Ahhhh the 90s. A time of fluorescent, neon colors, bold prints, and low-rise jeans. While some today might look back at photographs hoping and praying that some of the 90s trends stay in the 90s, we can’t deny that many are once again rising in popularity.
One such trend, which was developed in the 1990s, is the UV light tattoo. Sometimes known as a “glow in the dark,” “invisible,” or “blacklight” tattoo, this form of ethereal expression is making a comeback. And we’re here for it.
Once known as a trademark among ravers, UV light tattoos are a rad choice for folks who like to live life on the wild side, appreciate unique fashion choices, or just plain think they're cool. And don’t worry, you don’t have to be a raver to qualify.
How do UV tattoos work?
Okay, so UV tattoos don’t really glow in the dark. At least, not like those star stickers you probably had on your ceiling as a kid. But they do glow when exposed to UV light (also known as black light) thanks to the chemicals contained in the ink.
The dyes used for these tattoos make for a thinner-than-normal ink and must be applied with care. Due to the precision required, getting a UV tattoo might take a bit longer than normal, which could also drive the cost up. Worth it? Absolutely it is.
It’s also important to note that UV light tattoos are not actually invisible. So they won’t be quite as inconspicuous as, say, a hidden map on the back of the Declaration of Independence (but they’re just as cool). Instead, you’ll have the regular scarring that comes with any tatt (which you usually don’t see because it's covered in visible ink). It may also have a light white or purplish appearance. Smaller designs, though, will be nearly undetectable. Larger designs might have the appearance of some sick scarring.
Are UV tattoos safe?
When these bad boys first came out, inks were infused with phosphorus, which has since been deemed potentially harmful. Many manufacturers and artists now avoid this ingredient, but it’s still out there. Because the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) does not regulate tattoo inks, it’s a good idea to check with your artist to see what ingredients their ink of choice contains before having it injected into your skin.
How long do glow in the dark tattoos last?
In general, UV light tattoos can last just as long as any other tattoo if given proper care. That being said, because these little beauties are still rather new to the tattoo scene, this theory hasn’t been fully tested yet. As with any other tattoo, areas that experience higher amounts of friction or sunlight will fade faster, so you may end up needing to go in for a touch up if your ink is in a high-exposure area.
How to Choose the Right Artist for Your UV Tattoo
1. Research artists with UV tattoo experience
A quick web search can get you started on your hunt for an artist that has experience with UV light tattoos. However, just because an artist claims to offer this style on their website, doesn’t mean they’re a pro. Look for reviews and client photos that mention UV tattoos, and make sure the artist is reputable before scheduling a consultation.
2. Ask for recommendations
If you’re lucky enough to have friends who rock blacklight ink, ask about their experience and artist information. If not, online forums can be a great place for finding artist recommendations.
3. Check out artist portfolios
Do a good old fashioned Instagram stalk to see if an artist has pictures of any UV ink work they’ve done, or check their website for a designated portfolio to view images of healed blacklight work.
How to Care for Your UV Tattoo
Caring for a UV tattoo doesn’t require any extra TLC or strange and wordy incantations. In general, the aftercare and healing process will be the same as any other tatt. To ensure your new ink enjoys a long and healthy life, make sure you keep these important aftercare tips in mind:
- Follow your artist’s aftercare instructions to a “T.”
- Keep it clean by using unscented antibacterial soap.
- Keep it moisturized.
- Avoid sun exposure.
- Don’t emerge it in water. No beach. No pool. No soak in the jacuzzi.
- Avoid dirt, sand, and other contaminants.
- No tanning beds or saunas.
- Don’t itch it. Seriously. Hands off.
- Stay hydrated before and after.
- Wear loose, comfortable clothing. Like maybe some rad, tattoo inspired t-shirts.
Whether you frequent raves, enjoy the occasional cosmic bowling night, or can’t even remember the last time you saw black light, a UV tattoo is a sweet and sneaky little addition to your canvas. And as an added bonus, you’ll always have an answer for that dreaded “tell us something interesting about yourself” get-to-know-you question. We call that a win-win.