Maybe you’re a raver kid, maybe you’re a science geek, UV ink has been around for a little over a decade now and it’s still reasonably popular. Blacklight tattoos are unique in that the clear UV ink is completely invisible after healing so your tattoos can be absolutely secret. There’s also the “cool” factor when you’re under UV lights at a rave or club and your tattoos suddenly glow.
While these tattoos are popular and creative they have a certain risk as well.
What is UV Ink?
While there’s no requirement for tattoo ink to be regulated at all, traditional ink has been developed over decades and tested far more extensively. You’ll never find an “FDA Approved” tattoo ink because there just isn’t such a thing, but the FDA does define inks suitable for tattooing animals as “industrial grade suitable for printers ink” – yikes! This doesn’t necessarily mean that UV ink is any more dangerous than regular inks, but the fact that it hasn’t been around as long means that many of the long term side effects, especially those which could take decades to appear, haven’t been seen yet.
How Does it Work?
UV ink works because of phosphorescence. The presence of phosphorus in the ink reacts when exposed to UV and reflects the light back, creating a “glow”. The tattoo itself isn’t lighting up, much like the moon is only reflecting the light of the sun. Even though the skin is covering the ink particles the reflection is strong enough to be seen.
This also means that your tattoo artist can’t actually see whether the ink has gone into the skin properly if they’re tattooing the “invisible” UV ink so they’ll need to tattoo using a special UV blacklight.
Are they Really Invisible?
Yes and No. Tattooing creates a type of scar tissue under the skin. The ink is trapped between skin layers which is what forms the tattoo. Some people actually get a change in the skin cells that can be felt or seen as an actual scar, so the design may still be visible on your skin as a scar. There’s also the risk that your skin may have an allergic reaction and that too can cause your skin to mark up from the shape of your tattoo. While the colored UV inks are not invisible, the blacklight only ink technically is when healed as long as everything goes well.
The Right Artist
Not all artists will use UV colors. The reason for this is that since the ink is different it’s harder to get a good coverage and can require touching up. Artists may also refuse to use it because of the fact that it hasn’t had any real long term testing. Since it’s less common to find you may also not be able to find any artist who even carries the ink, UV tattoos make up such a tiny percentage of the population it means most artists don’t want to invest in a bottle of ink that they will likely have to throw away half full because it’s not been used.