White Bumps On Tattoo: What Does It Mean And How To Treat It

Written by: Claudia
Last Updated:

You just invested a chunk of money to get the tattoo of your dreams. You’ve waited the long month to have it heal and now you’re ready to show it off. You look at your piece only to see that there are white spots and bumps on your new tattoo! What’s causing them, and how can you treat them? We’ve got you and your ink covered.

What Is Causing White Spots on Your Tattoo & How To Treat Them

white bumps on tattoo

Although they can be a little ugly and somewhat concerning, in most cases, white bumps on your tattoo are nothing to worry about. Here are a few potential causes of those little spots on your ink, and how you can treat them.

Irritation

The most common reason for those little white bumps to show up on your tattoo is simply due to irritation. A tattoo is trauma done to the skin, and it heals differently than most wounds do. As such, your body is adjusting itself to these new pigments in the skin and may be hypersensitive in the process, reacting to things that never used to irritate your skin in the past. Instead of resulting in a rash-like reaction, little pimples may pop up on or around your tattoo.

Can this happen on new or old tattoos?
Both.

How can I treat it?

The easiest way to treat a reaction due to irritation is to just leave your tattoo be. Ensure that the products you are using on your tattoo are all-natural and non-comedogenic. You should also wear natural fabrics (not polyester) that are loose-fitting and don’t rub up against your tattoo, at least until the little bumps disappear.

Too Much Lotion

The second most common reason for these little bumps on your tattoo is caused by putting too much lotion on your ink. Applying a heavy layer of cream can block your pores, and your skin, especially the skin of a new tattoo, needs to be able to breathe to heal properly. Applying excessive lotion may result in a breakout-like reaction on your skin in the form of little white bumps.

Check out our top recommendations for the best tattoo lotion

Can this happen on new or old tattoos?
Both.

How can I treat it?

Try skipping the lotion for a day or two and see if the spots go away. In addition to this treatment, you can also make sure that any lotion you are applying to your tattoo is immediately absorbed by the skin; wipe off excess lotion with a paper towel if necessary. Try to find moisturizers that list “non-comedogenic” on the label. Have a look at our article on the Best Tattoo Aftercare Products - Our Favorites Reviewed.

Allergy

Allergies can present themselves at any point in your life, and you may not realize your sensitivity to something until your body experiences trauma. Tattoos tend to bring out reactions that people didn’t know they would have to things such as the ink used to tattoo, the products being used in the aftercare process, or even fabric against our skin. These allergies can manifest as little white bumps.

Can this happen on new or old tattoos?
Both.

How can I treat it?

First and foremost, red and yellow ink are shown to cause the most allergic reactions in sensitive individuals, so if you are aware of your sensitivity, try and steer away from these colors.

Another way to treat your allergy is to cut out specific aftercare products to try and narrow down what is causing the irritation, and also adjust the fabrics you wear as a way to isolate the cause. The best way to know if it truly is an allergy and how best to treat it is to speak to a dermatologist.

Acne/Common Pimples

If you were tattooed somewhere where you experience breakouts or acne, this doesn’t suddenly stop after getting tattooed. You will still continue to have pimples on this area, which can appear as white bumps or spots.

Can this happen on new or old tattoos?
Both.

How can I treat it?

If you’ve given your tattoo a full month or more to heal, you can actually use your acne soaps and creams on your tattooed area. As with all acne, you should not pick at or try and pop these pimples; that could permanently scar your tattoo.

Have a look at our article, Pimples On New And Old Tattoos: How To Treat Them Safely.

Reactions to Skin Trauma

There are certain white spots or bumps that manifest as a result of the trauma done to your skin during a tattooing session. These are called granulomas and milia, or milk spots.

A granuloma can occur as a response to trying to rid the wound of ink, and is, “an aggregation of macrophages that forms in response to chronic inflammation. This occurs when the immune system attempts to isolate foreign substances that it is otherwise unable to eliminate.”

Milk spots, or milia, can appear, “after the skin is damaged in some way – burns, rashes, blisters, excessive exposure to sunlight. The milia develop as the skin heals. Another name for secondary milia is traumatic milia. They can also be caused by a reaction to a heavy skin cream or ointment.” These look similar to the small spots you find on infants, and they occur when dead skin cells get trapped under the skin, forming tiny benign cysts.

Can this happen on new or old tattoos? 

These generally appear on a newer tattoo, after around one month of healing.

How can I treat it?

Because these reactions are so particular, it is best to speak to a dermatologist about your concern.

Infection

This is the rarest cause of white bumps or spots on your tattoo, and infections are often paired with other symptoms such as:

  • Bad odor
  • Redness or red streaks extending beyond the tattoo
  • Extreme swelling or pain
  • Pus or liquid leaving the spots on its own
  • Blisters
  • Fevers or chills

Can this happen on new or old tattoos? 

Unless your old tattoo experienced a cut that opened up the skin and was then infiltrated by bacteria, infections usually only happen with new tattoos.

How can I treat it?

A proper aftercare regimen is the easiest way to treat the starting signs of an infection. If you experience any additional symptoms, it is paramount that you speak to a healthcare professional immediately.

Unknown Cause

If none of these descriptors resonated with you, your white bumps or spots could have appeared due to unknown reasons. Sometimes they will even appear after sun exposure. They are likely to disappear in a few days time, but should you ever be concerned, speak to a dermatologist.

Our Final Thoughts

In most cases, small white bumps or spots are nothing to be concerned about and are easily treated through adjusting what products are touching your skin. In all cases, you should not pick at or try and pop these little bumps as they could scar and permanently distort your ink. If at any point you are concerned about them or do not see them dissipating on their own, speak to a dermatologist who can provide you with professional advice.

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The information contained on Tattify is intended for informational and educational purposes only. None of the statements made on this website are intended to diagnose, cure, treat or prevent any disease, infection or illness. Please consult a healthcare practitioner before using tattoo/skincare products that may interfere with medications or known conditions. This article is provided with the understanding that it does not constitute medical or professional advice or services. If you are looking for help with your condition, please seek out a qualified medical practitioner.

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