic skin inflammations find relief at the dead sea (30% salt solution). Maybe nothing will help, and the skin arouses so long, till the immune system degraded the ink.

  10. I’m thinking unless she does get an infection, her body will kick off the ink by itself. Best situation. Worst, antibiotics 🙁

  11. Eeek! That looks horribly irritating. It’s a lovely design and I hope she gets to keep it.

  12. I wonder if she’d get relief with some anti-histamines. If so, then the allergy would be pretty well established.

    It’s weird that there’s not really any redness or swelling near the tattoo…it seems to be pretty localized. The minor redness that is there looks like it was caused by scratching, rubbing ointment on it or something like that.

    A drag-technique, superficial brand or electro-cautery brand would probably melt out all the pigment and allow it to heal without needed medical intervention.

    Not in a disrespectful way, truly. But for some reason, after all I’ve encountered on here, the “bleeding blackheads” description makes my skin crawl. Like titmaggots. Fuck.

  14. It doesn’t appear to be infected. More an irritant reaction, or just bad ink in general. If you go to a doctor, you’ll probably get a strong steroid to try on it. If that doesn’t fix it, it’s possible nothing ever will, and it’ll have to go.

    Do lasers work on white tattoo ink?

  15. You are a much much better person than me for not picking at them! After 9 months of that I wouldn’t have much ink left. :0

  16. Wlfdrgn – If I remember right Allen said that it was one of the most difficult to remove (presumably because white reflects rather than absorbs light). I think that JLo’s advice is very solid, and if it was me, that’s probably the path I’d choose to deal with this… Plus a scar would look at least analogous to the initial design.

  17. I have two white ink tattoos, one has the same sort of holes in it, but they don’t bleed. The other gets irritated easily and often raises up when it comes in contact with chemicals it doesn’t like (cleaners, mint chapstick). I feel for her, white ink looks so nice, but there seems to be some problems with solid white designs IMHO

  18. Well, if the end result was supposed to be subtle…

    She could just have the white ink cut out, and then it’d turn into a scarification piece… and it’d probably show up just as well.

  19. does anyone know what brand of ink was used? also what type of ointment she has been applying to it? i wouldnt be able to say from the pictures, i would need more background, but it looks like rejection of particles. if it is a home made ink the particle size could be WAY too big and cause a rejection like that, i have seen stuff like that happen before, but it was always because someone along the way had no idea what they were doing.

    as far as remedy, there isnt much, other than scalpeling it out or waiting for all the large particles to reject. since it is white you wouldnt be able to do laser treatments to break up the particles.

    i hope it settles down for her.

  20. this does indeed look painful. regardless of the effect of my advice, i hope it heals soon.

    i had similar issues with my white ink tattoo about five years ago; i reacted quite strongly to the white ink used and several areas on my tattoo were raised, irritated, pink and oozed for weeks. it took about two months to heal and even now i still have visible scar tissue from the most affected parts. i found that a combination of vitamin e oil and retinol a creme helped.

  21. Thank god my body doesn’t react this way to white ink. Every time I get a new tattoo, we use white in the hopes that it will stay, but my body just rejects it during healing, no matter the place or amount.

    There must be something different that’s separate to the other inks because I’ve never had any other issues. Maybe her body is trying to push it out but it just won’t… which doesn’t leave much in the way of possibilities…

  22. i have a black ink tattoo that did the same thing a week after i got it, but it only lasted about a week. i kept it really moisturized and it helped a lot. i’m pretty sure it was from swimming a couple days after getting the ink done, or the artist was a little heavyhanded?

    but now it raises randomly and i have a tiny bit of scarring, and i always thought that was wierd, but i figured it was the ink.

  23. definitely she should try the anti-histamines first…but last to my recollection that might not always “cure” the problem as it doesn’t stop the body from having something its potentially allergic to, in the skin. It could help reduce and elevate the problem though, but wouldn’t it be more of a temporary fix to the problem?

    Might be wrong on that *shrugs*

    Xenobiologista: Unfortunately from what I’ve been told, many tattoo pigments contain “trade secrets” and what not…So a test patch would be required for every single brand of tattoo pigment…that or if only the companies making the pigment would give full disclosure of the ingredients, so anyone could get an allergy test and just compare it to the ingredients in the bottles.

  24. scar it off, you can keep the white and the design, a bit of a transformation, but good luck. i hope you get to keep it

  25. I am in the process of getting a tattoo with white ink removed and have had 2 sessions so far. I was warned before starting the process that in some cases white ink can actually become dark gray/brownish after being hit by the laser. This did in fact happen to me a bit near the outlines. I’m going to have a cover up eventually so it’s not a problem for me but for poor Spookshow baby I’m sure having a pitted brown tat is a far cry from the beautiful simplicity of her original design. I think those that mentioned scalpeling/scarring as an alternative are right on.

  26. I’m always worried about this happening to me! My skin is pretty sensitive anyway. Besides getting it scarred, is there really much that can be done besides the cream?

  27. my boyfriend had a somewhat similar reaction to some ink once, and the artist was considering tattooing over it with water. i’d never heard of that method, but it might be worth looking into? (his allergy eventually went away on its own)

  28. I have used white as highlights for the tattoos I do for my clients, but overtime, they turn out to be changing to a different tone – Yellowish white. And for my case, the whites I have on myself, turn out to look like I have been scracthed. No visuality of any white at all.

    From what I know, white ink does not stay in skin for long. The humidity level in the weather does play a part in how the tattoo heals as well. Cuz in Singapore, from where I come from, we have badass weather, with pretty high temperatures.

    Other than that, skintone does play apart. From my point of view, it seems like the white tattoo done in the picture – it has been pushed in too deep. It looks like its embossed.

    Therefore, skin rejects the ink much more and due to the complexity – It is staying tat way for now or sadly, it might even be like that forever. (Am hoping it won’t though)

  29. How about atopical antiobiotic cream? Good luck!:(

    Does anyone actually know why some tattoos raise up peridodically? I know it’s on contact sometiems and other times it just seems to happen on it’s own, but what is the actual reason? I have an old tattoo done under very questionable circumstances and even more questionable ink that does that.

  30. I’m not sure what H2Ocean exactly is, but if it’s just sea salt and water then it’s NOT like snake oil, but incredibly effective. That’s what I use on my piercings and I heal faster than anyone I know. Sea salt solution, that is.

  31. i like black heads- not of course as an aesthetic feature in body art- but for sheer squeezing bliss..so there..heh.

    It is a wonderful piece of work and i am sending out sending all the happy healing beautiful tattoo zibez i can- And would love a follow up- too see for feature reference what helped~~~~~

  32. I reacted in a very similar way in my most recent tattoo that has some heavier patches of white. Where the white was became like crocodile skin… dry and patchy… sometimes cracking a bit. It never bled or got pimples though. I just left it the hell alone and now it’s just fine. It’s been a year now since I had them done. The grossness lasted for about nine months.

  33. Anti-histamines worked for me when I had problems with the red ink in my tattoo. Some spots healed difficultly before the treatment. They stayed a bit more raised then the rest, and felt dry, patchy and overall rather eczema like. I already take anti-histamines when hay fever bothers me, so I had some at home. Started taking them, and it finally settled down after two weeks or so. Even now it hardly bothers me anymore and it looks nicely healed.

    It might be worth a shot, as other have said before. Hopefully it helps, I can imagine that this is no fun at all…

  34. i have tryed t get tattooed with white ink twice and in the first 1 or 2 weeks it looked like that…after that the skin peeled an the ink came off

  35. I don’t agree woth h2icean, it’s not just salty water you know, and I seem to remember a member of the ppa posting a warning blog on bodymod about the dangers of bad reactions to some of the trace chemicals found in it! This looks like a bad reaction to the ink to me, if I was experiencing this problem then I would go to the doctor. It’s such a shame, very pretty tattoo, you have my symathy x

  36. I do recognize this effect with white ink, which I also have on some places on my body in combination with white and red pigments. I have it only on (some small) places where I have inject paraffin/vasilin in the skin as part of a different (not so advisable) experiment. On other places the same pigments settled perfectly. I never had any other allergic reactions. Probably therefore, in my case, the skin has become locally sentisised by the paraffin/vasilin. I wonder how far also here there could be a role of the use of vasilin as a lubricant on the skin duing tattooiing, in combination with this pigment. Vasilin is known to give skin reactions!

  37. I had a similar thing happen in one area of a tattoo on my thigh (it was black, red, and white ink.) It would get really itchy, I would get bleeding blackheads that would seep, and then it would heal into scabds. Oddly enough mine started about 6 months after getting it done, lasted on and off for about a year or so, and then it stopped. Damn it used to be itchy and painful, I really feel for this person 🙁 I didn’t do anything to mine – I just tried really hard not to scratch.

  38. Why do not consider a skin removal scarification?
    at least it’ll save the concept..if well done 😉

  39. From the close up you can see theres noting underneath the burst ‘blackhead’ sort of thing.

    John once told me about a similar thing to do with oil – when it gets into your skin it hardens and then slowly and eventually bit by bit your skin begins to push it out and tears the skin on the way out with it – this looks really raised and it may be something similar to that? It may be just that but caused by poor quality ink.

  40. Trix4theRabbits thats just silly why get a tattoo then submerge it in water a few days later?
    Chemically swimming pool water that little kids wee in none the less, just asking for problems imo :S
    I hope I never get a reaction liek that, it looks very uncomfortable 🙁

  41. I had a white rabbit tattooed on my ankle- it was always bumpy and raised like this photo. I got it redone in the different color a year later and its smooth as a baby’s bum… too bad I hate it now.

  42. I have 6 white stars going from the nape of my neck around the right side to my chest. It took months for them to stop doing almost the exact same thing as the above pictures. (and worse!) Turns out I’m allergic to black hair dye. Every place my hair touched I would get a raised, itchy welt. I even have to be really careful not to let any water run down my skin when I wash my hair. It didn’t start to happen until I got the first white star a year and a half ago. (I have white in other tattoos but a very small amount) 6 months ago, when I got the other 5 stars, the problem got far worse. Not all of them are nice thick solid ones, some are thin lines similar to the thickness of the above piece. It was those that were effected the most. One of them is so scarred it looks like a brand (which is what most people think they are anyway.) At this point, I rarely get the little raised welts, but I’m extremely careful to not let my hair touch them, and not get any water on them when I wash my hair. My moisturizer has sunblock in it so they haven’t yellowed either. I’m definitely going to have more white ink done in the future. I love them, but I know that they’re going to be hard to heal because I refuse to stop dying my hair black. (Oh and if you look, all hair dyes say to do a patch test for allergies, but the black ones specifically say that you are more likely to have allergies if you have a tattoo. Awesome! haha)

  43. My white ink looked like this immediately after it was done; it’s been only 5 weeks and it definitely doesn’t anymore.

    Could this same design be tattooed over in a darker colour to cover it? (Though I suppose that wouldn’t get rid of her reaction to the white ink underneath…?)

    Where on her body is this tattoo?

    buggirl – I’ve actually seen that warning on red hair dyes too.

  44. Me and my boyfriend specialise in white tattoo’s at our studio. I can say that white tattoo’s take a long time to heal and it can sometimes be up to 6 months before they actually settle down. When doing a white tattoo you do normally use more pressure than a normal tattoo and therefore scar the skin a little more. This reaction does look a bit odd though and i have not yet seen a reaction like this. Alot has to do with what type of cream she was using, for example we would definately not recommend using a cream with any anti bacterials in such as savlon. There are many things one must do when doing a white tattoo, from the tattooists side, as its not like doing a normal tattoo. Apply Vitamin E as often as possible, hopefully that will settle it down.

  45. Thanks Shannon for featuring this, and thanks to everyone for comments / advice; it’s very much appreciated.
    I used Bepanthane when this was new. It’s the only white ink I have, and it’s on the underside of my forearm. I have blackwork elsewhere which has always healed no problem at all. HC45 (as recommended by a tattooist) improved this slightly but as soon as I stopped applying it, the skin just broke out again. If it’s dry I put Body Shop Hemp Butter on it to prevent cracking.
    A lot of people mistake it at first glance for scarification or branding; I’m tempted to fulfil this prophecy by picking at it until the ink is out 😛
    On the up-side, it isn’t actually itchy or sore although it does feel quite hot sometimes, which makes me suspect an allergic reaction.
    Thanks so much again for your supportive comments – I’ll experiment and let you know what, if anything, works!

  46. buggirl if you cared for your tattoo’s so much you’d dye your hair a different color that you’re not allergic to – the tattoo’s are permanent, your hair will fall out eventually so you may aswell change it and make sure your tattoos stay in the best shape possible.

  47. Gnap have great point.
    I would say same thing,
    you should do skin removal since it do not heal.
    Im sure skin removal will bring good results.

  48. Archetype – I do care for my tattoos very much, which is why I take so many precautions to keep my hair and the water that rinses out of it away from them. It took a while to figure out that the dye was causing the reaction, but since then I haven’t had any problems. My hair is just as important to me as my ink. It defines the way I look in a far more noticeable way than my tattoos do. I wouldn’t change either of them.

  49. As someone with a lot of skin problems, she really needs to go see a dermatologist and get skin scrapings done, although it can take ages for the results to be confirmed. She could have developed an allergy to the cream/ointment that she was using or a myriad of other soaps etc (I have had this happen), and although the area around it was fine, the allergy can just occur in the area that was tattooed as it is the most susceptible.

    Hasn’t some research also been done to shoe that tattoo pigments can set off certain allergies in people?

  50. i have a slight allergy to white ink too, my small wrist tattoo and the white highlights on my calf piece itched like crazy for months after the rest of the tatt healed. but it was nowhere near as bad as this 🙁 poor girl, get some antihistamines for the allergy and some bio-oil for the scarring, hopefully it will be ok!

  51. it looks like your body doesnt like the ink, my red star on my hand looked like that. it settled down after a while but it didnt take 9 months.

  52. i have a collection of solid white ink, some on my hands and a bunch of snowflakes on my arm. i’ve found the softest areas of skin have healed in the same way. a thick layer of tissue sometimes develops and it stays itchy for around a month, no change of cream has made a difference but i’ve found within three months max the skin is at least settled and feels normal to the touch again.

    it’s a completely different healing to all my colour tattoos. i still haven’t found a reason for it. 🙂

  53. why didn’t she go see a doctor after a month?
    kudos on not picking it though, I would have started scraping at it right away.

  54. i’d go the scarification route, too – especially since it would get some of the same subtlety and hopefully rid her of the problem completely. i hope she comes out healthy and happy in the end.

  55. My only guess is that a very cheap ink was used ? Or some sort of ink mixture ? But the blackheads are an obvious sign that your skin is trying to reject this ink..My only other guess is that it has something to do with lotions that you use.

    Also to consider would be perfumes or types of bodywash could have irritated the skin or caused this reaction.

    Thats all i’ve got.

  56. I had my white paw tattoos featured on modblog a while back. (bodytwo maybe) I recently broke out in a massive allergic reaction to the ink after being under some stress. I’ve had about 8 hours worth of work on me in white ink and lets just say it’s really uncomfortable now. I’m constantly taking two different types of antihistames with some releif. Im scared to stop though. Sigh. Any extra info on white ink and allergies would be great. (email [email protected])
    Iam :Twitter /Katherine

  57. Fantaaastic design…hope it gets better eventually.

    I have also found a white tattoo design that would like done but having seen this picture i am having second thoughts. I have noticed a post by Candice that she and her boyfriend specialise in white ink tattoos – where are you based? I am specifically looking for an artist in UK.

  58. I thoroughly disagree that a tattoo that hasn’t settled by 9 months never will. Guy Aichtison says in one of his dvds that tattoos take 6 months – 1 year to fully settle (i think he uses the word “digest”), under the most normal of circumstances.
    I personally have had a few tattoos go through phases of unsettled, but eventually they all settled.

  59. Many people are sensitive to the titanium dioxide in white pigments, and b/c there is so much of it in a solid white tattoo, it causes a more pronounced reaction in sensitive individuals. Anyone thinking of doing white (or any color, really) should have a spot done somewhere on their body that is not visible, for 2 reasons, 1.identify it as a possible allergen; although allergy can develop years later 2. how it most likely will look when healed. Then you can decide if you want to go forward. Find out what brand of white your artist will use, and look up the MSDS info of that brand which tells what is in the ink. Some of the major manufacturers are putting the MSDS online now. Some brands of white have more of a tendency to turn yellow, while others stay whiter. Laser won’t help b/c it can’t ‘see’ the target. Probably like many of you have said, if she likes the look, have a dermatologist remove the white and by doing that, it will be like a scarification. I am currently starting to do the white tattoos, and I will do the spot testing, I am going to try the top 3 brands recommended for the whitest whites (Dynamic, Starbrite, Mom’s) and choose the one that I have the best results with. I think it enhances the white line if a shadow line is put beside it, in a soft shade of pink or lavender. I would also like to try a dot of lavender in my white for clients with darker skin, simply to cancel out the brown melanin in their natural skin tone, then I can shadow beside the white line with a lavender or pink to make the white stand out a bit more. This would make the white appear more gray as opposed to yellow. The prob with a shadow line is possible mixing with the white, so it would be better to put shadow color in first, let it heal in, and encapsulate (the body immediately tries to get rid of a foreign body like ink; the particles are too large for macrophages to carry away, so the body encapsulates the particles in the dermal layer). One thing to keep in mind though, the dermis is a living layer, and due to the turnover of cells, shifts with age, so that’s why tattoos seem to blur with age, they are shifted a bit with the natural regeneration of our tissues over time. Tattoo ink is a pigment (make sure the artist uses a reputable ink from an authorized distributor- on ebay you find knock offs that are terrible cheap ink from other sources, very dangerous-) mixed with a ‘carrier’ solution like alcohol, glycerine, etc. If you put the shadow in first, you avoid the prob with the stencil (purple) contaminating the white. It allows time for the body to encapsulate the shadow color, and the carrier agent is absorbed. The purple stencil is washed completely off after the session, and any remaining has a month to be worn off the epidermis. Then after a month or complete healing of the shadow line, the white can be easily put in and the artist has a clean design outline, the likelyhood of the white being mixed with other pigment particles is lessened, although with time, they may shift around and mix on the edges of the pigments where they meet in the dermis due to the natural turnover of skin cells). Just another note to consider, the large solid parts of a design are not pretty in white, lacy designs, any type of linear design looks the best. If the body rejects part of a white line, the artist can add white later after skin is healed, but remember every time you have it re-tattooed, scarring is a likelyhood with each successive time. I hope this helps, much of it is theory, as I have yet to experiment with the white tattoo. I think they are beautiful, and I wanted to do them, so I will have to let you all know the results of my trials. I have already done white pearls, and they turned out beautiful, so it gave me confidence to tackle the difficulties of white tattooing. Also please do your research, as no pigment is approved for use under the skin- having said that, I do have a tattoo myself, but I made an informed decision about it and chose the risks of putting a foreign body under my skin. Traditionally, black was simply carbon, with a carrier agent, but modern ink can contain all sorts of stuff, like mercury lead, other metals, plastics. There are some lines of vegan inks, but I hear there are allergic reactions to even those. It seems cadmium red & yellow are likely to cause allergic reactions in sensitive individuals. I wish it would be researched, which ingredients are not safe long-term, and Europe is much stricter than the U.S. Also the sun’s radiation and laser can change the color & composition of pigments into something dangerous & harmful to our bodies, possibly even carcinogenic. Hope this is a helpful comment to you all.

  60. A white girl keloid. My theory is the soft sensitive skin that takes white well keeps creating a callouse. Not necessarily damage done by the tattoo artist, but the amount of polymers that tend to be used in the best brands of white pigments on the market these days. The thicker molicules create a callouse from the inside out. You treat it like you want a thick scar to thin out. Lots of lotion, n pinch n roll like you’re scratching your nuts through your pocket :). Hope i helped.

  61. Hi! Im bernard from the philippines. I have a problem regarding my 14 days old colored tattoo at the upper arm with some white ink, which is now healed i think (means already peeled) some white part of my tattoo did not settle down as if just still my skin color, but when it was still fresh tattoo ghe white color was visible and vibrant. My tattoo artist already seen my tattoo and he just told me for free touch up after another 4 weeks time. I really follow the aftercare, but still resulted to this, can anyone explain to me what possible happened. Thanks a lot anyway.

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