What, Exactly, Is In Blacklight Tattoo Ink?

by Christine Stoddard

When you have a black light tattoo, you don't have to worry about sneaking around corporate America because, in broad daylight, these tats are virtually invisible. Instead, it might be worth worrying about the ingredients in black light tattoo ink. Unlike your favorite snack or lipstick, these inks aren't regulated by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration. This means that you as a customer have no legal way of knowing what's entering your bloodstream when you're under the needle. Though, to be fair, no tattoo ink is FDA-approved, the ingredients in traditional tattoos — cobalt, copper, aluminum, India ink — are more predictable.

"Physicians have been urging for tattoo ink regulation for years," says Dr. Robert Weiss, the newly inducted president of the American Society for Laser Medicine and Surgery. "If you don't have a trusted tattoo artist, for all you know, you're getting inked up with automotive paint."

According to Weiss, who co-founded the Maryland Laser, Skin and Vein Institute and is an associate professor at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, most black light tattoo ink probably comes from florescent particles found in plants and algae. But you can also add phosphorescent fish to the list.

"My main concern, if the ink is derived from the plant world and not auto paint, is allergies," Weiss says.

As with any allergy, reactions may vary. In July 2014, the FDA recalled all White and Blue Lion brand tattoo ink, which reportedly causes infections that may lead to sepsis, a sometimes fatal blood complication.

But it's those very unregulated ingredients that make a 9-to-5 life by day and a rave-worthy life by night possible. Unsurprisingly, Weiss describes the demand for UV tattoo removal as "extremely low."

"In daylight, a UV tattoo really does look like an empty space," he says. Perfect for anyone who wants to lead a double life.

It's important to note that these risks come with all kinds of tattoos, so please research the tattoo parlor you intend to use before you make your appointment, even if your body art won't glow when you're through.

Images: waitscm/Flickr