The tattoo that you don’t have to commit to: Real tattoos made to fade in a year

Date:12 July 2021

If the art of getting inked, par the side effects of a lifelong commitment, sounds like music to your ears, you might be eager to learn about the US-start up that is capitalising on the concept of ink without commitment.

The Brooklyn-based tattoo shop, Ephemeral really embodies the “here for a good time not a long time” concept, creating tattoo artworks that will leave your skin after a year, or that lasts between nine and fifteen months.


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The special formula. 

Watch out Mr-Krabs, there’s another secret formula on the loose.

According to Wallpaper, the fade-able ink was developed in-house by two chemical engineers and a team of dermatologists. The reason regular tattoos stay permanent is due to the ink particles that are too large for the body to break down. However, Ephemeral’s genius formula sees smaller particles that are consistently broken down and absorbed by the body. Ephemeral spent over six years developing the special formula.


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How it works. 

The ink will get consistently lighter over time. But you don’t have to worry about splotchy breakdowns or strange discolourations, Wallpaper writes.

Just like a regular tattoo session, there are still needles. Ephermal’s unique ink can be used in traditional tattoo guns. However, Ephemermal advises avoiding designs with shading, and to rather focus on line work.

In ‘tattune’ with the times. 

The times we’re in see body and beauty modifications like tattoos present, and it speaks to the world at large being more freely expressive. Tattoos can mean whatever you’d like them to, or mean nothing at all. The times are liberal. Whether you’d like to take a leaf out of Dua Lipa’s book and get a tattoo that reads “this tattoo means nothing“, or follow the ink path of the guy you know sporting a tiny pizza slice decorating his foot, it won’t last! Perhaps getting your love’s birthdate on your forearm is your virtue, but you’re worried the relationship could turn rocky. Again, the tattoo at least, won’t last.

Society and trends are moving quicker than ever because of the Digital Age. Wouldn’t it be a thrill to get inked with something that means a lot to you now, without the weight of having to carry it forever? It may sound like the end of the romance of commitment, but it’s also an opportunity to express all the different eras of yourself.



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One client @ezrabookman summed up her reason for getting a temporary tattoo pretty succinctly when she expressed that she got a doodle by her two-year-old niece whose art will be completely different by the time the tattoo fades. It’s a concept of carrying something with you for all the beauty it had at that time, and then allowing space for the new.

It’s quite exciting to think that there is the possibility of one day looking back at old photographs of yourself, to see your 20s tattoo collection versus your 30s and so on.

Millennials are the majority of the client-basis but Ephermal is already betting on GenZ to join the bandwagon once many of them turn 18.

What scares people from dressing up in ink? 

“A third-party study commissioned by Ephemeral found that 60 million Americans have considered a tattoo but are deterred by its permanent nature,” according to Fin24.

Beyond individualistic claims like changing ones mind, there are other, sometimes far more pressing deters when it comes to getting inked. Cultural and religious reasons, family disapproval, certain industries still shaking their heads at the ink (some members of the modelling industry for one).

This is the ‘problem’ Jeff Liu, the CEO is proud to have solved. A temporary tattoo done in Ephemeral’s way is a halfway point between forever and never if anything.


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It’s a breakthrough industry. 

Financially, the investments that the concept has attracted are over R285 million according to Fin24.

According to Ephermal the goal right now is to expand “wide and quickly” to enter as many markets as possible. The predominant focus is on reinventing the tattoo studio experience too. Additionally, the funding is to go to coloured ink and a second studio in Los Angeles.

A more inclusive tattoo culture.

Ephemeral is the “first tattoo brand to offer a guaranteed salary to tattoo artists,” says co-founder Joshua Sakhai. Most tattoo brands work on the “commission or profit-sharing setups of traditional street shops,” he notes.

The majority of their staff are women but also part-time artists and guest artist collabs.

“Ultimately we get really jazzed up about a world where people can more authentically express who they are,” says Sakhai.

Picture: Instagram @ephemeraltattoo

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