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Man says his ‘temporary’ tattoo from Ephemeral studio hasn’t faded after two years

A man has shown how his “temporary” tattoo from Ephemeral Tattoo has lasted much longer than he anticipated.

In a viral video shared to TikTok by user Brandon Wake (@heybrandonwakeup), he claimed he received an Ephemeral tattoo “two full years ago” and it has yet to fade away. “Remember a couple years ago when we had those Ephemeral tattoos that were supposed to last only nine to 12 months,” he began his TikTok, which has since been viewed more than one million times.

“Well, I got one and I’m here to give you an update,” Wake continued. “It has officially been two full years since I got that temporary tattoo, and this is what it looks like.”

He positioned the camera to show off a large deer tattooed onto his upper thigh, noting how Ephemeral tattoos “at the time” were advertised as fully fading away between nine and 15 months after getting the tattoo.

“It’s huge, it’s on my thigh,” Wake said, giving the camera a closer look at his deer tattoo. The TikToker alleged that his Ephemeral tattoo was a “scam” and expressed his frustration over the tattoo being visible after two years.

“It was a scam. They scammed us,” he said. “What really kills me is not so much that I was scammed but that I’m going to have a very ugly-looking fading tattoo for way longer than I ever would’ve thought, maybe even up to a year.”

Wake said he felt “lied to” by the tattoo studio but added that Ephemeral “went out of business” in September 2023.

Ephemeral Tattoo, a Brooklyn-based tattoo studio, opened in 2021 promising real tattoos that fade within a year. The shop claimed its “revolutionary ink” was specially formulated to fade, with co-owners Brennal Pierre and Vandan Shah previously telling Harper’s Bazaar that their ink was “biocompatible and biodegradable” to break down over time.

The ink was reportedly “made of a medical grade solution with carefully selected pigments that allow your body to naturally remove it over time,” and was developed by both “PhDs in chemical engineering and top dermatologists”.

Pierre and Shah, who both hold PhDs in chemical engineering from New York University, said that they began the process of creating the special ink in 2014, and that they tried and tested 50 formulas during that time.

Upon opening in 2021, the company told customers that Ephemeral ink was “designed to fade” in about nine to 15 months. However, hundreds of former customers later complained that their Ephemeral tattoos took much longer than 15 months to completely fade away.

In February 2023, the company sent out an email to customers with updated guidelines and product expectations. In the letter, CEO Jeff Liu noted that “70 per cent of all Ephemerals will disappear in under two years” or longer, based on the tattoo’s design and body placement.

He also introduced the company’s “Regret Nothing Guarantee”, which offered customers a refund if their tattoo lasted longer than three years. “While fade times vary, your Ephemeral will 100 per cent fade away. To minimise ambiguity, we promise your money back if your tattoo lasts longer than three years,” Liu said.

While Ephemeral Tattoo’s website once claimed its tattoos would be “gone in a year”, according to the New York Times, the company’s website has since been updated with the tagline: “Real Tattoos. Fade Within Three Years.”

Speaking to Refinery29 in December, the CEO acknowledged that customers were left “disappointed” by the company’s original marketing claim that Ephemeral tattoos would fade away within nine to 15 months. “It’s important for me to take responsibility for that,” Liu told the outlet. “It’s important for us to hear the feedback, have that conversation, and use that feedback to get better over time. Our newest fade durations reflect that.”

In a statement to The Independent, Liu said that Ephemeral Tattoo remains committed to being “transparent” with customers about tattoo variability and fade duration.

“With over 20,000 customers to-date, we know we bear a big responsibility to have the safest and most reliable tattoo product possible in the world. We consider any disappointed customer to be a major shortcoming on our part,” said Liu in an email. “Despite doing our best to educate customers on the number of variables they can experience with Ephemeral tattoos (not unlike permanent tattoos), the ultimate product goal at Ephemeral is to reduce that variability in tattoo healing, ink vibrancy, ink usability and of course, fade duration experiences.”

Liu emphasised that Ephemeral ink is the “only naturally disappearing tattoo ink in the world” and has undergone nine years of research, development, and “major improvement cycles”.

“While it doesn’t change any disappointment past customer experiences may have had, the truth is the newest Ephemeral ink iterations on the market have greatly reduced the variability customers can expect,” he said. “And while there will certainly be more product innovation on the horizon, customers can continue to expect that Ephemeral’s product claims will continue being transparent, context rich and reflective of the actual data available.”

Ephemeral Tattoos announced in September last year that it was closing all studios throughout the United States. Customers received an email and the company posted a "New Chapter" update on Instagram, sharing that it will be selling Ephemeral ink to existing tattoo studios and artists.

“Our studios have welcomed 20,000 customers. Thank you to those of you who have come through our studio doors and the artists and customer experience team for bringing the brand to life,” Ephemeral Tattoos said at the time. “We’re incredibly proud of what we built in a short time.”