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What’s the Deal with Ephemeral Tattoos?

The idea that a design or image could be permanently inked on one’s body is enough to discourage many people from getting tattoos. But, what if tattoos weren’t so permanent? 

That’s exactly what Ephemeral tattoos promise. Ephemeral tattoos use a type of ink designed to fade, eventually disappearing completely. Ephemeral tattoos are advertised as “made to fade” nine to 15 months after application. For anyone unsure about getting a tattoo, it’s seemingly a great way to try out a new design before committing to new ink.

Ephemeral tattoos have gone viral over the last few years, and not always for the right reasons. Some customers claim their tattoos haven’t faded as promised. Let’s dive deeper.  

What are Ephemeral Tattoos?

Temporary, fading tattoos use a special type of ink sold by the brand, Ephemeral. This proprietary ink comprises medical-grade, bioabsorbable and biocompatible polymers with pigments often found in foods, cosmetics, and other products. This technique mimics getting a permanent tattoo — needles and all. But, Ephemeral’s “Regret Nothing Guarantee” promises that 70% of customers can expect to fade in under two years.

“Our ink breaks down and is naturally removed from the body at a non-linear rate, which means that the fade may be drastic at first and then appear to be slowing later,” says the company website.

Ephemeral tattoos have exploded in popularity, with celebrities like Rumer Willis embracing the trend. It’s estimated that more than 10,000 people have inked an Ephemeral tattoo since 2021. For many people, the fading of their design is a relief. Others love their Ephemeral tattoo so much that they commit to permanent ink. Ultimately, the flexibility this ink offers is what makes it so appealing. 

How long does it take for Ephemeral Tattoos to fade?

Unfortunately, consumers who don’t see the tattoos fading as promised have criticized the brand. Earlier this year, The New York Times and The San Francisco Chronicle profiled unhappy customers who haven’t seen their tattoos disappear as promised. A Reddit group hosts consumers that share their struggles with lasting Ephemeral tattoos. One commenter even asked if it were possible to use laser removal to get rid of her so-called fading tattoo. 

The company says multiple factors can influence the fading time of the tattoo. “The fade time also depends on how big your tattoo is, the placement you chose, and what design you got,” said Ephemeral’s Head of Content, Kate Messinger in Paper Magazine. “If the lines are thicker, it’s going to last longer because there’s more ink; if it’s more exposed or it’s in an area that’s constantly rubbing against things, it could potentially make it fade faster. It really depends on the person and placement and also how you take care of the tattoo.” 

If you’re considering an Ephemeral tattoo, research and speak to a qualified Ephemeral tattoo artist who can tell you what to expect. You might consider getting a tattoo in white ink instead — some consumers say these tattoos also fade over time and are more subtle. Ultimately, the decision to get a tattoo is a personal choice. Do what works for you!

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