BTS Developing Ephemeral’s fading tattoo ink

Hi Redditors, I’m Brennal Pierre Co-founder and CTO at Ephemeral Tattoo. I’m not very active on social media, but wanted and felt the need to contribute to the ongoing discussions about Ephemeral Tattoo on Reddit because we’ve been seeing a lot of good dialogue here. My hope is to engage in a conversation more than anything so we can get feedback on our product and answer questions.

To start, here’s a bit about how we got started – how we got here, who we are and why we are here, our journey and the scientific process behind it all. Note: Our site doesn’t have all this background yet (something we are working on).

Seven years ago, while conducting research at NYU Tandon School of Engineering, an interesting problem was brought to my attention: Can we make tattoos disappear, without the help of laser surgery? My colleague and co-founder, Dr. Vandan Shah and I thought we had the solution to the problem, and so we embarked on this journey to create a novel tattoo ink, which does not require laser surgery removal. After years of research and testing (more on that in a moment), here we are today, the first tattoo ink that disappears by itself over time. What started for me as a purely technical problem, has blossomed into Ephemeral Solutions Inc, otherwise known as Ephemeral Tattoo.

The journey to getting our made-to-fade ink consumer ready was quite challenging. In the early stages of product development, the biggest problem was actually getting our tattoos to last long enough. While you may think that the difficult part is making the ink disappear, it is actually far more difficult controlling the fade. Our earliest ink only lasted a few days. With over 7 years of iterations, figuring out the relationship between ink and the human body, we were able to push it to weeks, then months. Here’s an early example on me:

Image of fade journey

As co-founders we wore each iteration before ever transferring to anyone else’s skin. We worked (and still work) with the medical community to ensure that we could provide the safest product and best aftercare regimen to work with our tattoos. We spare nothing to ensure our customers are satisfied.

The other challenge we encountered was making the ink feel easy to use for artists while also being able to execute a nice fine line. I recall working with a fine line tattoo artist years ago, who consistently gave us a 1 out of 10 for ink performance – those were tough times but extremely satisfying to get feedback on what we could do better. We have tried to keep the spirit of tattooing with permanent ink. Our machines and tools are all used with traditional permanent tattoo inks – the process is essentially the same. We’ve had the pleasure of working with lots of tattoo artists over the years, from the earliest stages, to make sure the ink felt good as an actual tattooing medium. Often we’d get feedback that the ink felt different or that we couldn’t make the types of lines the artists wanted.

In addition to artist input we pushed the boundaries, early and aggressively to find out what this ink could actually do. We wanted our ink to transfer similarly to traditional tattoo ink so that trauma to the skin would be minimized. We tried to understand what the ill-effects of a poorly executed tattoo would look like – we endured, what is known in the community as blow-outs. This meant driving needles into our skin, deeper than the tattoo artist would typically go, which oftentimes leads to scarring. Fast forward to today and we have an ink that transfers nicely to the skin, actually lasts long enough and is designed to last 9-15 months. This was achieved after years of tests done on me and my fellow co-founders, and, when we felt confident in the safety and efficacy of the formulation, only then did we begin additional trials on close family and friends, followed by clinical trials.

So then why does the fade time vary? Our skin is one of the most complex organs. And I’m sure everyone on this forum knows this from experience trying different skin products. What works perfectly for one may not work well for others. We learned that although we could vary the rate at which our ink breaks down, there’s still an intimate relationship between the way the ink breaks down and the immune system’s ability to remove the ink. Because of the variability in every human’s skin physiology and immune system, we can sometimes see huge differences in the way the ink fades. There are a plethora of other reasons for variation in the way the ink fades: the thickness of the line, if there is shading and the placement.

Questions? We’ve heard a lot of questions around scarring, sensitive placements, and tattooing on different skin tones. Do any of these feel like topics you’d like us to cover? I focused more on our history, the work behind the ink, and the fade for the first post but would love to address any concerns, fears or just questions you may have. I’ll do my best to answer each question with as much transparency without compromising intellectual property. I welcome questions from wearers of Ephemeral tattoos, anyone who is thinking about an Ephemeral tattoo and anyone who is skeptical of Ephemeral tattoos. My goal is to ensure that you’re as well versed on Ephemeral tattoos as anyone working at our company.

Brennal Pierre, Ph.D