Critiques

Why Ephemeral Tattoos Can Set you Free This Summer 2021

ephemeral tattoos

Our correspondent Julie Chang Murphy had an exclusive interview with Josh Sakhai, one of the co-founder of Ephemeral, and got the 411 on what are Ephemeral tattoos and how they work.

One of the greatest joys in life is making a spontaneous decision on whim. A last minute trip. A dress that you must have but don’t really need. Eating the cake (always eat the cake!)

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A tattoo has long been an infamous example of a rash decision that lasts a lifetime even as they have become more mainstream and even a symbol of luxury. But the founders of Ephemeral are looking to change all that. Developed over six years by Dr. Vandan Shah and Dr. Brennal Pierre, their medical grade, biodegradable solution gives you a real tattoo (needles and all) but only lasts one year. The studio, located in Williamsburg in New York City, is currently the only one of its kind so we went right to the source because we had a few questions before taking the plunge. Here is our exclusive interview with Josh Sakhai, one of the co-founder of Ephemeral.

ephemeral tattoos

Store located in Williamsburg in New York City. Courtesy Photo.

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1. This sounds too good to be true! Can you explain how the ink works?

To understand how Ephemeral ink works, it’s helpful to explain why permanent tattoos are permanent. A permanent tattoo uses ink that goes into the dermis—the layer just below the outer skin. The thing that makes permanent tattoos permanent is your body’s inability to break down the dye. Traditional tattoo ink clumps together; too large to be removed, your body “walls off” the area, and the ink stays.

In contrast, Ephemeral tattoo ink particles break down over time and become small enough to be removed by the body. The rate at which this happens varies from person to person.

Ephemeral tattoos are applied by tattoo artists the same way as a traditional tattoo ink but are formulated to have a shorter lifespan – giving you the freedom to get tattoos without a lifetime commitment.

ephemeral tattoos

Store located in Williamsburg in New York City. Courtesy Photo.

2. Is the ink safe?

Our ink is made of medical grade, bioabsorbable, and biocompatible polymers, with carefully chosen high-quality pigments that are routinely used in foods, cosmetics, and other products. Our ink was developed over six years— with research and testing comprising more than 50 formulations—by Dr. Vandan Shah and Dr. Brennal Pierre, who are also part of the founding team of Ephemeral. Together, we have tested it on ourselves in the form of over 200 tattoos combined. Additionally, we’ve initiated an IRB approved clinical trial to scientifically validate the safety and efficacy of the ink.

3. Are there any limitations a client should be aware of?

The ink is designed to be just as versatile as traditional tattoo ink, although it’s important to note that the speed at which an Ephemeral tattoo fades (9-15 months) varies depending on the tattooee’s unique skin type and the placement of the tattoo, so some areas will fade a bit faster than others. We also don’t recommend getting tattoos on your face and hands because these are sensitive areas that we’re all washing more frequently since the pandemic.

ephemeral tattoos

Store located in Williamsburg in New York City. Courtesy Photo.

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3. I know that Ephemeral only focuses on custom designs. Who are your tattoo artists?

All Ephemeral tattoo artists are real tattoo artists with years of industry experience. Our current team includes Naomi “Nomi” Ayala, Marissa Lee (MVRISSV), Chelsea Brooke, Gusti Negara, Nasty Summer, Phil Young, Tslil Tsemet, and Malachi. We have a dedicated Instagram account (@ephemeraltattoo.artists) where you can learn more about them and see their incredible work. Currently, more than 70% of our artists identify as BIPOC and 50% identify as female. This is quite the opposite of the norm in the industry, and we see this as an extension of our focus on creating a tattoo space that’s supportive and inclusive, not just for clients, but for all working in the studio.

Tattoo artists of the store located in Williamsburg in New York City. Courtesy Photo.

4. What trends are you seeing in terms of graphics? What is your customer liking for the summer?

Flowers, botanicals, and subtle wrist and forearm tattoos are big this Spring as people get ready to show off in the warm weather – rolling up their sleeves and celebrating nature in the city. We’re also seeing clients lean in to the temporary nature of Ephemeral, choosing a yearly mantra or goal for their made-to-fade as inspiration for the year to come.

Fashion trend tattoos. Courtesy Photo.

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5. And if you end up falling in love with one of Ephemeral’s temporary tattoos, can you get it again?

We encourage people to get as many Ephemeral tattoos as they want, but the number of tattoos you’ll be able to get in one sitting will depend on the exact design you want, and will be determined in-studio with your tattoo artist (we’ll try to be as accommodating as we can!).

If your tattoo has faded, you can absolutely get inked in the same place again. Lots of our clients use Ephemeral as a path to permanence – i.e. testing out designs they may want to get permanently.

Real talk: As much as I am an admirer of my friends’ tattoos and the art of tattooing, I have never seriously considered getting one myself. Ephemeral is a game changer though and I’m going to spend the next month going deep into the tattoo art canon to come up with some inspo. Here are some of my favorites from their instagram. For reference, small and simple line designs are priced at $175 – $225; statement pieces feature more complex, medium to large designs at $350 – $450.

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This article contains affiliate links to products independently selected by our editors. As an Amazon Associate, Dandelion Chandelier receives a commission for qualifying purchases made through these links. 

Crediting her training as a cultural anthropologist at Wellesley College, Julie has immersed herself in various industries in the last 15 years including fashion design, event planning, and fitness. Julie lives in New York where she loves trying every ramen and dumpling restaurant with her husband and three children. She finds joy in bold prints, biographies of fierce women, kickboxing. And spending way too long finding the perfect polish color to express her mood.

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