White Bumps around Tattoo

This post is a response by a doctor to a question one of our community members asked.

Casey Asks:

Every time I get a new tattoo, these tiny white bumps form around it. They don’t itch but they don’t go away. It’s not the tattoo guy’s technique because this happens with different tattoo guys, so I know it’s not them. I asked them about this and they have no idea. I can’t make them go away. What can be causing this? they don’t itch.

Dr Alejandro’s reply:

Hello Casey,

Tiny white bumps around tattoos are very common, and there are many possible causes for this.

One possible cause is irritation, since tattoos (especially very new ones) are sensitive to various products, materials and chemicals. Skincare products (that are normally applied without problem onto your regular skin), as well as various forms of clothing and bedding, may cause adverse reactions upon contact with a new tattoo, which can often present itself as a rash around the tattoo, which can be presented as white spots around the affected skin. Treatment consist on stopping applying any strong chemicals or products to your new tattoo for at least 2-3 weeks while it heals and avoiding coming into contact with various objects or materials that you suspect could be causing it to become irritated.

Another possible cause of this are allergic reactions. Areas of skin around a tattoo can sometimes form allergies against many things that you didn’t think you were allergic to before, including various components that make up tattoo ink, and these allergies can take from a few days, to sometimes many years to develop and present themselves. They often cause the skin to break out in rashes, or sometimes in tiny white or red spots and dots which often cover large areas of the tattoo. Whilst mild allergies tend to go away slowly of the course of a few days to a few weeks, a more serious allergy could become more troublesome. There are some allergy relief medications that can be prescribed, including topical steroids, which should hopefully help the spots and pimples to go away. Although rare, sometimes medication doesn’t work and the only way to prevent the problem from continuously reoccurring is to unfortunately have your tattoo removed (by laser).

It can also be due to folliculitis due to irritated hair follicles. Folliculitis is the inflammation of one or more hair follicles and presents as red pimples with a hair in the center of each one. The pimples may have pus in them, and they may itch or burn. The burning sensation may persist till there is complete healing of the skin and the time taken varies with each individual. Mild folliculitis usually heals on its own in about 2 weeks. Other than that, you can apply warm compresses and topical antibiotics.

However, in your specific situation it is necessary to have a proper physical examination to get a precise diagnosis and treatment, so it would be better if you see your Primary Care Physician or a Dermatologist. I sincerely hope it is nothing serious and that you get to keep your tattoo and that it looks just great.

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