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Oct 09

UV Blacklight Parties – What You Need to Know to Glow

uv blacklight parties melbourne

It’s true – blacklights are AWESOME. Add expertly applied fluorescent makeup, and you have yourself a party! As a UV effects specialist, I paint at a lot of blacklight events throughout the year and they are always a blast. Seeing fluorescent makeup glow fiercely under a blacklight blows people’s minds and really gets a party started!

The complication is that a lot of people don’t really understand how it all works. Blacklight makeup works under some pretty specific conditions, so it’s not uncommon to get it wrong if you’re not an expert. And let’s face it, few are! I spend a lot of time advising my UV clients on what they need to get the right effect, and find that many of these questions are common to every party. So if you’re thinking of throwing a UV blacklight party, here are a few basics you need to know first.

1) What blacklight services do you offer?

As a huge blacklight nerd, I have the most comprehensive UV makeup service in all of Melbourne, if not Australia. I offer:

  • UV face painting and body art – for all ages, water based, washes off easily same day.
  • UV temporary tattoos and airbrush makeup – for older kids or adults, waterproof, lasts 2-7 days.
  • UV glitter tattoos – for kids, waterproof, lasts a week or more.
  • UV body painting – for adults, using a variety of products based on the client’s requirements.
  • UV Chromadepth(tm) 3D effects – view your UV art in 3D with special glasses
  • UV face & body art workshops – for face and body artists who want to improve their UV skills.
  • UV consulting services – for clients running UV/blacklight events who want a deeper understanding of UV and Chromadepth effects.

There’s something for all ages, all tastes, and all requirements.

2) Does the makeup glow in the dark?

No, it doesn’t. This is a really important point. Glow-in-the-dark is also called phosphorescence. This is where you charge the substance up with a light source, then the substance will glow after the light source is switched off. There is no such thing as glow-in-the-dark makeup that glows in different bright colours. Most glow-in-the-dark makeup glows a soft pale green, and it’s not very bright. It looks boring and blah, and just doesn’t have any bang for your buck!

To get that bright colourful glowing effect that we all know and adore, the makeup we use is fluorescent (also called neon, fluoro, UV-reactive, dayglo, etc.). Things that are fluorescent only glow when you shine ultraviolet light on them in a dark environment. For fluorescent makeup to glow, you need your venue to be:

  1. Darkened with little or no visible light or daylight present; and
  2. Fitted with UV blacklights.

Without getting all Wikipedia on your butts, this is because the pigments in the UV reactive makeup only give off light as the light from a UV blacklight hits them. If you switch off the blacklight, the makeup stops glowing too. Similarly, if your venue is full of daylight, there’s too much visible light interfering with the effect and it looks washed out and boring. So make sure it’s dark, and make sure you have blacklights!

3) What’s a blacklight?

Also called an ultraviolet lamp, UV light, or party bulbs, blacklights are special lights that emit safe UV light (invisible to the naked eye), while filtering out as much visible light as possible. You can hire them from a party lighting place, usually in the form of long fluorescent tubes, or LED lights. You can also buy them in the form of energy saving fluorescent party bulbs if your space is only small.

You’ll need multiple blacklights in every room of your party venue to make sure that you have UV light shining in every direction. Position a blacklight up high in every corner of the room shining in towards the centre. This will ensure that everything glows no matter where someone is in the room.

You don’t have to go to great expense, either! If you book a party with me I can offer advice on where to buy or hire lights to suit your space and budget.

4) Will blacklights give me cancer?

The short answer is no. Not with the kind of UV light blacklights emit, the low intensity that they emit, and not in the short period of time you’ll be under them.

But here’s the long answer for those who are interested. UV light is an invisible light that is present in regular daylight. UV rays from the sun constantly bombard our planet, so you are soaking them up every day in different intensities. There are different types of UV light, each with their own benefits and drawbacks.

The types of UV light that you do have to worry about are UVB and UVC. These are mid- and short-wave kinds of UV light, emitted by the lights in some tanning beds (UVB) or germicidal lamps (UVC). UVB is the type of UV that gives you sunburn from exposure to sunlight and directly causes skin cancer. UVC is also emitted by the sun, but luckily the ozone layer prevents UVC from reaching us. Lamps that emit these types of UV light are dangerous to skin and eyes with short-term exposure. But don’t worry – they’re not used for party lighting effects!

The kind of UV emitted by blacklights for party effects is long-wave UVA light, which is very close to the visible light spectrum and considered the least harmful. The benefits include increased vitamin D, serotonin and melanin production. The drawbacks? Studies have shown that, while UVA light doesn’t directly cause cancer, it can cause indirect DNA damage that can cause premature ageing and produce chemicals in the body that can contribute to causing cancer with long term exposure. You can read more about it here.

Before you freak out just remember: The studies focus on UVA light from the sun. Blacklights don’t produce as much UVA output as the sun, so you aren’t exposed to the same levels of UVA. It’s the dose that makes the poison. Commercially available blacklights emit amounts of UVA well within the limits of what’s considered safe for frequent exposure. You won’t be under blacklights for very long at a party, either. So if you wouldn’t worry about a sunny afternoon walk in the park, then you shouldn’t worry about a few hours of exposure to UVA light at a blacklight party.

Of course do your own research if you’re concerned, and at the end of the day if you’re not convinced – wear a good high SPF sunscreen! It’s a UV ray blocker. But bear in mind that it may also affect the efficacy of your fluoro makeup.

5) Will all white clothing glow under a blacklight?

Not all. It depends on what the manufacturers used to whiten the fabric. So advise your guests to wear fluoro clothing to your party if you want them to glow. And just to make extra sure everyone has a touch of glow no matter what they are wearing, hire a UV makeup artist or two to make sure no-one misses out.

6) Can we buy our own fluoro paint and just do it ourselves?

Well of course you could. But do you really know where to start and what to buy? Be careful – there are lots of substandard products out there that are not safety tested for use on skin. Professional UV makeup artists only use safety-tested fluorescent special effects makeup. We also have the mad skills to make it look awesome, instead of looking like a glowing skid mark. You’re better off spending that budget on an experienced artist.

7) What should we use if we want to throw fluoro paint around at our party?

NOT CRAFT PAINT. It’s not safe for skin, it’s hard to remove, and if it gets in someone’s eye they will probably have to go to hospital to have it irrigated. Not fun! You’re better off buying skin-safe liquid body paint, and watering it down a little before throwing it around. Safety first – wear proper eye protection and make sure you don’t cause slip hazards.

And remember, you can’t just throw that stuff around anywhere, especially in a hired venue, and especially not near your makeup artist! This can contaminate their products, as well as ruin their equipment, outfit, and their night, so that’s a huge no-no. You’d be liable for any damage caused, so keep that paint throwing contained, yo!

8) Our party is outdoors. Will this pose a problem?

Yes. Two problems actually! For one – you need to be able to adequately control the lighting conditions, which can be tough outdoors. Especially when daylight savings comes into play. This is also an issue if you choose an indoor venue with lots of windows or skylights and your party starts before sunset.

But the biggest problem with UV parties outdoors? BUGS. Moths, flies, mosquitoes, midges, and all sorts of gross creepy crawlies are SUPER ATTRACTED to blacklights! It’s hardwired into their brains to fly towards UV light. That’s how bug zappers work. Throw a blacklight party outdoors, and your guests will have moths taking kamikaze flights into their faces every thirty seconds. Not good. Keep your blacklights (and your UV makeup artists) indoors with fly screens firmly shut.

9) What kind of venue do I need to look for?

Any indoor venue that can be completely blacked out is ideal. If your party starts before sunset, you will need to make sure that your venue has at least one area that can be completely blacked out and set up with blacklights so that your guests will glow. When you’re inspecting your venue, keep an eye out for windows without shutters, and for skylights. Even bright street lamps shining through a venue’s window after dark can interfere with the glow effect, or ambient light from an adjacent room, so avoid these when choosing a venue.

10) Why is UV makeup more expensive than normal face and body art?

Because the specialist products are more expensive, it requires specialist lighting and equipment, and specialist skills that not everyone has. I also spend more time giving advice to clients on UV effects compared to normal bookings. So our price is very slightly increased for all the extra awesomeness you receive.

11) How far in advance should I book a UV makeup specialist?

As soon as possible! There aren’t many of us around, so our services are in high demand. I recommend confirming your booking at least 8 weeks prior to your party date, possibly further out if your party falls within the super busy silly season from September to December.

I hope that this has helped! If you have something to add, leave it in the comments below and I may add it to this article. And if you’re having a blacklight party and want us to come along, drop Suedy a line today to talk about how we can help.

Or, if you’re a face and body artist wanting to learn more about blacklight effects, check out my workshops page for upcoming dates.

Suedy @ Juicy Body Art

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