I recently fulfilled a dream and got a real, made-to-fade tattoo.
The ink, which is designed to be broken down by the body, was designed by Ephemeral.
While they applied the tattoo with a needle and ink, it's supposed to disappear in under 15 months.
I've wanted a tattoo for years, but I've never been able to take the leap and commit to inking myself for life.
It's daunting! Thinking about the fact that something you want right now might not be something you want at 80 years old.
I'm also an extremely indecisive person, which means that even though I had an idea of what tattoo I wanted, I could never convince myself that I was sure of where I wanted it, what I wanted it to look like, or if I really did want it at all.
As I got older and watched as more friends I knew got inked, and made new friends with people who had multiple tattoos all over, I grew more and more of an itching feeling to get it done myself. But still, I wished I could get one that lasted for a few years rather than a lifetime.
I even started to experiment with more adult versions of temporary tattoos from Inkbox, which I loved, but those were more like stickers that faded too quickly after a week or so.
When I heard about Ephemeral, I felt like I had the opportunity to test out this semi-lifelong dream.
I started to see ads for Ephemeral (a company that developed made-to-fade tattoo ink and has studios in six US cities) on TikTok and Instagram. I was intrigued, but also skeptical. After all, I've gotten got by influencers and their trendy-looking products before.
But when someone I knew had a good experience, I felt like this could be a real option for me. So, I did some more digging.
With each testimonial I read and each video of tattoo progression from day one to month 15 I saw, I grew more confident in this product.
Out of curiosity and a desire to dip my toe in and see what I would be getting myself into, I paid a $20 refundable deposit and filled out Ephemeral's online quiz to see how much more this would cost. (The deposit would eventually go toward the final payment of my tattoo.)
After filling out questions on placement, size, and design inspiration, I was told my tattoo fell under the "subtle" category. I received a price quote of between $195 and $245. (In the end, my tattoo ended up costing $295 total.)
I wasn't quite sure how ink could be designed to fade over time, but the Ephemeral website breaks it down a bit.
According to the company's website, the ink particles Ephemeral uses are designed to shrink over time, which the company says allows your immune system to remove them from your body.
While the site is very clear in saying fade-time varies depending on everyone's own body, the company estimates every tattoo will fade away in the timeframe of nine to 15 months from when you first get inked.
"But don't worry: your Ephemeral will disappear," the site reads.
There are five factors that the brand says affect how quickly these tattoos fade: placement, body response, skin tone, aftercare, and design.
Prospective clients can book an appointment after paying the $20 deposit, taking a design quiz, and snagging a time slot during the weekly Thursday appointment drops.
Typically, prospective clients have to wait for appointment drops and book far in advance, but I happened upon a promotion that allowed me to book an appointment immediately.
A brand representative told me that Ephemeral runs and tests different promotions often, and I happened to find it during one of those times. I booked around one week in advance, which gave me plenty of time to finalize my idea for a design, but not enough time to second-guess myself and back out.
On the day of my appointment, I arrived at the NYC studio and immediately was impressed with the atmosphere.
My local New York Ephemeral studio is in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, just a short walk from the ferry I took from Manhattan.
As I approached the studio, I saw that even the outside of the space looked on-trend with its chic millennial pink and black color-blocked brick and simple signage.
Inside, there was a lounge-looking waiting area with free snacks, candy, and a mini-fridge of beverages.
The couches and comfortable chairs, marble coffee table, plants, and coffee-table books made this space feel like a living room, which put me and my never-before-tattooed nerves at ease.
A candy cart featured throwbacks like Bazooka bubble gum, candy cigarettes, and staples like chips, nuts, and protein bars. There was also a bowl of Laffy Taffy on the coffee table.
The mini-fridge featured boxed water and Arizona tea products.
After checking in, a team member came over to explain the process and how Ephemeral ink works.
She walked me through a tutorial on how the ink at Ephemeral differs from permanent tattoo ink.
Then she told me what I could expect from my consultation with the artist, how I should take aftercare seriously, and asked if I had any questions. It was pleasant and relaxed and kept me at ease.
But at the end, she mentioned how if I wanted to make any major changes to the artist's design, I'd likely have to rebook the appointment. This made me worried.
Then, my designated artist came over to show me the design he came up with based on the survey I filled out. It didn't match my vision and I started to stress.
The first time I saw his design, my heart dropped. It wasn't what I had envisioned at all and my over-anxious personality kicked into high gear. I was torn between being nice and just saying OK, and actually asking for what I wanted.
Thanks to years of practice and making the wrong decision with that, my logical brain won and I vocalized my concerns. After three rounds of edits — and a sketch from my friend who I brought for moral support — we landed on something that looked like my ideal sketch, but even better.
The artist was accommodating and was able to execute my vision, all I had to do was communicate it clearly.
I moved into one of the tattooing stalls to get started.
The space was set up with a mirror, a horizontal bed that looked like it belonged in a doctor's office, and trendy-looking cabinets stocked with supplies.
It felt clean and the aesthetic put me at ease.
The first step was deciding what size design I wanted.
He had printed out three different sizes of the design stencil and held them up for me to choose from. I landed on the biggest one, which is around 1 inch long.
Then the artist prepped my arm for the tattoo.
He used a cleanser as well as a razor to shave the spot on my arm where the tattoo was going to go. The artist was intentional about not using numbing cream, though.
Thankfully, I didn't feel like I needed it.
After placing the stencil, the artist prepped his ink and needle and I started to invoke my yoga breathing techniques — I was nervous!
Once the area was cleaned and ready to go, the artist placed the stencil and transferred that washable ink onto my skin.
Then, he poured out some of the Ephemeral ink into a vial so he could easily dip the needle and complete my tattoo.
I knew it was almost time for the poking to begin, and I felt my heart rate increase. I turned my focus to my breath and tried my best not to think about the impending pain.
But once he started using the needle, I was shocked at how manageable I thought the pain was.
My toes were curled and my hand was gripping the fabric beneath me so hard that my knuckles turned white.
But once the artist started, I was pleasantly surprised with how little it hurt.
Don't get me wrong, it was definitely painful. But it mostly just felt like I was being scratched by a cat over and over again. I noticed that it hurt the most when he was going over a spot that he had already poked — I thought the new strokes were less painful.
The tattooing process itself took around 15 minutes.
I was thrilled that this barely took much time at all. But, that's also because I got a small tattoo.
Larger tattoos are known to take hours and can even happen over the course of several days or weeks depending on the design.
Once the artist was done, an employee came over to explain aftercare and teach me how to apply the safety patch that would protect both the design and my skin.
It was clear that the team at Ephemeral takes aftercare very seriously. There were three different people who mentioned how important it was.
They explained how the hydrocolloid bandages (referred to as HC patches in Ephemeral-speak) are an important part of keeping my tattoo clean and helping it heal.
The patch felt strange on my arm, but it never fell off — even when I took a hot yoga class.
Wearing the patch was like having a jelly-like extra layer of skin on part of my arm. I was impressed that even the heat of a yoga class or the water in my shower didn't cause it to peel off at the edges, though.
I wore my first patch as instructed for two days until I swapped it out for a fresh one for another two days.
Each patch filled with a light-blue liquid and felt warm to the touch, but the website and the Ephemeral employee warned me this would happen and that it was a normal part of the healing process.
With Polaroids and ring-light stations, there are plenty of ways to get your perfect social-media shot.
Since I first heard about Ephemeral on social media, I wasn't surprised that the studio was primed for Instagrammable and TikTokable moments.
There was a ring light, a painted brick wall, curtains, and loads of other props and spaces where customers could find the right lighting and curate the perfect shot.
After living with my tattoo for a month now, I can say that I'm thrilled with the finished product and it was exactly what I needed to feel confident in taking the plunge.
Over a month out from when I first got inked at Ephemeral, my tattoo is looking good and I'm so happy with it.
There are little details I would change about the design and its placement, but that's why I'm so glad this tattoo is only temporary. If I choose to get it again, or make it permanent, I can make adjustments.
Getting a tattoo that I knew would fade away at some point was an amazing feeling going into it. I was way more at ease and confident in my decision knowing that, worst case scenario, it's not permanent.
So for anyone who, like me, is unsure of whether you want a permanent tattoo, or if you just want a fun design that you don't want to be there forever, I think Ephemeral is a great option.
The only issue is now I want more.
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