What Causes White Bumps & Spots On New And Old Tattoos?

  • Written By Dan Hunter on July 15, 2018
    Last Updated: November 26, 2020

After getting a new tattoo, you’d expect it to heal perfectly with no issues – but this isn’t always the case. Your ink can be affected by many different problems during the healing process, and white spots appearing around the area is one of them. Issues like these can no-doubt cause much worry for the tattoo owner.

This article sets out to show you what exactly could be causing these white spots to appear on your tattoo, and what you should do to treat and prevent the problem from reoccurring.

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

White spots and bumps popping up all over your ink can look terrible and can be very concerning. However, there are many possible causes for this, and some are worse than others.

Below is a selection of the most common reasons why you might get white spots and pimples on your new tattoo, along with advice about how to treat each case.


Reason – Tattoos, especially very new ones, can be extremely sensitive to various products, materials, and chemicals.

Many skincare products that are normally applied without a problem onto your regular skin, may cause adverse reactions upon contact with newly tattooed areas.

Due to the sensitivity of a new tattoo, many materials, such as various forms of clothing and bedding can also cause irritation to the area, which can often present itself as a rash around the tattoo.

The appearance of these areas of rashes and irritation can vary from person-to-person, but a common occurrence is seeing white spots appear around the affected skin.

Treatment – Stop applying any strong chemicals or products to your new tattoo for at least 2-3 weeks while it heals.

You should also stop your tattoo from coming into contact with various objects or materials that you suspect could be causing it to become irritated.

Finally, if your tattoo is on an area that’s constantly rubbing against another part of your body, this can also cause irritation, so try to keep the tattoo free from any rubbing as much as possible.


Reason – Open areas of skin around a tattoo can sometimes develop new allergies to many things that you didn’t think you were allergic to before.

Although rare, some people are actually allergic to the various components that make up tattoo ink, and these tattoo ink allergies can take from a few days, to sometimes many years to develop and present themselves.

Once these allergies do develop, they can often cause the skin to break out in rashes, or sometimes in tiny white or red spots which often cover large areas of the tattoo.

This could be a possible allergic reaction

Treatment – While mild allergies tend to pop up and then proceed to go away slowly of the course of a few days to a few weeks; a more serious allergic reaction could become more troublesome.

If this is the case, then it’s best to see a Board Certified Dermatologist who will be able to address and treat these concerns.

When conservative treatment with topicals or injections don’t work,  the only way to resolve the issue is to, unfortunately, have your tattoo removed (most commonly by laser).

This, however, is an extremely rare circumstance.


Reason – Although rare, there are a variety of reasons why a tattoo may get infected.

Generally, though, it’s either because the tattooing process was performed in an unsanitary environment with unsterilized equipment, or because of a lack of care and cleanliness during the tattoo aftercare period.

Scratching your tattoo, failing to clean it properly, and bathing in dirty water are all common reasons why a tattoo may become infected.

How to clean a new tattoo:

Infections themselves can physically present themselves in many different ways depending on the severity of the infection, and what type of bacteria is causing it.

One of the symptoms of an infection, though, is clusters of white pus and oozy spots.

A tattoo that has contracted a staph infection – big, white and bumpy boils are present all over the area

Treatment – Infections can be serious, and if left untreated can cause not only long-term appearance issues with your tattoo, but they can also severely damage your general health depending on the type of infection that has been contracted.

If you suspect your tattoo may have become infected, consult either your tattoo artist or a doctor as soon as possible. The quicker an infection can be treated, the less damage it will do to your tattoo and your general health.

Acne / Common Pimples

Reason – If you’re prone to getting spots or acne in the area of your tattoo, then it’s likely that they will continue to appear once the area has been inked.

Treatment – Let the spots go away on their own. Because the ink has been inserted into the skin lower than where the spots will form on the surface, they shouldn’t affect the appearance of your tattoo in the long-term.

However, popping these spots can cause scarring, infection, and ink being pulled from the area (leaving faded and patchy areas within the tattoo), so strongly avoid picking, popping or scratching them.

Too Much Lotion

Reason – Although a good moisturizing or specialized tattoo healing lotion is great for your ink and for your skin, adding too much and smothering your tattoo can cause a few issues, such as rashes and spots appearing in the area, as well as tattoo bubbling.

Adding more lotion before cleaning off the previous application and allowing the new lotion to build up over the old stuff can also cause problems with white spots and rashes appearing over your tattoo, so be careful not to do this.

This is FAR too much lotion and some should be blotted off with a paper towel

Treatment – Only apply a very thin layer of lotion to the area, and always clean the tattoo with skin-sensitive soap and lukewarm water before adding any more.

The best tattoo lotion I’ve ever personally used is a vegan aftercare product called After Inked Tattoo Aftercare Lotion. This stuff works amazingly well during the healing process; not only by keeping your tattoo really well hydrated but also by soothing any annoying itching and irritation. When using it from the very start of the healing process, this lotion will help to decrease tattoo healing times and work towards eliminating any lingering dryness and scabbing. Click here to buy from Amazon.

If you realize you’ve added too much lotion, gently dab/blot off the excess with a clean paper towel.

Unknown Cause

Reason – Sometimes, white spots, lumps, and bumps can form over your tattoo for seemingly no good reason at all – and they will often end up disappearing just as quickly as they were formed.

Treatment – If you’re not sure what’s causing these white spots to appear on your tattoo, leave them for a few days to see if they begin to fade and disappear.

If, however, they don’t go away or continue to get worse, see your tattoo artist or a doctor for further advice as you may have a superficial infection of the hair follicles (folliculitis) and require prescription treatment.

White Bumps On An Old Tattoo – What Could They Be?

If white spots and bumps begin to appear on an older tattoo, this can also likely be due to many different reasons.

It must be noted, however, that infections aren’t as common in older tattoos when compared to new ones due to the skin having already healed itself, and therefore blocking further bacteria from entering the area.

It is worth knowing, though, that things like heat rash and prickly heat from sun exposure can be more common, as the tattooed area is likely to remain sensitive to the harmful UV rays for many years.


White tattoo spots can be caused for many reasons, but they are not always something to worry about, and a lot of the time the spots will go away gradually on their own and cause no lasting damage.

If you’re concerned that the white spots on your tattoo may be an indication of something potentially serious however, such as an infection, then get in touch with your tattoo artist or doctor as soon as possible for some professional advice.