Will I have a scar after my Ephemeral tattoo fades?

To answer this question, this post will touch upon the most common skin markings that can result from tattooing and how we approach skin care to mitigate unwanted permanent skin markings. By the end of the post, my goal is for you to be knowledgeable about the potential effects of tattooing (permanent or Ephemeral) and why we approach skin care the way we do.

There are two types of skin markings that we’ll review in this post:

Scar - A growth of tissue that marks the spot where your skin has healed after injury or trauma and is permanent. It is basically what is left after your body tries to mend itself and is an indication that your body has repaired itself. Visually, a scar is identifiable by disruptions and changes to the skin pattern. For example, bulging or sunken skin is typically associated with injuries from acne. Scarring can sometimes appear magnified or diminished depending on skin type and skin tones, and the color of the scar can also be different compared to the surrounding skin and the texture too might appear smoother. Scarring can occur for a variety of reasons, such as a result of a surgical procedure, mechanical trauma, infection, disease (e.g chicken pox), or inflammation of tissues.
Hypopigmentation and Hyperpigmentation - Refers to when the skin lightens (hypo) or darkens (hyper) as it heals, in response to an injury. Both are sometimes loosely referred to as scarring, but are actually distinct types of skin markings. For the purposes of this post and for simplicity, when we speak of hypo or hyperpigmentation we are referring to skin markings where the skin pattern is intact but has lightened or darkened. This lightening or darkening of the skin arises when there is too little melanin (hypopigmentation) or too much melanin (hyperpigmentation) produced at the site of injury. Hypo or hyper pigmentation is a natural part of healing after injury has occurred. It typically goes away within a year but can last longer, and appearance can depend on your skin type. Scarring on the other hand takes a longer time to fade and never fully goes away. All of these outcomes vary due to the individual’s unique skin physiology and processes.

Images of hypo and hyper once the ink has faded

Now that we've established the two common types of markings that can occur, we can talk about why they might happen in tattooing.

Contributors to skin markings

Needles are placed too deep: The needle transferring the ink is placed too deep in the skin, below the dermis. Tattoo artists refer to this as a “blowout”. When this happens, the ink is deposited in the fatty layer of the skin and spreads out, leading to a blurred line effect, basically compromising the crispness of your tattoo. Tattoo artists pay close attention to maintaining the proper depth while transferring the ink to the skin so as to avoid blowouts. Let’s keep in mind, the more damage done to the skin, the greater the likelihood of scarring.

Overworking the skin: Overworking the skin can also lead to undesirable healing and a greater chance of skin markings. “Tattoo overwork” usually happens when, in an attempt to create a desired effect such as a fully saturated line, filling or shading, the needle is passed over the skin too many times or sometimes too deep, traumatizing the skin more than necessary. Tattoo overwork can also come about because of bad or damaged needles. The effect of overwork is also an aesthetically unpleasing tattoo that may appear blurred or distorted – there might also be the presence of deep lines or holes in the skin, where in the very worst cases, scarring can also occur. When tattoo overwork occurs, your body has to do more to restore your skin to its original state.

Adverse Response to the Ink: Another source of scarring in tattooing can come from an adverse response to the ink, where an aggressive or prolonged immune response occurs. A prolonged immune response can have a similar effect to overworking the skin. Tattoo allergies can come from specific components in the ink or from the needle in cases where an individual is allergic to a particular metallic component the needle is made of.

Improper aftercare: An infection at the site of the tattoo can also precipitate a prolonged immune response, as your body battles to care for the infected area. When the inflammatory phase of healing persists for too long, the underlying tissue becomes overly traumatized, and can potentially lead to scarring. To ensure infections are non-existent, at our studios every employee in contact with the ink or supplies has been trained and is certified in dealing with bloodborne pathogens.

How do we approach tattooing and caring for your skin when our ink is made-to-fade?

Tattoo artists are working with a live organ that can respond in many many different ways and the interaction between needle and skin, ink and skin and artist and client, all contribute to the outcome. Akin to a surgeon, who is using a scalpel and requires optimal conditions, focus and care to improve the chance of a successful procedure – tattoo artists too require the same. Tattooing involves needles piercing the skin thousands of times, with approximately 1 to 2 mm of skin thickness to work with, which is only about 10 to 20x the thickness of your hair. That's incredibly tiny and speaks to the tremendous talent tattoo artists have.

With this in mind, we take the risk of skin markings seriously because unlike a permanent tattoo, there won’t be Ephemeral ink leftover to mask any potential markings. We also know that most of our community is trying on a tattoo for the first time, so we’ve worked diligently to ensure that we mitigate as much risk around scarring as possible.

Practiced Techniques: As a general rule, we prohibit techniques where the probability of ink being transferred well to the skin is low and where trauma to the skin is too great to obtain the desired artistic effect. That’s why, we use stippling and hatching to obtain shades and depth as a substitute for other techniques that might require more trauma to the skin. We also avoid sensitive areas, where healing can be a bit challenging and the outcome most likely unwanted – high motion and friction areas, joints, ankles, etc – more on this in another post. Our hope is that the totality of these measures reduces the occurrence of overworked tattoos.

Artist Training + Quality Equipment: All of our artists undergo a rigorous onboarding training process with our ink and have many years of previous experience. Once an artist is hired, they participate in weekly quality reviews with fellow artists, ensuring we are promoting a culture of shared knowledge.
In addition to the training, we provide high quality tattoo equipment for our artists to mitigate overworking of skin. This includes needles and tattoo machines that give our artists better control of their work. In-house testing has shown that the machines we’ve invested in are:

Better able to transfer ink to the skin. They are more precise and allow more control over the amount of ink applied. Together, with well executed techniques, this means reduced trauma to the skin, and a higher probability for successful healing.

Easy to work with. They are battery operated and equipped with wireless technology, which means less cords and therefore less potential points of contamination .

Aftercare: We invest heavily in our tattoo aftercare to optimize every client's healing experience. Our aftercare regimen is crucial in improving the odds of a desirable healing journey and should be followed as closely as possible, if not precisely. We’ve spent enormous time developing it so that there’s a greater chance of a desirable end result after your Ephemeral tattoo fades away.

Information provided to Ephemeral: We encourage clients to email us to share skin sensitivities such as allergies to adhesives from bandages or skin conditions caused by mechanical trauma (e.g keloids). In situations where you reach out and we do not have experience on a particular issue or are not knowledgeable, we will recommend seeing your physician or dermatologist before proceeding with a tattoo.

So, will there be any marks on my skin once my Ephemeral tattoos fade?

The simple answer: It’s possible. Even after the measures we take, it’s possible that some people may see skin markings after the tattoo ink disappears while others will not. The more important distinction to make is the type of skin marking. As mentioned earlier, the more common markings you may experience after your Ephemeral has faded is hypo and hyper pigmentation which will typically go away, while scarring on the other hand can take a much longer time to disappear or may never go away.

Closing remarks

As is the case with fading, each person’s physiology is different, each situation is different, and so outcomes on skin markings can vary even when best practices are strictly followed or the best equipment is used. We’ve taken every prudent and conceivable step to minimize the risk of scarring, but we cannot guarantee that an unwanted outcome will not occur.

In scenarios where scarring specifically occurs and is confirmed, we research the tattoo (from artist to design to equipment to aftercare) and try to identify the root cause so that we can improve our approach.

This was one of our most requested posts. Hope this helps.