In the world of tattooing, there are many varieties and variations each with their own following. From tribal patterns to scarification, the tattooing community is as diversified as any other subculture in the world. One such variety of tattoo that is often overlooked and somewhat obscure to many people is that of ultraviolet tattoos, also known as black light tattoos.

These UV tattoos are administered just as an ordinary piece is by way of a tattooing machine, but they are applied using a special ink which is only visible under a black light. They are often employed by those with a desire to have a tattoo somewhere visible but cannot due to restrictions in the workplace. Black light tattoos are also wildly popular among the raver subculture, for obvious reasons.

Ultraviolet Skeleton Hand Tattoo

(Ultraviolet Skeleton Hand Tattoo)

When exposed to a black light, these tattoos become visible and can be administered in colors ranging from white to purple dependant on the ink used. Colored inks are also available for these UV tattoos, though their colors are not nearly as vibrant as those of an ordinary tattoo, and UV inks are known to turn to a yellow or vaguely brown color following exposure to the sun.

Ultraviolet Tattoo In and Out of a Black Light

These black light tattoos are not widely known in the United States and many tattoo parlors refuse to work with them at all because of myriad medical risks and difficulty in application associated even with the few inks that are approved for use in tattooing. Many people, following the application of UV tattoos, have reported rashes and infections, and these reactions occur much more frequently with UV tattoos than normal ones. In addition, these inks are suspected of being both highly allergenic as well as possibly carcinogenic, although there are several inks available which have undergone extensive FDA testing and meet their approval for use.

According to this testing, the inks which meet approval contain no phosphors, and are not carcinogenic in any way. One such ink, namely Chameleon Black light Tattoo Ink is approved as a Spectral Marking Pigment often times used by the Fish and Game commission to track wildlife and has undergone more than a decade of testing and use in humans with no adverse side effects. It should be noted, however, that while this particular ink does have FDA approval for the purpose of marking fish and game, it is not approved for use in humans.

Ultra Violet Koi Fish Tattoo

(Ultraviolet Koi Fish Tattoo)

So, in the end, it is realistically up to you. There are no approved inks on the market today for use in humans, although with the removal of phosphorus from these UV inks and many other improvements they are much safer today. These relatively unique tattoos can certainly be an intriguing prospect and many people choose to ignore the risk and go for it without any adverse effects. The risk is there, and it is certainly higher than in normal tattooing, but there is risk in everything. Many tattoo artists will agree to work with UV inks if requested, and it should be no great difficulty finding one to do your piece should you choose to go this rather original route.