Move Over Nail Art, Temporary Tattoos Might Be the Next Big Trend

I love tattoos, much to my father’s dismay. I think they’re really cool. Some people say it’s too daunting to decide if they like something enough to wear on their skin forever, and I get that. It makes sense. But that’s not my problem. My struggle is more so that there are so many I’d like to try. Am I a fine line type of gal? Or would new school pieces suit me better? Can I get a mermaid pin-up? Or does that make me a bad feminist? I find myself wishing I could test out styles, designs, and placements without having to make a permanent decision. It’s less about being indecisive and more about being curious.

If only there were a way to use tattoos the way we use jewelry or makeup, a way for tattoos to be just another accessory to play around with.

Oh, wait. There is. Temporary tattoos, people! Why are they given to kids but not adults? The logic there makes very little sense. I propose that temporary tattoos should be “the next big thing.”

woman with an ephemeral tattoo

Courtesy of Ephemeral Tattoo

Let’s start with the basics by addressing the different types of temporary tattoos. On the first tier, there are the classic temporary tattoos you’re probably familiar with from childhood—the kind that your best friend’s mom applied to your forearm with a wet paper towel. (Hello Kitty tramp stamp, anyone? No, just me? Cool.) The middle tier is where we start to edge into semi-permanence. Think henna, but also Inkbox. If you haven’t heard of it, Inkbox is an online store where you can choose from thousands of temporary tattoos that last from four to six weeks. (You can also upload your own design if you want something custom.) These are a great middle ground if you’re looking for a relatively inexpensive way to try a tattoo on for size without committing to it. Not too long ago, that was as close to a real tattoo as you could get—but not anymore.

Ephemeral Tattoo is a real tattoo studio, with real tattoo artists, and real tattoo guns, giving real tattoos. Except, these tattoos are “made to fade” after nine to 15 months. Yes, you read that right. It’s just like getting a regular tattoo, except the bio-compatible ink is engineered to break down naturally and dissolve over time. Why didn’t anyone think of this brilliant idea sooner, you ask? Beats me.

(As of now, you can find Ephemeral studios in Brooklyn, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Atlanta, but they pretty much open wherever there’s demand. So if you’re interested in bringing it to your city, it’s as easy as putting down a deposit. Ephemeral designs start at $195 and include tip.)

woman with an ephemeral tattoo

Courtesy of Ephemeral Tattoo

“The thing about Ephemeral is that it allows anybody to have the experience of a tattoo, whereas in the past there was a lot of either personal restrictions,” says Kate Messinger, head of content at Ephemeral, citing that people often can’t decide what they want or are hesitant to ink themselves for life. “Or sometimes it’s your family or your religion that keep you from getting a tattoo,” she continues. But with Ephemeral, the old rules don’t apply, and that takes the pressure off.

“People really like this idea of no regrets,” Messinger says. “Our tagline is ‘Regret nothing.’ You have that freedom to really do whatever the fuck you want. I think people like that. You don’t have to make a big decision that’s going to affect you for the rest of your life, it’s just something you can have fun with.”

Whether you’re using it as a test drive before sitting for that 6-hour back piece, or you’re someone who would never even consider a permanent tatt, temporary ones (of any degree) provide a whole realm of possibilities.

In this age of TikTok aesthetics, ✨vibes✨, and trends that change faster than anyone can keep up with, it only makes sense to dip into this pool of self-expression. If I want to channel Angelina Jolie in her Billy Bob Thornton era today, but I’m more into Hailey Bieber’s dainty hand tatts tomorrow, who says I can’t have it all? Picking an ink based on my outfit du jour? Yes, please.

ephemeral tattoo

Courtesy of Ephemeral Tattoo

“It’s a great way to play into a trend,” Messinger confirms, meaning all of the Y2K faves are cool again—including that Hello Kitty tramp stamp. “There are so many things that are already trending in the zeitgeist that people translate to tattoos, like angel numbers. Especially because our tattoos last about a year or so, people use our tattoos as a way to have a mantra for the year…After it fades, you could get something totally different.” So if your focus for 2022 is self-love, you could get a reminder of that and still switch it up when a new affirmation comes along. Or, if you want your boyfriend’s name on your ribs just until you upgrade, you can do that, too.

Whatever you go for, it’s mandatory to snap tons of pictures. The ink will fade, but selfies are forever. Below, find some of my favorite temporary tattoos available to shop right now. Look at you go, trendsetter.

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