Try a Tattoo Without the Commitment

By: Madison Palmer  | 
Ephemeral Tattoo
(From left) An Ephemeral tattoo just after it was completed; after five months; and after nine months. Ephemeral Tattoo

When I was much younger and wanted to get a tattoo, I was given some great advice: Wait one year to decide because it will be on your body permanently. I did just that and waited the 365 days before I pulled the trigger and I've never regretted it.

But what if I still wasn't sure? Is there another option out there? In fact there is. Like so many other things that have innovated over the years, so has the tattoo. Instead of going the permanent route, there is now a tattoo designed to fade over time. It's called Ephemeral and the idea is that you don't have to commit. Instead it lets you try out a design without having an eternal relationship.


How Ephemeral Tattoos Works

Ephemeral ink is applied the same way as any other tattoo — no pain, no gain, right? But this ink is made of the same Food and Drug Administration-approved plastic used in pills so it biodegrades as the immune system breaks it down — typically about nine to 15 months, but that depends on various factors. The polymers and dyes in the ink come from natural sources and are also used in food, cosmetics and medical devices. The ink is also vegan, and wheat- and gluten-free.

Our bodies can have different reactions based on where the tattoo is applied, its design (the more ink used, the longer it takes to fade), our skin tone (more melanin may mean a faster fade) and aftercare (pay attention to this just as you would a permanent tattoo).


A rep from the company told us some clients have reported significant fading in two to three months, while others haven't noticed much of a fade for six to seven months. This can also be related to the factors mentioned above, as well as the immune system response and skin physiology.

There are currently studios in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Atlanta and Houston. You can make reservations online.


Why Get a Fading Tattoo?

Ephemeral ink might be a safer option than a permanent tattoo, as it doesn't use metal-based pigments or paraphenylenediamine, a chemical used primarily as a dye.

Smaller Ephemeral tattoo designs seem to be best, as are less decorative designs, as some Redditers have commented that the ink is thicker than normal making more detailed tattoos difficult. Others have posted about their tattoos not fading — even a year later.


Jeff Liu, CEO of Ephemeral Tattoo responded on Reddit Aug. 4, 2022, saying, "How much ink can be transferred to the skin plays a big role in fade times and artistic integrity as the tattoo fades. Inconsistent transfer will have a patchy fade." He also suggested the company has a "next generation" of ink they are testing, and will soon have color, but neither are fully optimized for client use quite yet.

So the bottom line is, Ephemeral tattoos are a pretty good option if you're still antsy about getting a tattoo that will last forever. They allow you to dip your toe in the water, so to speak, and decide if that's as far as you're willing to go.