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Commitment Issues: The Allure and Risks of Fading Tattoos

Depending on your age, you might be familiar with temporary tattoos that you would press to your skin with a warm cloth that then would transfer to the surface of your skin. These were often skulls, hearts, and butterflies that you could place anywhere on your body and be confident they would scrape off in a day or two. Well, temporary tattoos have come a long way. Now, they are real tattoos – needles and all!

This ink, which is intended to fade in less than a couple of years, has given itself a bit of a reputation.

We totally understand why it’s on an upward swing (no need to talk about commitment issues 🫣) but it’s important to have a full understanding in order to make an informed decision if you’re considering this trendy ink solution.

ephemeral tattoo
fading tattoo

Have questions about the tattoo process? We recommend reading our other articles such as How to Take Care of a Tattoo or How to Find the Best Tattoo Shops.

Have some different questions? Feel free to contact our shop in West Hollywood.

Beauty in Impermanence: The Rise of Fading Tattoos

Imagine this – you’re fascinated by body art and long to ink your skin but fear the permanence of traditional tattoos. What if you change your mind or grow weary of the design? Temporary tattoo ink aims to offer you an opportunity to be experimental, embrace change, and enjoy the magic of body art. 

The notion of impermanence in beauty isn’t entirely new. From changing seasons to transient fashion waves, the idea of something beautiful not lasting forever isn’t alien. That principle forms the core of fading tattoos. The rise of these temporary tattoos not only serves as a symbol of the ever-evolving beauty standards but also reflects our societal understanding of the beauty inherent in transitory experiences. 

The rise of fading tattoos is also driven by increased societal acceptance of tattoos, allowing more people to experiment without fear of judgment or long-term regret. The promise of impermanence makes the tattoo experience more approachable to those who might have been hesitant otherwise.

Ephemeral Tattoos

Ephemeral tattoos are the most popular impermanent ink, engineered to naturally fade over a specified period. The ink “contains medical-grade, bio-absorbable ingredients that shrink over time” according to their website. It’s also FDA approved, in case you were wondering. The claim is that your body is capable of breaking the ink down on its own over a couple of years and their website states that 70% of them fade in under 2 years.

ephemeral tattoos
made to fade tattoos
  • Originally, the estimation was 9-15 months.
  • Then, the internet lit up with people voicing their dissatisfaction, having hoped that they would be rid of the ink before the newly established 2-year mark.
  • Recently they’ve moved this estimation to 3 full years.

Everyone’s body is different and therefore time might vary, but the company guarantees it will fade…eventually.

Because of these struggles, Ephemeral has since closed all of its studios but continues to sell ink.

At the end of this article, we’ll give you our stance on real vs Ephemeral tattoos, but we want you to make your own informed decision and encourage you to do your research!

Unleashing Your Inner Artist: The Temptation of Ephemeral Tattoos

Consider this: you’ve always wanted a tattoo, but can’t quite commit to the permanence of it all. You adore body art, but know that your tastes are ever-evolving. This is where the allure of fading tattoos lie. They’re a way for you to unleash your inner artist, test out different designs and locations, and become a canvas for your creativity.

Unlike traditional tattoos, fading ones (such as Ephemeral Tattoos) empower you with the luxury of change. You can trial and error as many designs as your heart desires until you find the one that resonates with you the most. You’re no longer limited to a singular, permanent vision; rather, you can constantly redefine your body art to reflect your current self and changing aesthetic. 

Beyond personal exploration, these temporary tattoos can be a fun and expressive way to celebrate special occasions. Holidays, birthdays, anniversaries, or themed events: all become opportunities to play around with unique, temporary body art. They can serve as a bold personal statement or a creative ice-breaker. With fading tattoos, each design is a chapter of your story, marking a certain phase in your life—no matter how brief. 

The Flexibility of Choice 

The realm of body art is broad and diverse, with a myriad of designs, styles, and artists to choose from. Regular tattoos can feel like a high-stakes game where one mistake can mean lifelong regret. But with temporary tattoos, you can test styles and designs at your leisure. The pressure of choosing the ‘right’ design is lifted. With fading tattoos, you’re–theoretically–not committing to a lifetime.

The Drawbacks of Fading Tattoos

Despite the appeal and versatility of Ephemeral tattoos, it’s important to acknowledge they are not without drawbacks. From the financial aspect to nuances in the design process, here are some potential downsides you should consider before jumping on this temporary tattoo trend.

The Price Tag 

Interestingly, the fleeting nature of Ephemeral tattoos doesn’t make them any less expensive than permanent ones. In fact, you may find that a small tattoo with Ephemeral ink is more expensive than a permanent tattoo of the same size. Naturally, prices fluctuate depending on the size and complexity of your desired design, but it’s wise to prepare yourself for a possibly high financial outlay. 

Design Limitations 

While traditional tattoos allow you a wide range of ink colors, with fading tattoos, particularly those produced by Ephemeral, only black ink is currently available. This can limit the type and vibrancy of designs that you might typically explore with a traditional tattoo. What’s more, intricate designs might not render as crisply in temporary form, potentially diminishing the overall visual impact. 

Ephemeral ink was only capable of fine line tattoos as of 2021 and, while this is a great feat, it’s important to remember that you may not see the results you’re looking for. This has potential to put you off your tattoo ideas when they would look fine with regular ink. 

reddit ephemeral tattoo
fading tattoos

Unpredictable Fading 

A crucial point to remember about fading tattoos is the unpredictability of their lifespan. While these tattoos are designed to naturally fade over a certain period, this timeline can vary depending on factors like your skin type, the tattoo’s placement, and your aftercare routine.

They also have been known to fade halfway and stay that way for some time. One Tik-Tok poster got a tattoo of a chili pepper on fire behind her ear and found that the chili pepper had mostly disappeared but the flame on top was clear as day far longer than she wanted it to be. Thankfully, she got the temporary tattoo in a less-than-obvious spot.  

Then there is the slew of Reddit posters in r/EphemeralTattoo who are furious about their poorly faded tattoo. Tons of people are rightfully upset at their fade progress, such as the poster who shared these photos of their patchily faded fox tattoo stating: “my fade progress at two years four months…”

Some people might even experience a longer-than-anticipated fading process, while others will see a much quicker disappearance of the design. This kind of unpredictability might not appeal to everyone, especially if you are seeking a more controlled and accurate timeline. 

No Ink is an Exception to Potential Regret

In this era of self-expression, the trend of body art has not only become mainstream but continues to evolve. Tattoos have always been a strong statement of individuality and personal narratives. Yet not everyone wants to commit to lifelong ink. Cue the trend of fading tattoos that are designed to be temporary. 

The Promise of Made-to-Fade Tattoos 

The pitch is tempting – enjoy a tattoo without a lifelong commitment. Cool, right? Especially as these temporary tattoos are pitched with a ‘fades in months’ promise. But, as some have found, it’s not always that straightforward. 

There have been reports of people who have opted for temporary tattoos, expecting them to gracefully fade away after a given timeframe, often find themselves in an awkward limbo for a year or more. The promised fading doesn’t seem to be happening as anticipated, leaving them with regrets. 

Expectations vs. Reality 

Fades after a few monthsMany Ephemeral tattoos last longer than promised
Less PainA real tattoo needle and all the pain that goes with it
Less ExpensiveThe same design (particularly smaller ones) in temporary ink will likely cost more than permanent ink

This has meant that the estimations for how long these tattoos last have changed, causing some disillusionment among customers. 

Regret is a Part of the Package, Sometimes

Deciding to ink your skin, permanent or not, is still a commitment. The joy, the thrill, the expression are all real – as real as the regret that might follow. This regret is not exclusive to permanent tattoos. It extends to temporary tattoos as well, especially when they don’t meet expectations and can last for a couple of years.

Just like the assurance of a tattoo disappearing can convince someone to get one, the tattoo staying beyond its promised welcome can cause distress. It’s a paradox that sheds light on the importance of making informed choices and setting realistic expectations.

Exploring the Risk Factor

As with all body art, fading tattoos that are designed to be short-lived carry their share of risks. 

Potential Skin Reactions 

Even though temporary tattoos don’t deposit ink in the deep skin layers like permanent ones, they can still cause skin reactions. Some people may experience redness, swelling, or an itchy rash after application. The cause can be an allergic reaction to the tattoo’s pigments or to the transfer medium. 

Inconsistent Results 

Results with fading tattoos can vary widely. Factors such as the depth of ink injection, the type of ink used and individual skin types can all contribute to how quickly the tattoo fades. Some people may find their tattoos last only a couple of years, while others may still see their design years later, albeit faded and blurred. 

The Risk of Infection

While the principle behind a temporary tattoo is that the ink is less likely to cause an allergic reaction, the nature of the substances used, and individual skin sensitivities can still pose risks. Some people may experience reactions to the tattoo pigments themselves. And although brands like Ephemeral use FDA-approved ingredients, allergic reactions are still possible. 

It’s crucial to remember that each person’s skin may react differently to the ink. Make sure you request a patch test from your tattoo artist before the procedure – this can help prevent unwanted reactions and ensure the experience is as smooth as possible for you. 

Safety Standards May Vary 

Despite the minimal invasiveness of temporary tattoos, they’re not completely free from the risk of infection. Without proper aftercare, or if the tattoo artist doesn’t maintain a clean and sterilized workspace, there can be an increased risk of skin infection. 

As with any form of skin alteration, it’s crucial to make sure you follow aftercare instructions to the letter and report any signs of infection to your healthcare provider immediately. 

What are the Cons of Getting a Made-to-Fade Tattoo?

While fading or Ephemeral tattoos do offer a degree of flexibility and novelty, certainly there are some drawbacks associated with this form of body art that must be considered before making a decision. Let’s delve into the less appealing aspects of this temporary trend. 

Quality and Appearance 

Temporary tattoos are more likely to lack the detail or sophistication that you may find in a permanent tattoo. While advancements in technology have improved the appearance of temporary tattoos, they can sometimes appear less vibrant or defined than their permanent counterparts. 


Even though these tattoos are temporary, they do require a certain level of care to prevent them from fading prematurely. This could involve avoiding certain activities, such as swimming or excessive sun exposure, which could be inconvenient for some people who didn’t want all the same hassle that come with real tattoos. 

What Happens When You Don’t Want the Ink Any Longer? 

ephemeral tattoos

Now, you may find yourself in a situation where you are beginning to question your temporary tattoo. Maybe the charm nestled in its impermanence has, against all odds, faded faster than the tattoo itself. It seemed like a wonderful idea at the time – a decision made in the heat of the moment, or perhaps ushered by an intriguing trend. However, now, you wish to move forward, tattoo-free. But there’s a snag. Removal methods are nonexistent for now, as there is uncertainty about how the ink reacts to removal methods.

This is definitely a predicament that deserves its fair share of thought. The issue of finding yourself with a half-faded temporary tattoo that overstays its welcome could cause you discomfort and displeasure. It’s like a friendly visitor who, after a while, overstays their welcome, yet you’re unsure how to usher them to the door. The question then becomes – what are your options? What are the possibilities?

Well, who knows?

Longevity vs. Impermanence: The Debate Surrounding Fading Tattoos

Many people are attracted to temporary tattoos. After all, we are evolving beings with constantly changing perspectives, and interests. Favored for their impermanent nature, fading tattoos act as a testament to our dynamic personalities.

But ultimately, we encourage you to do significant research about the level of satisfaction people have had with this ink before you make your decision. Permanent tattoo artists are skilled professionals with significant experience under their belt and decades worth of history to reference. If you ask us at The Honorable Society, we recommend getting whatever will make you happy long term. 

A Shift in Perception 

The interest in temporary tattoos reflects a natural human appreciation of change. Instead of seeing tattoos as long-term decisions, they are seen as evolving expressive elements, similar to our personal growth and memories.  

But isn’t that the beauty of permanent tattoos? They represent pieces of our lives or unchangeable aspects of one’s identity, which can be empowering. You can’t escape who you are or who you were at any given point and immortalizing all parts of yourself (even ones subject to change) can be freeing. 

The Honorable Society_West Hollywood_artist giving a tattoo

Think You Want a Real Tattoo?

If you’re looking to take the plunge and get a piece of art on your skin, let us help! Our tattoo artists can assist in creating a design that you’ll want on your body for a lifetime. Not to mention, we can ensure the quality of the ink and its deposit into your skin will be even and lasting.

Check out our work and our Instagram to make sure we’re the real deal, feel free to see our reviews on Yelp, too.

Then schedule a consultation so we can bring your tattoo ideas to life (permanently).

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