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UV Ink Tattoos

Tuesday, March 17th 2015. | Tattoo Trend

Tattoos are a wonderfully unique form of self expression! They come in many different forms, and are worn on many different people. While tattoos are relatively common to see these days (more than 1 in 5 adults in the U.S. have at least one tattoo), there is one slightly less common type of tattoo that has been gaining popularity in modern culture. UV ink tattoos, or tattoos which are performed blacklight reactive tattoo ink, have been around for a couple decades, but are becoming much trendier within the past four or five years. Are they safe? Are they for you? Read on to find out!

What is a UV Ink Tattoo?

Many people love the idea of having a tattoo that no one can see during the day—one that they don’t have to worry about covering up at work, and one that people will look at in clubs and say “Oh my God. You have a glow-in-the-dark tattoo?” Or, imagine having your normal-looking tattoo during the day transform into a festive, glowing alternate ego under a blacklight! Because they can be hidden so much easier, blacklight reactive tattoos are very enticing to those who would love to have a visible tattoo, but cannot due to restrictions in their everyday life.

It’s important to note the distinction between “glow-in-the-dark” and “blacklight reactive.” Tattoo ink that glows in the dark on its own, while it does exist in some countries, hasn’t been approved by the FDA for use because most things that glow in the dark include zinc sulfate, which is toxic when humans are directly exposed to it. Ultraviolet ink tattoos are made with a fluorescent ink component that allows them to get that glowing effect under a blacklight, but not on their own; until recently, this was achieved with the use of phosphorus.

Are They Safe?

Phosphorus is also considered toxic to humans and causes different irritations in different levels, depending on the person. It’s a good thing that they found a safer alternative! Part of the reason that UV ink tattoos have become more popular recently is because the ink used has become safer to the point that there is only a minimal risk of having a negative reaction from it.

Even so, modern UV tattoo inks still haven’t been approved by the FDA for use on humans, and because of this many tattoo shops have opted out of doing these types of tattoos. The risk of an allergic reaction, irritation, or scarring is just too much of a liability. However, part of the reason that UV ink tattoos have become more popular recently is because the ink used has become safer to the point that there is only a minimal risk of having a negative reaction from it.

There are still some risks associated with UV ink tattoos. Sometimes, the body will completely reject this type of ink, meaning that it will not only be pushed out of the skin by your immune system, but it may lead to an infection and scarring of the area. Some people report that the skin feels aggravated where UV ink resides in the skin long after the tattoo is healed, a sign that your body may be building up an intolerance to the ink that may lead to skin issues in the future. The most common side effect of getting a UV ink tattoo is scarring of the area; because the ink is made of different components, it takes more effort to get it to stay in the skin. More passes on the area with the tattoo needle increases the likelihood of scar tissue or of the tattoo area being raised slightly.

Thinking of Getting One? Things to Consider

UV ink tattoos have been considered mostly safe for use now that they’ve been available to the public for some time now. However, there are a still few things to consider when planning your appointment at the tattoo shop!

As we mentioned before, many shops have opted out of doing ultraviolet ink tattoos for a number of reasons. Health liabilities are one reason, but the ink is also much more expensive than regular tattoo ink. It costs about $25 per ounce! Therefore, tattoo artists want to make sure that there’s enough demand for the product to justify purchasing UV tattoo ink. Make sure that you ask specifically whether or not a shop offers this service.

The process of applying UV tattoo ink also takes longer than it would with a normal tattoo. Not only must an artist make several passes over the area to get it to stay well, but they must also intermittently use a blacklight during the procedure to evaluate their work and wipe away the excess more often to make sure that the ink is actually implemented under the skin. This, plus the additional expense of the UV ink, means that they cost more to get than your average tattoo. Keep this in mind when saving up for your tattoo!

There are also several different types of UV ink. The most common is simply invisible UV ink, which doesn’t show up at all, or is seen very minimally, in daylight. But, there are also colors available! These colors will show up during the day, but they will still glow under a blacklight. These can look very cool, but most tattoo artists agree that UV ink simply doesn’t hold as well or as long as regular tattoo ink, so most will recommend layering invisible UV ink across the colors of an existing tattoo that has color in it for the best look. The body has been shown to absorb and break down UV ink faster due to its different consistency, so it fades faster than your average tattoo ink. Depending on your body and how well you take to it, UV tattoo ink also may lose its fluorescent capabilities over time and need to be touched up.

As long as you’re aware of any risks or downsides to getting a blacklight reactive tattoo, we say to go for it. They’re certainly one of the more unique trends making their way through the tattoo world, and it will definitely set you apart from your tattooed friends, should you choose to get one, as well as make for an interesting conversation-starter at the club!


UV ink tattoo

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