Ephemeral, Brooklyn’s newest tattoo shop, is capitalizing on fear of commitment—but the desire for self-expression—with the invention of tattoos that last between nine and 15 months. Everything is real, including the tattoo artist, the needles, and the pain. The only thing different is the ink itself.
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It may sound like science fiction, but it’s not. The ink was developed by Brennal Pierre and Vandan Shah, both of whom hold Ph.D.’s in Chemical Engineering from New York University. “Whether tattoos could be made to fade was a really good question that got us thinking,” says Shah. Adds Pierre, “With our background in biomolecular engineering, we’ve worked with protein stability and protein development. Tattoos are just interactions between the skin (the protein in this case) and the ink, so that’s why this problem was of interest to us,” he says.
The formula for the ink has been in development for six and a half years. “We started in 2014 and have tried and tested over 50 formulations,” says Shah. The two basic components are the Ephemeral ink polymers and the dyes. While the exact composition is proprietary (as are other conventional tattoo ink formulas), the duo assures us that the polymers have been used in medical devices and drugs for years, and are well documented for safety. “They are medical-grade biocompatible and biodegradable, so they are meant to be broken down over time,” explains Shah. The dyes, as well, are all D&C (drugs and cosmetics) regulated for use in other products.
“We wanted to go for the safest things out there, so if there is a change in industry regulations, we’re prepared for it,” says Pierre. The team has also initiated an IRB (Institutional Review Board) clinical trial, with the help of dermatologist Dhaval Bhanusali, to validate safety aspects of the product.
For Pierre and Shah, the ultimate challenge wasn’t to create a tattoo ink that would be sure to fade, but one that would stay for a desirable amount of time and look as good as a conventional tattoo. “Some of our first formulations disappeared after a week,” says Pierre. Through surveys, the pair found that nine to 15 months would be an ideal range of time to enjoy the tattoos, and still make the experience feel worthwhile. To ensure that the Ephemeral ink performed like conventional tattoo inks, they employed the help of a roster of tattoo artists who continuously evaluated the iterations of ink for performance using techniques like dots and shading.
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Collectively, Shah and Pierre estimate that they’ve sat for more than 100 tattoos—most of which have completely disappeared. “I have tried more than 60 tattoos during the development time,” says Shah. “I think I have five or six on my body currently.”
Ultimately, the mission of Ephemeral is to open up the medium of self-expression to people who have been interested—but hesitant—in tattoos before. “You know, tattoos are kind of addicting,” says Pierre. “You get one and you want another one.” Now, with this new technology, the opportunities are endless.
Book an appointment now on Ephemeral’s website.
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