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Ephemeral's tattoo ink lasts a year and then goes away

At Disrupt NY 2016 this week, a startup company of NYU students introduced Ephemeral, as reported by TechCrunch. Ephemeral is a new form of tattoo ink that lasts a year. You can also remove it sooner.

One issue with tattoos is they go in and out of style. Sure, we’re now in a run of about 20 or so years where tattoos are cool, but who knows how much longer that will last? And on an individual basis, misspellings (way too common), relationship changes (that, too), and personal choices can make what seemed like a great idea at the time, maybe not so wonderful anymore.

Related: These guys hacked a 3D printer and turned it into a high-precision tattoo machine

Real tattoos have until now been a forever commitment, at least without surgery or over-tattooing. Laser surgery can remove tattoos, but it’s painful, expensive, and the results often look nasty. Another choice is to have a new tattoo over the old one, but that can get tricky unless you’re going solid black.

But what if you want a tattoo, but you don’t want it forever? Current temporary tattoos don’t have the same effect as the real deal and don’t last very long at all. Paper-based tattoos kids buy last a day or two. Henna painting, which is really a stain, wears off in most cases within two weeks of the application.

Ephemeral ink is used in a regular tattoo gun and applied by a tattoo artist. There are two ways for an Ephemeral tattoo to disappear. If you just leave the tattoo alone, the ink molecules will eventually break down; it takes about a year. If you decide to remove an Ephemeral ink tattoo earlier, a complementary removal solution can be applied directly over the original tattoo, again by a tattoo artist. That solution will cause the ink molecules to flush out. You can also use the removal solution to get rid of just one part of an Ephemeral ink tattoo to re-do it or change it.

“Tattoo inks today are permanent because of the fact that the dye molecules are too big for your body’s immune system to take away,” explained Ephemeral co-founder Anthony Lam. “By using smaller molecules, we’ve encapsulated them inside this spherical structure that’s big enough that your immune system doesn’t take it away. But when you remove it, it essentially eats away one of the components and the dye molecules are flushed out.”

Ephemeral’s tattoo ink is still in testing with pigs because of their genetic similarity to humans. The company expects to be ready for market by the end of 2017.

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