Are There UV Light Tattoo Risks?

Maybe you love black lights, maybe you love new tattoos, or maybe you just love having a secret. Whatever the reason, maybe you are thinking about getting a UV tattoo and are considering any black light tattoo risks before making the big decision. Black lights are also known as ultraviolet (UV) lights and are frequently found in night clubs, raves, and your friendly stoner head shops. Black light tattoos are created using ultraviolet (UV) reactive ink. This means that a UV tattoo is nearly invisible in plain daylight, but will come to life when viewed under an ultraviolet bulb. Yes, they are super cool, but these tattoos do carry a few risks that are worth knowing about.

UV tattoos are gaining in popularity because of the creative twist they allow you to put on your body. The UV ink can be used to highlight parts of a tattoo done with traditional ink, bring dramatic flair to your nightlife (and the need to carry a back light flashlight with you to happy hour), or form the basis of an entire tattoo. Whether you just want to add some sparkle, or you are thinking of going full-on black light arm sleeve, here are some things to consider before making the big commitment.

What the heck is UV tattoo ink?

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not approved any type of tattoo ink for injection into the skin. This includes the ultraviolet (UV) ink that creates that cool, otherworldly, glow when viewed under a black light. Tattoo inks are approved for use in (non-human) animals. However, according to the FDA, "many pigments used in tattoo inks are industrial-grade colors suitable for printers' ink or automobile paint."

Does this mean you should avoid backlight tattoos at all costs? Not necessarily. It just means that because UV ink is less commonly used, you should make sure the tattoo artist and shop you are working with are reputable and will get your permanent body ink from a safe source. Do your research before diving under the (tattoo) gun!

How invisible is UV ink?

Ultraviolet ink is not entirely invisible, especially in the first one or two years. Tattoo experts have reported to ABC News that after the "tattoo heals in 12 months to 18 months, the tattoo will be virtually invisible to the naked eye." Each month, the pale tan lines fade even more, until they are harder to see than Wonder Woman's Invisible Jet. If the sole reason you are getting a UV tattoo is for the undercover factor, make sure you research photos and outcomes with a trusted studio first.

Are you ready to spend your time and money?

Black light tattoos cost more and take longer to ink on than traditional tattoos. These aren't actual risks, but definitely something to think about when considering one of these tattoos.

Do you have the right artist for the job?

Just because your kid sister is taking AP Math in high school doesn't mean you would let her write your graduate school applied mathematics dissertation, right? Same goes for your tattoo artist. The guy who did your BFF's Jem & the Holograms tattoo may be awesome with traditional tattoo ink, but may have zero experience working with UV ink. UV ink is thinner and notoriously harder to work with. That means you need to find the person in your area who has proven chops creating black light tattoos, then get on his or her waiting list.

Is it the right move for you?

Over 45 million people in the United States have at least one tattoo. What used to be the sole domain of sailors and bikers is now (almost) as common as pierced ears. However, in office jobs and professional careers, there is still discrimination against people with tattoos. Although a UV tattoo will become invisible over time, it is not immediately so. Consider your plans for the next year. You may want to wait to tattoo that star on your neck until after your internship at the conservative Wall Street law firm.

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