Down Low Glow-in-the-Dark Tattoos - OZY | A Modern Media Company


Because you get all of the benefits of ink without all the jail time and unemployability.

By Eugene S. Robinson

“I have a tattoo!”

Glasses, bro patch, ginger hair, pale skin, perfect for tattoos really except for one small and noticed fact: ”It seems you don’t have it where I can see it, which means I probably don’t want to see it, do I?”

“It’s on my face.”

“I’m looking AT your face. Seems I see nothing outside of your face and so….”

“No. It’s all over my face. It’s a tattoo of a skull on my face.”

It’s binary at this point: he either has one or he does not, and from the looks of things he does not, so as we make ready to take our leave he digs our clear cut confusion and explains, ”It was done with glow-in-the-dark ink.” And there it is.

Glow-in-the-dark ink and/or ultraviolet (UV) ink is a twist in the approximately $1.65 billion spent annually in the U.S. on tattoos. Spent by? By the 23 percent of Americans who are sporting some body ink. While there’s a certain ubiquity to tattooed arms, legs, torsos and any and all available appendages with skin on them these days, there’s still a professional resistance to them in the workplace. Sixty-one percent of (we’d guess non-tattooed) HR managers said in a survey that a tattoo would hurt a job applicant’s chances. And this is up from 57 percent in 2011.

The very human desire to memorialize certain life milestones by getting a tattoo endures, but so does the desire to pay your rent. 

The very human desire to memorialize certain life milestones by getting a tattoo endures, but so does the desire to pay your rent. Which makes the glow-in-the-dark tattoo make all kinds of Tom Edison sense.

Glow-in-the-dark tatts, made with phosphorous inks that sometimes require they be created IN the dark, are making inroads; even if a Google search yields lots of pages questioning their safety. But lest you chalk that up to the newness of phosphorous body ink, consider this semi-stunning revelation: the FDA does not regulate any tattoo inks, actually. The public complaints just fall far short of this being a major public health issue.

The more you wade into the trenches, the more the premise grows uncertain. According to Brian Hutflies, owner of Alameda Tattoo in Alameda, California, “I have a tat with a Florida orange that used to glow, but that only lasted a few years.” Looking to confirm this personal experience, Hutflies and a coworker experimented with some UV ink additives for their customers (no price hike to be a test subject), but also met with mixed results.

Tattoo prices vary widely depending on design, size, artist and geography, but most sources report that you can always expect to pay more, maybe even double, for UV ink. And that’s if you can find a tattoo artist near you who offers the stuff. So if you can live with the extra expensiveness and, oh yeah, you don’t mind them being inherently unstable and possibly unable to keep their glowy-in-the-darkness, then get in line with those who want to ink up boldly, on their own terms. For however many years they last.

But, hey, if fashion was going to be easy, then EVERYone would do it.

“Was it worth it?”

”You can only see it when I am in a dark club with black lights, and as luck would have it that’s when I need it the most, so YES.”

OZY has spoken.

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