Published: 05.24.2021
Updated: 02.26.2024

What are blacklight tattoos? Simply put, they are tattoos done with UV-reactive pigments that become visible only under a black light. During the day, the ink is practically invisible, so it doesn’t typically interfere with any work tattoo policies, which can make blacklight tattoos a unique and desirable option. However, the recent uptick in people flocking to get blacklight tattoos poses a cause for concern because much remains unknown about their health risks. Let’s take a look at potential safety factors, how artists create black ink tattoos, and how long they typically last so you can make an informed decision.

Are Black Light Tattoos Safe?

Tattoo ink is not evaluated by the FDA, so there are no rules set forth by the government on whether tattoos are unsafe or vice versa. However, the components of traditional ink (cobalt, copper, aluminum, and India ink) and the use of these elements are familiar, and therefore any potential long-term effects are more predictable.

While tattoo ink is not regulated by the Food & Drug Administration, glow-in-the-dark pigments used inside of any cosmetic product (like tattoo ink) are regulated. The FDA only approves the use of luminescent zinc sulfide for any glow-in-the-dark cosmetic use.

It’s important to be wary of black light tattoos because the FDA doesn’t monitor the type of tattoo ink that tattoo shops use. Thus, black light tattoo ink may contain ingredients that are not approved by the FDA. Without any regulations, there is no way to figure out what you are actually injecting into your body, which is why experts and doctors urge caution when contemplating a new black light tattoo.

How Are Black Light Tattoos Created?

Black light ink can be derived from auto paint, a fact that often worries people the most, but the tattoo ink can also come from fluorescent plants, algae, and fish. This can cause allergic reactions, a side effect most commonly reported on. There are also concerns that the use of phosphorus, which is an ingredient not approved by the FDA but commonly used to achieve the blacklight effect, can be carcinogenic.

Can You Remove A Black Light Tattoo?

Black light tattoos are challenging to remove with laser technology due to the chemical compounds in the ink and the lack of visible pigment in the ink itself. Removery does not recommend laser for black light tattoos as the results are unpredictable.

How Long Do Black Light Tattoos Last?

Black light tattoos are likely to last as long as regular tattoos, although exposure to the sun could cause premature aging (as with any tattoo). However, because the technique remains new, we haven’t yet seen them age over long periods of time.

Do Black Light Tattoos Fade?

Yes, black light tattoos fade over time, similar to any other tattoo. After several years, a black light tattoo will likely need a touchup to look as vibrant as it once did. You must follow the same aftercare guidelines as you would for any tattoo to ensure best results. Caring for the tattoo by using sunscreen (even after it has completely healed) will boost its longevity.

Do Your Homework Before Getting a Tattoo

It is important to carefully inspect and choose a tattoo shop in order to get the highest quality results and secure your personal safety. A potentially unsafe substance can cause lasting issues and damage. Further, an artist with no black light ink tattooing experience may not create the desired results, even if they have an impressive portfolio. We encourage you to thoroughly research the specific products used by the tattoo artists you’re considering before making your decision!

Dr jamie Bastidas Dr. Jamie Bastidas Emergency Medicine

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