Watch Our Beauty Editor Get a ‘Made To Fade’ Tattoo That Only Lasts a Year

I have regrets about my first tattoo: a white infinity sign with the word "life" in it that was etched into my wrist when I was a sophomore in college. At the time, it felt like something meaningful that I would want to look at forever, but a decade later, it's basically just a permanent reminder that 22-year-old me had bad taste and even worse decision-making skills. Truth be told, I cringe any time someone asks about it.

This "why did I do that?" feeling—which essentially powers the entire tattoo removal industry—is exactly what Ephemeral, the brand behind the viral "made to fade" tattoo, has set out to help people avoid. The company opened its first studio in Brooklyn in early 2021 (and has since added locations in  Brooklyn, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Atlanta) with a revolutionary concept: Tattoos that last for a year instead of a lifetime.

When I first heard the brand's tagline, "regret nothing," I felt like it was speaking directly to me.  I've always wanted to cover my skin in the type of beautifully-dainty body art that celebs like Hailey Bieber and Zoë Kravitz make look endlessly cool. Still, given my relationship with my first tattoo, I've been understandably scared to commit. Upon discovering that there was an option that would allow me to rock these types of tats for a single summer without worrying about whether or not I'd still like them in my 80s, I was sold.

So for the latest episode of Zoë Tries It All, I took a trip to Ephemeral Brooklyn to try it out for myself.

How it works

The only difference between Ephemeral's tattoos and the real deal is the ink—the entire experience, from the needles to the pain to the weeks' worth of aftercare, is otherwise exactly the same.

To understand how these made to fade tattoos work, you'll first need to understand what makes permanent tattoos so, well, permanent. "Tattoo ink is permanent because when it goes into your skin, the ink particles aggregate together, and they form these really large blocks of ink that over time your body can’t remove," Joshua Sakhai, one of the company's co-founders, explained to me ahead of my appointment.

What makes Ephemeral tats temporary, then, is the fact that they use biodegradable ink. "What we do is kind of similar, in that there are small particles that go into the skin and aggregate together, but our ink is made of biodegradable materials, which means it breaks down naturally over time," explained Sakhai. "And as it breaks down, your body is able to remove the smaller components."

Over the course of 9 to 15 months, the tattoo fades as if you're "dimming a light switch," says Sakhai, until eventually it's gone for good.

My Ephemeral experience

For my year-long stint with body art, I opted to decorate my ribs with a drawing of a moon (for my dog, Luna) and a bunch of stars (... it's unclear if my taste has gotten any better since college, but at least this time it's not permanent). Despite the very real pain of the application process, it was well worth it: Quite frankly, I look cool as f**k.

To see how it went—and to learn more about the entire Ephemeral made-to-fade tattoo process—check out the video above.

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