Highly popular among ravers and nightlife enthusiasts, these tattoos stand out strikingly well at popular social gatherings such as nightclubs and concerts.
Whether you plan on creating an invisible tattoo (in daylight) to keep a happy boss or you are contemplating the popular choice of upgrading your existing tattoo to generate a stunning effect, there is no doubt that these vibrant pieces bring about a definite wow factor (if done correctly by an experienced artist).
However, there are some stark downsides to getting a glow in the dark tattoo that you should definitely be made aware of before stepping foot into a tattoo studio.
What Are Glow In The Dark Tattoos?
Glow in the dark tattoos usually contain bright, fluorescent colors that are invisible in daylight. This tattooing technique is relatively new and became popular in the 90’s, along with the neon trend.
Unfortunately, glow in the dark tattoos don’t quite live up to the name that they imply, and they will not simply just ‘glow in the dark’ without a little bit of help. A black light, also referred to as a ‘UV-A light’ is usually required in order for these tattoos to glow.
Black lights are used for several purposes. Not only are they used to create decorative/artistic lighting effects, but also for tasks such as the detection of counterfeit money and attracting insects (those big ‘zapper’ machines you see everywhere).
To create these tattoos, artists will use an ink solution containing phosphorus, in addition to the vegetable, metal, or plastic-based pigments used in traditional tattoos.
For those of you who may not know, phosphorus is the substance used in glow sticks, so before you get distracted by the beauty of this type of tattoo, it is important to consider the safety aspects of the procedure.
Glow In The Dark Tattoo Ink – Is It Safe?
Well, to be frank, phosphorus is a highly toxic chemical element, known to our ancestors as ‘the devil’s element’, due to its use in friction matches, explosives, poisons, and pesticides.
It is essential to know that phosphorus-based inks have not officially been approved by the FDA, on the grounds of safety concerns.
There is a high amount of uncertainty regarding the long-term effects this ink will have on your skin and health, especially since phosphorus has been proven to be a cancerous compound. For these reasons, very few tattoo shops will offer a service using phosphorus-based inks.
There have been reports that people have suffered complications and allergic reactions with the ink. Although side-effects appear to be rare, some reactions include burning sensations, skin rashes, itchiness, and/or severe blistering.
The majority of customers also noticed a significant increase in swelling around the area when compared to a regular tattoo. Some were compelled to have the new art removed due to these side-effects.
It should also be known that many of the above symptoms, such as itchiness, rash, swelling, and burning sensations are also all common with standard-ink tattoos, and therefore it may be hard to single phosphorus out as the main culprit.
How Long Do Glow In The Dark Tattoos Last?
Glow in the dark tattoos should last as long as regular tattoos, however, as stated above, this up and coming trend has only been around for a decade or so, and therefore it is going to be a while before we fully understand the long term effects of phosphorus-based tattooing procedures.
As with most tattoos, they will likely fade slowly over time, especially in the sun, and it is advisable that they are touched up if any noticeable fading has occurred.
If you choose to cover your glow in the dark tattoo with a colored one, the ink may appear dull or faded, and the glow in the dark properties may no longer work as well as they once did.
It is worth noting that it is up to the discretion of a tattoo artist as to whether or not they choose to touch your tattoo up for you. It is very likely that some artists will turn down your request due to the nature of the tattoo in its current state (the inclusion of phosphorus).
Glow In The Dark Tattoos Vs. UV Tattoos
UV tattoos are similar to glow in the dark tattoos in the way they are invisible in daylight; however, UV ink is thought to be as safe for your skin as ‘normal’ tattoos, as they do not contain phosphorus.
Both glow in the dark ink and UV ink can be seen under a black light, fluorescent lamps, light- emitting diodes (LED’s) and some lasers.
Another similarity of the two is you may need to be more generous with your time if this is the type of tattoo you truly desire.
Obviously, the time taken to complete every tattoo is largely based on the size and detail of the piece, however, it has been proven that using these kinds of inks can be very time consuming for a few reasons:
A black light is necessary to apply the ink – As I’m sure you can understand, invisible ink is not going to be easy to administer and will require a more concentrated approach.
The ink is thinner – and may therefore present a bigger challenge to the tattoo artist.
More skill is required – The first two points mean that greater artistic skill and experience will be needed.
As a contrast, a downside to UV ink is that it can commonly pool under the skin and produce firm ball-like nodules under the skin after a variable amount of time (depending on ink dilutions, and how your body reacts to the ink’s properties).
Glow In The Dark Tattoo Aftercare
Ensuring your brand new tattoo doesn’t become infected is your responsibility from the second you walk out of the shop. Your artist should have taken the appropriate steps to clean your new ink, before proceeding to wrap it.
Hopefully, your artist will have advised you on a precise time-frame for how long to keep your tattoo wrapped and how to clean it thereafter (we also have incredibly in-depth aftercare & cleaning guides for you to take a look at should you need to).