Ephemeral took note of its customers’ complaints and announced its “Regret Nothing Guarantee” in February. Although fade time may vary, Ephemeral tattoos “will 100 percent fade away,” CEO Jeff Liu clarified in a statement — and stressed to Allure. “To minimize ambiguity, we promise your money back if your tattoo lasts longer than three years.” 

Since officially launching in 2021, more than 10,000 people have gotten Ephemeral tattoos, and the company has closely monitored the fade process of its customers, Liu tells Allure. (Ephemeral reached out to me via email in January 2022 to check in on my tattoo, so I can vouch for that.) During this time, the company has noticed three specific factors causing increased variability in fade durations, which weren’t accounted for during Ephemeral’s pre-launch testing period. 

Over the past two years since opening up shop, Ephemeral’s team of chemical engineers has made a number of improvements to its proprietary made-to-fade ink to ensure darker, clearer tattoos, Liu points out. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration doesn’t regulate tattoo ink, so Ephemeral can continuously make tweaks to the existing formula. Its artists have also expanded the areas of placements for Ephemeral tattoos to include ribs and ears — in addition to limbs and back. Design complexity for richer shading and finer lines has increased, too, he adds. All of these changes have created an unexpected lack of consistency. 

From a dermatologist’s perspective, the reasoning behind the unpredictable fade time is hard to pinpoint – especially since the ingredients of the ink aren’t something the company has publically disclosed. Typically, the body has an immune or inflammatory response to foreign bodies, like ink and even filler, which will help metabolize it and break it down, Roy Geronemus, MD, a board-certified dermatologist and the director of Laser & Skin Surgery Center of New York, tells Allure. “This response may vary from person to person and may not be enough to eliminate the pigment,” he explains. “It is possible that some of the ink could also be surrounded by fibrosis or a scarring response that traps the ink.” 

Regardless of the reasoning, Ephemeral plans to continue to routinely study what impacts fade durations and make its findings available in its design guides, Liu says. “Ultimately, customers want incredible tattoos that they’re proud to wear. These policy changes allow us to get closer to offering customers what they want.” 

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