February 2, 2023

Couple smiling

The tattoo removal process isn’t nearly as glamorous as the ink we aspire to have. Typically, getting rid of ink involves intense pain, potentially permanent skin damage, and a commitment of sessions required for complete removal. After dealing with their own terrible tattoo removal experiences, the founders of Ephemeral Tattoo began thinking about what they could do to change the process.

“We asked ourselves: Why are tattoos so hard to remove?” Josh Sakhai, a co-founder of Ephemeral, tells Byrdie. “Why isn’t there something that gives people the ability to express themselves without the commitment?” After seven years of development with those questions in mind, Sakhai and his team launched and created Ephemeral Tattoo, the first made-to-fade tattoo studio.

The Ephemeral Process 

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, a striking 42 million people, aged 20 to 55, state the number one reason preventing them from getting a tattoo is permanence. Research also shows 78% of people with tattoos regret at least one of them. Ephemeral looks to change remorse by offering semi-permanent ink targeted at people who want tattoos without a long-term commitment.

Since starting development in 2014, the brand has generated over 50 formulations in partnership with Dr. Dhaval Bhanusali, a board-certified dermatologist, before landing on the most effective one. “We’ve done over 100 tattoos amongst myself and my co-founders to develop the ink we use today,” Sakhai explains. The inks then went through an IRB-approved clinical study to analyze the safety and efficacy of the ink.

The study included participants with skin types ranging from 1 to 5 on the Fitzpatrick scale, which is used in dermatology to determine how skin responds to light. Each participant received two tattoos made of two separate formulations, one lasting longer than the other. “Preliminary data over the first four months (when adverse responses are most likely to occur) were very promising,” co-founder Dr. Brennal Pierre says. “Along with the plethora of safety data and information on the components of the formula, assured us it was time to bring our product to market.”

What Makes The Ink Temporary?

Ephemeral Tattoo

You may be wondering, what sets the formula apart from traditional tattoo ink? Ephemeral’s ink is made of FDA-approved materials that are medical grade, bioabsorbable, and biocompatible. In addition, the formula contains polymers with carefully chosen high-quality pigments routinely used in foods, cosmetics, and other products.

“A permanent tattoo uses ink that goes into the dermis—the layer just below the outer skin,” Sakhai explains. “What makes them permanent is your body’s inability to break down the dye since traditional tattoo ink clumps together and is too large to be removed, resulting in it staying on your skin.”

Sakhai says Ephemeral Tattoo’s ink particles break down over time and become small enough to be removed from the body, typically within one year. The time it takes for your tattoo to fade also depends on the environment and physiology. “The process is contingent on placement, unique skin make-up, sun exposure, and design,” Sakhai adds.

One of the most commonly asked questions from customers is if Emphemeral’s ink hurts less than traditional tattoos. The short answer is yes. Ephemeral pieces are applied by tattoo artists using tattoo machinery. Therefore, the chance of pain and discomfort during the procedure is still likely. After your service, customers can also expect irritation, redness, and itchiness while the skin heals—all of which are consistent with traditional ink.

The Booking and Appointment Process

Tattoo room at Ephemeral Tattoo

Ephemeral currently has a months-long waitlist, which you can sign up for with a deposit on their website. Once you make your reservation, you are put on an eligibility list to book an appointment when times become available, typically every two to four weeks.

Then comes the fun part: creating your tattoo design. First, the studio design team works with the customer to design and select their tattoo before coming to the studio. Upon arrival, you can review your design, make any modifications, and then determine a stencil placement. After confirming your art, a licensed artist tattoos your skin at a private station. Once the artist finishes your tattoo, you’ll be given an aftercare goodie bag with materials and supplies to aid in the healing process.

“We take aftercare seriously and have done extensive research into supplies and processes to heal tattoos best,” Sakhai says. At the end of your appointment, the artist covers the tattoo with a hydrocolloid patch that creates an ideal healing environment for the skin. Goodie bags also include Green Goo (made with aloe vera, myrrh, and yarrow), Dr. Bronner’s Baby Unscented Pure-​Castile Liquid Soap ($16) to keep the tattoo clean, and Aveeno Hydrocortisone Anti-Itch Relief Cream ($5) to soothe itchiness or redness.

The Ephemeral Difference 

Ephemeral Tattoo

Aware of the intimidating atmosphere in traditional tattoo parlors, Ephemeral set out to create a studio where newcomers feel comfortable. “When we looked for our artists, we looked for artists who love and specialize in working with first-timers,” Sakhai says.

It was also crucial that Ephemeral tattoo prices be transparent to all customers. Their “no surprises” pricing falls into two buckets: subtle style and statement pieces. Subtle styles are typically small and simple designs, ranging from $175-$225. Statement pieces are medium to large and could have complexity and shading, so they range from $350-$450. “It was imperative to us to have total transparency around the cost of each tattoo and ensure the customer knows exactly what price bucket [they fall in] before coming in,” Sakhai reflects.

Ephemeral also has a unique no-tip policy and instead focuses on guaranteed compensation for their artists to encourage financial stability. “Our artists shared that some of the main challenges of their jobs were financial instability and lack of community,” Sakhai says. “When we heard these things, we decided to make investments in our artist’s experience.”