Ephemeral “Made-to-Fade” Tattoos Linger Far Past Expectation


Intended to fade with time, Ephemeral tattoo advertises “regret free” needlework that won’t last. Despite their guarantee that the tattoo will fade completely, clients are claiming that the temporary tattoos aren’t fading fast enough for comfort.

Ephemeral tattoos are performed the same way a normal tattoo is, with the ingredients in the ink intended to make the difference.

Why are Tattoos Permanent?

Ephemeral tattoo are still going to be putting ink into the dermal layer of the skin, beneath the surface, with a series of needle pricks. In a normal tattoo, that ink is comprised of solid pigments suspended in liquid. That ink stays present despite our cells dying and being replaced.

The FDA has warned before about how some pigments in tattoos are also used in printer ink. Because tattoos aren’t regulated, there are also concerns about allergic reactions and infections. This is why Ephemeral Tattoo advertises that its ink contains only FDA-approved ingredients.

We really don’t know as much about tattoos as scientists would like, especially given we’ve been giving them to each other for millennia.

In 2018, a French research team discovered that during the immune system response to a tattoo (a tattoo is thousands of tiny wounds after all), the ink particles were consumed by white blood cells called macrophages. Macrophages are basically the vacuum of white blood cells. They are responsible for eating and digesting microorganisms and debris in our bodies. When they eat ink, though, it doesn’t break down.

Instead, when the macrophage dies, the pigment is released and consumed again by a new macrophage.  So, an Ephemeral tattoo is trying to make an ink that can be broken down by our bodies. The only problem is that isn’t happening fast enough for some customers.

Customer Regret

Over two years after Ephemeral Tattoos opened in Brooklyn, customers have taken to Reddit and TikTok to criticize the pieces that have refused to fade.

The studio initially advertised a window of 9-15 months for their tattoos to fade. But many are reporting dark, visible tattoos lingering into the two-year mark. Rather than regretting nothing, as Ephemeral claimed they would, consumers are put-off by the look of their tattoos as they begin to fade and the reality of just how long they can last.

The r/Ephemeral_Tattoo reddit is filled with negative posts outlining a dislike in artistic quality on top of the fading problem. They also note that an uneven tattoo application has led to a particularly spotty fading. Others share their photos of bold, dark line tattoos going strong with minimal fading well over 15 months.

Just this past February, the New York Times reported that the company’s tagline has changed. Initially advertised as tattoos that would be “gone in a year,” that time-line language is now gone, leaving only the made-to-fade guarantee.

They also reached out to customers February 3rd to amend their “regret nothing” policy to assure consumers refunds if the tattoo lasted longer than three years or less than one year.

Takeaway

Nearly all the posts about Ephemeral Tattoos on the Reddit are overwhelmingly negative, and the photos show that even when working as intended, the fading process isn’t pretty. It won’t be like you’re turning the opacity of your tattoo down until it’s gone; it will spot, break apart, and fade unevenly.

Additionally, the company itself is continuing to move the goal post back for how long it takes these designs to fade. Despite initially being advertised as a one-year tattoo, they have changed their language after discovering how long they can last.

Ephemeral Tattoo asks you to consider the opportunity cost of not needing laser removal down the road when you consider their price point, which is on par with a real tattoo at a reasonable studio. But if the fading process is unsightly and it lasts longer than you want, is it worth that?

Additionally, their refund policy claims to make whole the promise to “regret nothing” from these tattoos, but does that really erase all regret when that tattoo is still on your body?

There are options for temporary tattoos if you’re interested in trying a design or placement. These are applied to the top of the skin and fade within a few weeks. So far, these are the only truly temporary tattoo options and the only ones that can be truly regret-free.

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