Ephemeral Tattoo says its ink is designed to disappear in less than two years.
Written by Daniella Byck | Published on
Photo courtesy of Ephemeral Tattoo.
If you’re a commitment-phobe toying with the idea of a tattoo, there’s a new studio in town for you. Brooklyn-born Ephemeral Tattoo is now open on H Street, offering tattoos intended to fade between one to two years after they’re applied. The company says its proprietary ink gets broken down by the body like dissolvable stitches do, eventually leaving behind a blank slate.
Ephemeral co-founder Jeff Liu says the majority of customers have never gotten a tattoo: “Every customer kind of expresses the same thing: They’ve always wanted to take control of their identity and their individuality with body art, but they’re always fearful of it being on them forever,” says Liu. He describes Ephemeral’s mission as giving these people the ability to transform their bodies into an ever-changing canvas without long term implications. (Yes, that means you can get an en-vogue lower back tattoo without having to worry about when the trend will cycle back.)
The process begins online, where tattoo hopefuls upload inspiration and references to guide the design. Ephemeral’s artists are trained in a range of styles including traditional, fine line, anime-inspired images, and more. Once you’ve submitted a request, an artist starts working on options.
Inking takes place in a semi-private space, and like a permanent tattoo, a needle transfers designs onto the skin. There are limitations: Currently, you can only get a black ink tattoo, and specific locations (such as fingers and hands) are not available. While the company is working on a faster removal process, for now the only way the tattoos fade is with time.
Last month, a New York Times article shared testimony from people who received tattoos at other Ephemeral locations that did not fade in the nine- to 15-month window they were originally promised. One person’s tattoo, a small matchstick, was still present after 22 months. When asked about the article, Liu acknowledges the problem.
“When we went to market, we launched with a fade range of about 9 to 15 months, which is what a majority of customers could expect,” says Liu. “That testing primarily tested for variables around skin type. We did not test the full range of designs that we now see in the real world. The range of permutations has become much broader.”
The company emailed customers on February 3 with a new policy: If your tattoo lasts more than three years, you get your money back. (Liu notes that 70 percent of customers should still expect their tattoos to fade in less than two years.) On the other side, if your ink lasts less than a year, you can get a free tattoo. The email also featured an educational component about how different placements and shadings can impact fade time. Your tattoo, Liu says, will one day fade away completely.
After getting inked, customers are sent home with a goodie bag filled with after-care products like anti-itching cream and moisturizer. If needed, a free touchup is available within 60 days. Tattoos cost between $195 to $550 depending on the size, design, and location.
Ephemeral Tattoo. 1300 H St., NE. 202-923-5723.
Daniella Byck joined Washingtonian in 2022. She was previously with Outside Magazine and lives in NoMa.