Tattoos have long been popular to illustrate belonging to a group, think of your favorite Uncle with a Navy ship or service motto, or to declare a frame of mind, like the legendary arm artwork on bikers from the 50s and 60s. Today tattoos are mainstream and clearly an artistic extension of individual personality. Modern designs can be bold and rebellious, sweet and sentimental or whimsical. Some even glow under certain conditions. It seems like an unbeatable combination:  a well inked tattoo with exciting glow in the dark effects. But can tattoos really glow in the dark?

While we do not supply these inks, we still love discussing anything and everything that glows, especially when well designed. So what are glowing tattoos, are they all the same, and what should I know about them?

Glow in the Dark or UV Reactive?
Full-body-tattoo-from-Ozy--225x300Understanding what tattoo artists mean by “glowing tattoos” can be a bit different from what you may expect. There are two types of glow effect ink — true glow in the dark tattoos and UV light reactive tattoos.

True glow in the dark tattoos are created using normal ink with added phosphorescent pigments. Phosphorescent inks can be safely used for many applications, but are not commonly accepted as a safe material suitable for tattoos. Most tattoo artists are not willing to do true glow in the dark tattoos due to safety concerns with this type of ink on human skin.

True glow in the dark ink will radiate visible light on its own in darkness after being energized by a light source.  For example, after spending some time in the sun, you decide to go for a walk on a dark beach. A glow in the dark tattoo would be completely visible in the darkness.
Tattoo-Application-300x200The second option is called a UV reactive or blacklight-reactive tattoo and is more commonly available in the US. This type of tattoo is created with special fluorescent inks that glow only under UV lights or blacklights. Nearly invisible in normal darkness or regular lighting, these tattoos come alive when placed under a UV or black light. Created using fluorescent inks, many consider them safer than glow in the dark phosphorescent inks. Certain everyday items have a degree of fluorescence and also glow under black lights, such as tonic water, petroleum jelly, highlighters or even a plain white T-shirt.

Points to Consider: UV reactive tattoos are harder for the artist to apply because the ink is thinner than normal ink, so they will likely cost more. As with all tattoos, there may be some slight scarring. UV reactive tattoos are most visible if there is no regular tattoo covering portions of it. Additionally UV reactive tattoos are currently harder to remove should you change your mind later on.

Why choose a glowing tattoo?
glow-in-the-dark-forearm-tattoo1-300x300UV reactive tattoos can be designed to look like normal tattoos under natural light (or be completely invisible) but show their glow and beauty under specific types of light.

If you work in a corporate job where tattoos are frowned upon, you can still show your ink at a club staged with black lights. The UV ink does not show under daylight and won’t interfere with your image in the office. But at night when the party gets going, you are ready to show off your glow.

They’re also ideal if you want to add a hidden “special” effect to your tattoo — for instance a glowing flame coming out of a skull, or highlighting your light saber with glow in the dark effects!

Although we have not personally seen them, celebrities Lil Wayne, Kim Kardashian and Lindsay Lohan are all reported to have glowing tattoos.


To Glow or Not?

When choosing your tattoo, especially if you decide to go for a glowing one, you should carefully weigh the pros and cons. Although not for everyone, glowing tattoos can look amazing and may help you stand out in the crowd. Fluorescent inks now come in a variety of colors, so you could choose a design using normal inks and request fluorescent colored ink to highlight just certain areas. Bear in mind however, that no matter how trendy, some tattoo artists still refuse to do them, as the technology is quite new and not entirely tested.

If you’ve set your sights on a glowing tattoo, you can check some clever and eye-catching designs here: