Why Is There Such a Lack of Education on Tattooing Dark Skin Tones?

As a beauty editor who frequently writes about tattoo trends, I spend a lot of time on social media looking through hashtags pertaining to nearly every kind of design you could think of. Abstract tattoos, stick-and-poke tattoos, fine-line tattoos — you name it. One thing I always notice when scouring the thousands of photos online is the huge lack of representation when it comes to artists showcasing their work on Black and Brown people. It’s something I’ve wondered about for a while, but I haven’t always been able to wrap my mind around the why.

As I’ve learned recently, it has a lot do with non-Black tattoo artists not understanding how to tattoo dark skin. This can be attributed to a large gap in the training and education many of these artists get, said Kandace Layne, a tattooist at the Queen Bee Tattoo Parlor in Marietta, GA.

“Tattooing is mostly taught through apprenticeship, so while there are people whose mentors thought it important to teach their apprentices how to tattoo any skin tone, I don’t think that was the status quo for a long time,” she told POPSUGAR. “Not too long ago in this country, Black and white people weren’t even allowed to sit next to each other, so older white tattooers not caring enough to teach their apprentices how to tattoo [people of color] isn’t really shocking.”

In a previous article, Layne said that tattooing darker skin tones doesn’t necessarily require more skill, but it does require artists to take a different approach since certain colors and designs may show up differently on different skin tones. Essentially, it’s an ongoing cycle that lies within the education process and how tattoo parlors hire their talent: if a shop hires mostly non-Black artists who’ve never learned how to work on dark skin, those artists won’t be able to teach their apprentices how to work on dark skin either, making it harder for Black people looking to get tattoos to find a trustworthy artist to do the job.

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