Everything you need to know.

person getting tattooed at ephemeral studio

Ephemeral Ink

Ephemerals are designed to last up to three years.

There are five primary factors at play when talking about tattoo longevity.

Tattoo Design - thick vs. thin lines, shading, size
Placement - where the Ephemeral is on your body
Aftercare - how you take care of the tattoo
Skin physiology - unique to each individual
Immune system - unique to each individual

8% of clients can expect their tattoos to fade within one year, 76% within two years, and 98% within three years.

The materials used in Ephemeral ink are commonly used in food, cosmetics, and medical devices, are 100% vegan, and utilize plant-based ingredients wherever possible. We spent the first three years of our research before opening studios testing and selecting the safest materials to use in our ink. We do not use heavy metal components or components known to be carcinogenic and teratogenic. As with all cosmetics, allergies or other adverse responses may arise. We recommend color and patch tests before use. “Although a number of color additives are approved for use in cosmetics, none is approved for injection into the skin” by the FDA. Please see our guidelines for use and placements. Ephemeral tattoo ink is supplied in sterile form and for single use only.

If you have an adverse response please contact your tattoo artist, your doctor/healthcare provider and reach out to us at hello@ephemeral.tattoo.

Our ink consists of two primary components: 1) ink particles that are made from medical-grade bioabsorbable polymers (the same materials used in medical sutures) and color additives used in food & cosmetics. 2) water-based carrier solution to disperse ink particles.

In addition, we use plant-based ingredients wherever possible and avoid heavy metal or animal-based components.

Yes, our ink is vegan—we do not use any animal-derived ingredients or byproducts.

All Ephemeral tattoos are currently done in black ink. Not only is it the most popular color, it’s preferred by most tattoo artists and looks fantastic with fine line work.

We are developing Ephemeral color ink (hint: 🔴). It’s a delicate process and takes time, but it’s on the horizon. Sign up for our newsletter in the footer to be the first to hear when new Ephemeral colors become available!

Ephemerals are real tattoos that naturally fade over time. We apply Ephemeral ink the same way a traditional tattoo is applied; an artist uses a needle to transfer ink under your top layer of skin. It feels just the same as getting a traditional tattoo, but lasts much longer than a skin surface temporary tattoo.

Unlike traditional tattoo ink, our ink is biodegradable.

How’s that possible? Ink particles (both permanent and Ephemeral) are hydrophobic, which causes them to aggregate into particles too large to be immediately removed — traditional permanent ink stays in this aggregate form while Ephemeral ink gradually breaks down into smaller particles, water, and carbon dioxide over 3 years. The degradation and removal of the ink is carried out by our body’s natural mechanisms.

Ephemeral tattoos were developed through years of testing and research by Ph.D. graduates of NYU Tandon School of Engineering, launching their efforts to develop a made-to-fade tattoo in 2014. Many cultures and religions do not support tattoos — Ephemeral’s founders, who grew up in traditional immigrant households, wanted to develop a biodegradable tattoo ink that would break down barriers and stand for self-expression.

The first three years of Ephemeral’s history were spent on research, identifying materials either naturally occurring or commonly found in FDA-approved products, in order to develop the ink. We wanted to be sure that Ephemeral ink would be the safest in the world; free of metallic, carcinogenic, and teratogenic components.

The materials used in Ephemeral ink are commonly used in food and medical devices, are 100% vegan, and utilize plant-based ingredients wherever possible. We voluntarily conducted a clinical study approved by an Institutional Review Board (a governing body of the FDA) as well as a safety study in partnership with Henry Ford hospital, also approved by an IRB.

Yes, Ephemeral ink works on all skin tones. Ephemeral tattoos applied to skin with more melanin may fade faster than on skin with less melanin.

No matter your skin tone, your Ephemeral will completely fade!

If you are interested in getting the tattoo, you can book with our approved Artist Partners, each of which are authorized to use Ephemeral ink. Find an Artist here.

If you are a tattoo artist interested in using Ephemeral ink, you can apply to become an Artist Partner here.

We have developed, FadeMark™, the first ever semi-permanent radiotherapy tattoo.

Learn more here.

Fade Information

Our ink is biodegradable. Ink particles (both permanent and Ephemeral) are hydrophobic, which causes them to aggregate into particles too large to be immediately removed — traditional permanent ink stays in this aggregate form while Ephemeral ink gradually breaks down into smaller particles, water, and carbon dioxide within 3 years.

Made-to-fade ink that looks just like a conventional tattoo — the perfect balance between a temporary tattoo and a permanent tattoo.

YES, all Ephemeral tattoos will completely fade away.

Given the physical and chemical nature and degradation rates of components in our ink, it is impossible for an Ephemeral tattoo to be permanent. Our medical grade polymers are the same as those used in sutures, which naturally break down and are removed by our bodies.

Ephemeral tattoos will break down and be naturally removed by any living human being with water present in their body ← you qualify!

Everyone’s fade will look a little different. Our How It Works page dives into fade variation, fade journeys, and how different bodies work through different types of Ephemerals.

The first thing you’ll notice when your Ephemeral starts to fade is a change in ink saturation, which typically means a shift from dark black to light gray.

Our ink breaks down and is removed from the body naturally—no two bodies are the same—but if you want your tattoo to fade quicker, make these considerations when designing/placing your Ephemeral:

Placements along the upper torso, ribs, sternum, inner arms, and inner biceps tend to fade more quickly. Designs using fine lines and little to no shading fade more quickly.

Our ink breaks down and is removed from the body naturally—no two bodies are the same—but if you want your tattoo to fade slower, make these considerations when designing/placing your Ephemeral.

Placements further removed from the core of the body tend to fade more slowly — areas like wrists, thighs, and ankles often take longer to fade than a tattoo on the rib cage or the neck

Designs using thicker lines, deeper details, and lots of rich shading fade more slowly

How your design affects your fade is simple; as you add more ink to the tattoo, you’re generally adding time to the fade. If you want a design with a short fade, consider something simple with fine linework and less detail. If you want a design with a longer fade, opt for heavy detail, shading, and heavy linework!

Our Artists

We evaluate tattoo artists on their technical, artistic, and customer service skills. Our three most important selection criteria are:

  • Proven expertise in black linework across a range of styles. We love artists who flex their creative muscles and always impress you.
  • A steady hand to make clean lines with consistent ink saturation. This ensures a perfect, consistent fade over the lifetime of your tattoo.
  • Creative thinking and stellar people skills. We listen to you and take in your inspiration to create unique custom art while providing a great experience, no matter what studio you’re visiting.

Yes! Explore our list of partner tattoo artists here who are licensed to carry Ephemeral's Made-to-Fade ink! You can see their styles and preferences and book directly with that artist.

If you have a favorite artist already that isn't an existing Ephemeral Artist Partner, ask them to start the process here. We vet all of our artist's skills and quality before adding them to our lists for you to reach out to.

Tattoo Questions

It really depends on your personal pain tolerance and where you’re getting tattooed (on your body, not the location of your studio). For most people, arms and legs are typically less painful compared to ribs and more bony (or sensitive) areas like elbows and knees.

Tattooing is often described as feeling like a scratch and vibration sensation at the same time. Some people can relax into the sensation and fall asleep, while some do better with distraction techniques.

Some tips on making things easier:

  • Eat and hydrate before your appointment
  • Don’t be afraid to take breaks! When you need a minute to adjust, your artist will always take the time and care you need to stay comfortable throughout your appointment

Tattoo aftercare is whatever you do after getting a tattoo to make sure it stays healthy and heals well — we’re here to help you with that! We use hydrocolloid patches while healing because they are known to help wounds heal 40% faster than other techniques. We’ll also send you home after your appointment with a goodie bag so you don’t have to sweat the details: Extra hydrocolloid patch, anti-itch cream, gentle soap, and all the instructions you’ll need for the (very simple) healing process.

There are many reasons why people get an Ephemeral over a traditional tattoo, but here are some of the most common reasons:

  • Experiment w/o commitment — Thinking about getting a tattoo but not sure if it’s the right lifelong commitment to make? Want to try a tattoo in a specific placement? First time tattoo and not 100% on how you’ll feel about it? Lots of reasons!
  • Express who you are today — Never look back on a tattoo with regret! Ephemerals let you keep up with tattoo trends without regretting past aesthetic choices. Ephemeral tattoos can help show off who you are today without permanently showing off who you were.
  • Shared Experience — Want to celebrate a special occasion? Get matching tattoos with friends or family? Have an inside joke you want to rock for a few years, but not forever? Ephemeral makes that choice easy.
  • Cultural/Religious reasons — If your culture or religion is traditionally anti-tattoo, Ephemerals let you dip a toe in the water without completely committing. We find a lot of Ephemeral wearers have traditional/strict families or parents and Ephemerals help them understand the choices we make with our bodies.
  • No laser removal — Laser removal is expensive, takes a lot of time, and hurts like hell. Skip the pain, all you need is patience.

You can expect a friendly, easygoing experience! Our goal is to help you connect with talented artists that have amazing styles and skills, but are also easy to talk to.

There’s more about how an appointment looks in the question above, but at its simplest: Reach out to an artist with your tattoo idea, our artist works with you to make sure it’s perfect, you pick a placement (if unsure, your artist can help), and then your artist will take great care to make sure you are comfortable during the tattoo. Be honest with them about how you are feeling, it is okay to ask for a break if you need a minute. Lastly, your artist will give you the information you need for aftercare.

Pay attention to healing your tattoo and following instructions as best you can. The better you heal, the more your tattoo will fade evenly and lessen the effects of possible scarring. (Don't pick at your skin while your tattoo is healing!)