UV tattoos or blacklight tattoos are tattoos made with a special ink that is only visible under a blacklight. They are particularly
popular in the raver subculture.
The tattoos are virtually invisible in normal light, although scarring from the tattoo machine in the application process may remain,
and therefore still show. A UV tattoo becomes visible under blacklight, when it lights up in colors ranging from yellow to purple,
depending on the ink chosen. As a direct result of its rumored invisibility, blacklight ink is often used for facial tattoos.
Arguments against UV tattoos
UV tattoo ink is not commonly known or used, as very few varieties of UV inks are approved for use in the US. This is because some
people have had reactions to the ink, ranging from minor itching to dermatitis. Several UV inks are suspected carcinogens and allergens
and at this time, no research has been conducted into the possible side effects of long term exposure. Some UV inks are known to
yellow or turn slightly brown with sun exposure.
Many tattoo artists simply refuse to work with UV ink, because of the potential medical complications and the difficulty involved in
the application process. In the past, many experts have advised against UV tattoos.
Arguments for UV tattoos
Over recent years, as the formulas for UV inks are improved upon, it is more common to hear reports of success, with little or no
reaction. Chameleon Blacklight Ink is one company which produces Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved UV inks in 18 colors.
This UV tattoo ink is not FDA approved for humans but for animals: see the
Chameleon Blacklight Ink FAQ
Using these inks, there have been no adverse reactions since 1995, when their inks were first developed. The ingredients of these
inks are common not only to blacklight tattoos, but are used frequently in other medical prostheses, such as bone replacements,
contact lenses and pacemakers.
UV inks are not as bright under normal light as normal tattoo inks, and do not blend during application, as normal inks do.
Therefore, for vibrant, high impact tattoos, normal ink should be used, allowed to heal, and then highlighted with UV inks.
Only highly experienced tattooists should apply UV tattoos, and should have a blacklight within arm's length of the tattoo chair.
When applying white or clear UV ink, this blacklight should be turned on throughout the procedure.
UV inking takes a little longer than using normal inks, due to UV inks being a little thinner and harder to work with,
and because the tattoo must be checked under a blacklight frequently during application.