Startup Company Develops Tattoo Ink That Vanishes in a Year

Now your youthful mistakes don't have to last forever…

The art of tattooing the skin has been a staple of humanity for thousands of years: Ancient kings and warriors used to have them as a symbol of power and status, and they are still being used for ceremonial purposes in some parts of the world; for example, there is an isolated tradition in Japan of preserving tattooed skin after death.

Today, having a tattoo is a big part of the millennial generation's collective culture, with young people drawing permanently on their skin important thing like their favorite quotes or pizza slices.

For many, having a tattoo done in their youth is a potential mistake that fills them with regret in the future, while for others it means an important and meaningful commitment that lasts for a lifetime; today, there's an option right in the middle of those extremes: Tattoos that vanishes after a year.

Ephemeral is a company that affirms to have developed a special tattoo ink that disappears from your skin after a year or earlier if you so wish. That's correct, all the excitement and pain of a real tattoo without the permanence of one. That usually meant having expensive and aggressive laser surgeries, but Ephemeral makes that a thing of the past.

To be honest, when I read about this a few days ago it sounded to me like a prank or a scam, so I began consulting with professional tattoo artists, chemical engineers, and dermatologists. They all agreed on one thing: That's damn hard.

Investigating the company itself – which has its own LinkedIn account and all that – I found interviews in other news outlets and discovered that the whole Ephemeral staff was awarded as the most promising university-level startup of 2016. This meant that Ephemeral is for real, holy crap!

But what does this mean for the culture and lifestyle surrounding tattoos? Surely you've met a bitter hipster – actually, you might know a lot of those – that criticizes and belittles other people's tattoos: They're unoriginal, overexposed, and tasteless, you know the ones.

Tattoos come, as you surely know, in many shapes, styles and follow different trends, according to the owner's personality. I, myself, have six tattoos on my body, all related to video games in some way – because I'm #TeamNerd –, and some people have criticized me in the past for my tattoo's apparent lack of "deep meaning" and are not dedicated to the memory of a loved one. The truth is that the motives and significance of a tattoo are all valid in their own way.

Vanishing ink, how does it work?

Tattoos are permanent because the ink molecules beneath your skin are too big for your body to dispose of them naturally. Ephemeral utilizes smaller molecules that are encapsulated so that your immune system can't get rid of them, either, but this film around them starts to degrade after a year so that they can be "flushed out" organically. You can also eliminate them thanks to a special solution.

The introduction of removable ink into the market, tattoos could become much more commonplace in our society, as well as safer for people. Health institutions would have to take blood donations from a tattooed person – which, contrary to popular belief, is both possible and safe – because, even if it implies certain risks, now you're introducing the possibility of people having had ink with no visible trace of it.

Ephemeral has the potential to transform the industry of bodily art. Having a tattoo done would become a similar experience to getting a haircut, only more painful. Think of the possibilities!

Seasonal tattoos, tattoos that change over time, tattoos that are done for advertising purposes or filming a movie – saving a lot of time and money in makeup – tattoos for medical procedures, even as personal identification, punishment for stubborn teenagers… Ink for everyone!

Maybe I'm going a bit overboard with this, but what really stands out is the work these NYU undergrads are doing is amazing and has a ton of potential. Currently, the team is making cellular research and is testing the ink on pigs because of their genetic similarity with humans. Seung Shin – who is only 22 years old –, Ephemeral's CEO, is waiting for commercial production of his ink and the removal solution to start in the next 10 months.

Would you get ink done now that it's possible to do it painlessly?

Story originally published in Qore.

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