White Tattoos

Does the sun fade white tattoos?  The answer is actually quote complex and here’s why:

First, think of tattoo ink like paint that is being used to cover a pinkish red wall. If the wall were painted black it’s highly possible that it could be covered in one coat. If it were painted white it would take numerous coats, or the case of tattooing packing in the color. (This is why covering a dark tattoo with a lighter one is almost impossible) Also, besides “masking” any underlying color of the skin, the ink is still under the body’s natural melanin. (This is why darker skinned people cannot get light tattoos)


Physics and Biology:
Just like melanin, tattoo ink will block and/or absorb radiation. Commonly white inks contain Titanium Dioxide. Ti02 in it’s natural state is white, but when it is exposed to radiation, the composition of the molecule changes giving it a bluish color. Although, this means the tattoo is actually darker, this accounts for some of the fading. Besides changing the ink color, solar radiation also causes the body to produce melanin which is on top of the ink. This tan/brown/black color obscures the ink and in turn makes the tattoo to appear less bright. Furthermore as most people know, sun exposure destroys tattoos through the body’s process of repairing the dermal and epidermal damage caused by UVA, UVB and possibly UVC radiation.


Optical Illusion
Besides all the factors stated above, the more dramatic the difference in color, the less noticeable the fading. If you look at traditional tattoos they normally have a black outline. This is done to create a visual barrier between lighter inks and natural skin tone. Without the separation the tattoo can appear to blend into the surround tissue, giving the appearance of faded tattoo. Lastly, there is ink absorption. As already mentioned the body absorbs ink over time. However, the first month after the tattoo is put into the skin, the body removes ink particles down in the lower levels of the dermis. Even if white is packed in, there is a very good chance that your body’s lymphatic system will remove enough of the white to show some fading. Does sun exposure effect the tattoo during this time? Sure, but the basic healing period is often just a factor people don’t take into account and the sun is blamed for the fading of the tattoo.