UV Tattoos & Black Light Tattoos: Should You Get One?

  • Written By Dan Hunter on May 6, 2023
    Last Updated: November 26, 2020

If you’re a tattoo enthusiast, then maybe this sounds familiar. You’re always searching for new ways to make your tattoo stand out from the crowd. This has become an increasing concern against those within the tattoo community as getting inked becomes more mainstream. If everyone has them, then what kind of statement do they make?

Of course, the thought and personal symbolism you put into your tattoos still makes them unique and worthy of attention. But if you’re looking for new ways to experiment with body art, then this guide on UV tattoos and black light tattoos can provide you with just the information you’re looking for.

What Are Black Light Tattoos?

Black light tattoos are simply tattoos that glow when viewed under a black light, also known as a UV light bulb. Some of these tattoos are visible in daylight, and others are not. But they all glow under a black light.

UV tattoos and black light tattoos are two terms for the same thing. They are made with chemicals that react to ultraviolet light. Don’t let the word ‘chemicals’ scare you off. All tattoo ink contains chemicals.

These invisible tattoos are sometimes appealing to people who don’t want their tattoo to show up during the day. It gives you kind of a mysterious double persona, the day time you and the night time you.

However, if you plan to get a black light tattoo to keep it hidden during the day, then know that your tattoo will likely be visible while the skin is healing. There will be the usual inflammation and scabbing associated with new tattoos, and the outline will likely be visible.

One thing to know about black light tattoos before going in for one is that your tattoo artist will need to use a black light in order to give you the tattoo. Because the ink can only be seen under a black light bulb, it may take a little extra time for them to complete the work.

UV / Black Light Tattoo Ink – Is It Safe?

As long as you are getting your tattoo done at a reputable tattoo parlor that only uses FDA approved inks, then your UV or black light tattoo is made from a reasonably safe ink. Of course, everyone’s bodies react differently to various ingredients. So it is possible that you could be allergic to an ingredient in black light ink or have a reaction to it.

It’s worth noting that although the FDA approves inks as safe for human use, they do not approve any ink for injecting into the skin. But that shouldn’t scare you off from getting the tattoo you want.

People have been getting tattoos for centuries, and the FDA has a complicated approval process that also doesn’t approve certain drugs for all uses, even if the drug is approved for another use.

What that means is that just because a substance isn’t FDA-approved for a particular use does not mean it isn’t reasonably safe for that use.

Common reactions to black light tattoos

Here’s what might happen if your skin gets irritated or you have an allergic reaction to the ink:

  • Itching
  • Rash
  • Benign lumps where the ink clumped together
  • Blisters
  • Increased risk of tattoo infection
  • Skin pain

UV ink tends to be more likely to cause a skin reaction than regular tattoo ink. It’s important to remember, however, that these reactions can occur after exposure to any tattoo ink if your skin is sensitive to the ingredients.

How Long Do Black Light Tattoos Last?

Just like regular tattoos, black light tattoos are mostly permanent. Or at least that appears to be the case. Because these kinds of tattoos are a bit newer, there’s not a lot of evidence out yet about exactly how they will appear over long periods of time.

As more people get UV tattoos and this tattoo style has been around longer, we’ll have a better idea of how well they continue to light up under UV bulbs.

But if you’re thinking about getting a black light tattoo, it’s a safe bet that your ink will show up at parties for years to come, and you can always get the design touched up later, again, just like with regular tattoos.

How to make an invisible tattoo last longer

There are some steps you can take to ensure that your tattoo glows under the black lights for as long as possible.

  • Avoid long periods of sun exposure on your tattoo
  • Take care of your skin in general with good hygiene and moisturizing
  • Follow the aftercare procedures provided by your tattoo artist

Glow In The Dark Tattoos Vs. UV Tattoos

Although the effect from each is similar, glow in the dark tattoos and UV tattoos are made from different kinds of ink with different ingredients. Glow in the dark tattoos are often made from tattoo ink containing phosphorous, which has not been proven safe for use on skin. UV tattoos, on the other hand, can be made with an FDA approved UV ink.

Do not agree to get a tattoo made from any kind of glow in the dark, black light, or UV tattoo ink that is not safe for your skin. Phosphorous is known to cause cancer.

UV Tattoo Aftercare

The good news is that aftercare for a UV tattoo is pretty much the same as it is for any tattoo. You may just have a slightly longer healing time for your UV tattoo if you end up having a sensitivity or reaction to it. If you have a serious reaction, see a dermatologist. Here are standard aftercare procedures.

Remove the bandage

Smaller tattoos usually don’t require bandaging. But if you have a tattoo that covers a large area of skin, then the tattoo artist may have applied some kind of bandage or wrap to control normal oozing and bleeding. About 2 to 3 hours after getting the UV tattoo, you can remove the bandage.

Some people prefer to keep the bandage on overnight the first night after they get the tattoo, but that’s not necessary and may cause additional crusting that is more difficult to remove. If you do get crust or scabs, absolutely do not try to pull them off.

Clean The Area

After you take off the bandage, wash your tattoo with mild soap and water. Heavy fragrances, dyes, or extras like foaming beads or exfoliating crystals should not be in the cleanse you use on your new tattoo. Gently pat it dry.

As you go through the healing process, try not to let your tattoo spend too much time in water. That means avoiding long showers or soaking your tattoo in the tub.

Use only your clean hands to wash a healing tattoo. You do not want to scrub it with a washcloth, sponge, or loofah.

For crusting and scabbing, wash the tattoo a couple of times per day. If all the crust doesn’t come off, just leave it. Again, do not pick at it. It will eventually come off with the next washing. Once or twice a day is plenty for cleaning, as over-cleaning a tattoo can dry out the skin and slow the healing process.

Apply recommended products

Your tattoo artist will likely recommend some kind of protective balm or ointment to apply to your UV tattoo. This helps keep the skin protected during the healing process and prevents the formation of scabs.

The best tattoo lotion I’ve ever personally used is a vegan aftercare product called After Inked Tattoo Aftercare Lotion. This stuff works amazingly well during the healing process; not only by keeping your tattoo really well hydrated but also by soothing any annoying itching and irritation. When using it from the very start of the healing process, this lotion will help to decrease tattoo healing times and work towards eliminating any lingering dryness and scabbing.​ Click here to buy from Amazon.

Other gentle, fragrance-free lotions can also be used. These keep the skin moisturized so that your tattoo is less itchy and scabby as it heals. It is normal for some scabs to form. They should fall off on their own without affecting the tattoo.

Keep your tattoo out of the sun and water

This is especially important for summer tattoos. But know that excess sunlight, chlorine, and pool bacteria should all be kept away from your tattoo, which is essentially a wound on your skin.

A UV tattoo does not require exposure to UV light from the sun, and it does not have any special protection that regular tattoos do not.

The UV light from a black light bulb is not the same as UV exposure from the sun.

Sure, you don’t have to worry about an invisible tattoo not looking sharp and colorful if you don’t follow good aftercare, but the damage can be noticeable on your skin, and you can end up with gaps in how the design is seen under the black lights if you don’t take care of your UV tattoo.


Black light tattoos are a cool way to make your tattoo stand out from everybody else’s. The process is pretty similar to getting any tattoo. You have about the same risks associated with tattoos in general as long as you go to a reputable tattoo parlor, and you’ll need to make sure that you take care of your UV tattoo during the healing period. Once it’s healed though, you can light up the party scene when you’re under black lights.