Small, delicate artwork is dominating the tattoo scene right now, and the style is especially perfect for those looking to get inked without drawing too much attention. These understated tattoos are often seen in inconspicuous areas, such as behind the ears, on the wrist or on the sides of the fingers. You’ll find them in standard black or dark ink, but lately, we’ve seen more people opting for white ink tattoos. Below, we’re explaining everything you need to know about white ink tattoos, including how different skin tones react to them. 

First, What Are White Ink Tattoos

Shade aside, white ink tattoos are not much different than black ink tattoos. “White ink tattoos are no different from regular tattoos in that they are both raised,” consultant Dr. Elizabeth Houshmand says. With white ink tattoos, the raised area of the skin — and scar-like appearance — is much more visible because the black ink can cover some of that up. “The body handles white ink tattoos as a wound,” Dr. Houshmand continues. “When the wound-healing process starts, scar tissue forms.”

White ink on dark skin

Do White Ink Tattoos Look Different on Light and Dark Skin Tones?

If your skin tone is light, white ink tattoos will likely not look noticeable to many. They’re a good pick for anyone looking for a subtle tattoo. Keep in mind, however, that white ink tattoos have a tendency to fade quickly and can change colors over time, according to Dr. Houshmand. Depending on how your skin heals, your white ink tattoo may look like a prominent scar on your skin later on.

But what about darker skin tones? “Many individuals, particularly those with darker skin tones, cannot absorb enough of the white ink for it to appear brightly on their skin,” says Dr. Houshmand. She notes that for most skin types and tones, the white ink will eventually begin to fade into the skin. “But when white ink tattoos are performed on dark skin tones, they tend to fade completely after the healing process, which is why many tattoo artists will not recommend these to dark-skinned individuals.” 

Dreamcatcher White Ink Tattoo on Dark Skin

How Should You Care for White Ink Tattoos?

Dr. Houshmand warns that it’s not uncommon for people to experience a reaction to white tattoo ink. “This is much more common than a reaction to black tattoo ink,” she says, adding that dark skin can form keloids, which is an overgrowth of scar tissue that develops around a wound. 

But if you’ve made up your mind and you’re set on getting a white ink tattoo, there are ways you can help reduce the risk of a negative reaction. “To avoid a keloid, the artist might need to adjust the way they work to suit your skin, by reducing the power and not going over the same area too frequently,” Dr. Houshmand says. Once your tattoo has healed, keep the area hydrated with a skin protectant.