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Check Out These Spook-tacular Glow in the Dark Tattoos This Halloween

Words by Rosalie Hurr
Check Out These Spook-tacular Glow in the Dark Tattoos This Halloween

If you grew up with glow-in-the-dark stars on your ceiling, then glow-in-the-dark tattoos are for you.

Let's talk about UV ink tattoos, glow-in-the-dark tattoos use UV and neon ink to create a bright, luminescent effect.

We chatted to tattoo artists Vanessa Monday (@vanessamonday) and Amanda Carmel (@0uchless) to find out more about these spook-tacularly unique tattoos.

How do tattoos glow in the dark?

First up, the title "glow in the dark" tattoos is actually a little misleading. It's only under black light (also called UV-A light or ultraviolet light) that these beauties come to life. The inks contain naturally fluorescent pigment which makes them glow. In a normal dark room or at night, these tattoos don’t actually glow.

However, they still look pretty rad even in normal light as you can see from the pics below...

Vanessa uses both UV-reactive ink and neon to create the glowing effect. The UV ink she uses "appears neon when not under UV lighting so you can get the best of both worlds."

"Sometimes, I'll tell my clients to get a tiny UV keychain so they can show it off as a fun party trick!” she adds.

Are UV tattoos safe?

UV inks are a fairly new venture in the tattoo world, so it’s understandable you might be worried about how safe these are. Tattoo artist Vanessa explains that “the inks are generally safe to use if you’re a professional.”

Amanda adds that “in the US, no tattoo inks are regulated by the FDA, but that doesn’t mean they’re not safe. These inks have been around for years and I have never heard of someone having a skin reaction.”

Tattoo by Amanda Carmel

 How to find a tattoo artist who does UV ink tattoos

Searching social media is a great way to find tattooers who work in niche styles. When choosing a tattooist to do your glow-in-the-dark tattoo, check their portfolio. Make sure they’ve done them before, and if you’re not sure ask any questions when you book in.

You’ll want a tattoo artist with experience as Vanessa explains that “sometimes the ink does run a little thinner than ordinary ink so your artist would have to make sure to not overwork the skin when tattooing.”

Amanda agrees that "sometimes UV inks can be a little more difficult to work with than non-UV colours due to the consistency of the ink.” These tattoos are also done in a different order to normal tattoos. "For a non-UV tattoo, tattooers do the lines, shading, and colour, then you’re done. With UV tattoos we do lines, shading, colour, then UV." So you’ll want to choose a tattoo artist with experience with these inks and processes.

Tattoo by Amanda Carmel

How long do they last?

How long a glow-in-the-dark tattoo lasts, depends on how well you look after it during the healing process and beyond. There are ways you can fight fading, but Vanessa explains that ultimately how long your tattoo lasts varies from person to person.

“How long they last depends on each individual. The neon sign I tattooed on myself has lasted about four years to date. But some people may require a touch-up, it all depends on your body and how it’s deposited into your skin.”

Tattoo using UV ink under normal light (Artist: Vanessa Monday)

 Amanda’s oldest UV ink tattoo is about nine years old and still very bright. Her advice is about sun protection. "Similar to white and yellow, UV inks will be the first to fade if you like to be in the sun a lot. I recommend wearing at least 30 SPF (any reputable brand) to help protect your tattoos," she says.

Can glow-in-the-dark tattoos be removed?

If you’ve changed your mind about your glow-in-the-dark tattoo you can get it removed the same way you can a normal tattoo - with laser removal. Speak to a tattoo laser removal specialist to find out what options are available to you.

How to care for glow-in-the-dark tattoos

When it comes to caring for your new UV tattoo you should always follow the advice given to you by the tattooer that did your tattoo. Amanda says that you don’t need to do anything differently, “use the healing method your body likes the most, and they will heal up just like any other tattoo.”

The general tattoo aftercare rules apply:

Wash your tattoo, pat dry, and apply aftercare cream.

- Don’t submerge it in water or in the bath
- Don’t pick or scratch your tattoo

Where should I get a glow-in-the-dark tattoo?

You can get a glow-in-the-dark tattoo anywhere you like; they’re popular on arms, fingers, faces and behind ears. You could get it somewhere UV light will hit it when you’re in a nightclub or rave.

How much are glow-in-the-dark tattoos?

How much these tattoos cost depends on your tattoo artist. Many will price based on size, placement and detail. Some price on how long they take as well. Vanessa reveals that "they take about the same as a normal tattoo, but I do take my time with the saturation which is extremely important."

Your tattooer will be able to let you know how much your glow in the dark tattoo will be during the booking process.

Glow in the dark tattoo designs

Inspiration for glow in the dark tattoos is everywhere. From moons, constellations and lightning bolts to dandelions, script and fish, if you can think of it then a tattooer that specialises in UV tattoos can tattoo it.

Tattoo artist Vanessa finds that "neon signs and psychedelic art are at the top of my inspiration list." Meanwhile, Amanda loves "vintage Halloween imagery, and those themes that really lend themselves well to UV inks... sort of creepy, cute, magical stuff - witches, jack-o-lanterns, and so on." 

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