Why are you tattooing? - The New York Times

When Skylar Hertz, a junior at Purchase College, got a tattoo of Snoopy smoking a joint on her left calf, she was pretty sure it wasn’t ...


When Skylar Hertz, a junior at Purchase College, got a tattoo of Snoopy smoking a joint on her left calf, she was pretty sure it wasn’t something she wanted on her body forever. .

As an aspiring actress, she felt that having a tattoo could shape the roles she is considered for. She also knew that a permanent tattoo would upset her family. “I’m Jewish, so obviously most of my family isn’t the biggest fan of tattoos,” Ms. Hertz, 20, said. (The Torah prohibits tattoos, and many rabbis and other members of the community are against the practice.)

Undeterred, she loved the idea of ​​getting a tattoo. She chose Snoopy to honor her mother, who played the character in a production of “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown”. She added the seal to give it “a little twist”.

Instead of going to a traditional tattoo parlor, she headed to Ephemeral, a company with a studio in the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn that uses branded ink that fades nine to 15 months after it is applied. tattoos cost $ 195 to $ 450, depending on the size.

Unlike other temporary tattoos, like henna dye or stickers, temporary tattoos, like permanent tattoos, are applied with needles and ink under the skin.

But some think that the idea of ​​endangered body art goes completely against the goal.

Joanna Acevedo, 24, who works at an ice cream parlor in Prospect Heights, has over 100 tattoos all over her body: “The only thing I haven’t tattooed is my chest. Many of her designs are random, she said, listing “a crocodile, a cat skull, a barbed wire, the words” fried steak “, an eagle, a cactus and an ice cream cone.”

“I love that they’re permanent because they’re a part of me,” she said. “They represent a moment in time, and I love living with my whole story.” She equates tattoos she doesn’t like with scars, another holdover, she says, of bad choices you made when you were younger.

Despite the bravado required to engage in a permanent tattoo, regrets are as old as the tattoos themselves.

Sometimes the solution requires a lot of effort, such as with laser tattoo removal. “Laser light breaks up tattoo particles and fragments them,” said Dr. Roy Geronemus, director of the Laser and Skin Surgery Center in New York City. “It can take anywhere from two sessions to more than 10 sessions depending on the size of the tattoo. I did a woman this morning with a few areas on her finger that took me three to four seconds, and yesterday I did someone with a whole sleeve that took half an hour. Dr Geronemus said his patients did not experience any pain with the local anesthetic.

“I see a number of patients who have made decisions spontaneously without giving too much thought to the long-standing nature of what they have been doing,” he said. “A name that is no longer part of your life does not belong to your body. In most cases, the next partner doesn’t necessarily like the idea of ​​the ex-partner’s name staring them in the face.

Temporary tattoos are already quite common in the cosmetic world. Microblading, for example, is a form of eyebrow tattooing done with a hand instrument. “The tool makes stripes the size of a paper cut that look like hair strokes,” said Piret Aava, owner of Eyebrow doctor, a company specializing in eyebrow and eyeliner tattoos. “It inserts a pigment – we call it a pigment, not an ink – that goes under the skin that you have to keep dry for a week until the skin pushes on it and traps the pigment underneath.”

Depending on how quickly your skin metabolizes the pigment (as well as your lifestyle and the type of products you use), microblading of the eyebrows can last anywhere from one to three years, while eye tattoos tend to stay in place for three to five years because the skin is different. on your eyelids than on your forehead.

Ephemeral’s faded ink was invented by two chemical engineers specializing in proteins, Brennal Pierre, 41, and Vandan Shah, 33. candidate.

Their work began in 2014 when one of Mr. Pierre’s students, who was also Mr. Shah’s research assistant, was going through a very painful and expensive laser removal process for a tattoo, and he wanted to know if he was. it would be possible to remove it. with an enzyme.

Once the question was asked, Mr. Pierre and Mr. Shah became addicted. “It was so intriguing for us,” said Pierre. They spent the next seven years developing an ink that would be broken down by the body’s natural mechanism.

Ephemeral opened its first studio in Brooklyn in March. At the start of the summer, there was an eight-month delay in getting a tattoo, according to the company.

“We have people coming from Mexico City,” said Jeff Liu, 33, managing director of Ephemeral, who previously worked for Tesla and Casper. Since 2015, the company has raised more than $ 26 million, he said, and a second studio, in Los Angeles, will open on October 24.

Permanent tattoos “are placed with a needle technique that penetrates the dermis, the lower part of the skin,” said Dr Geronemus. “Once the ink is deposited, there is an inflammatory response that surrounds the ink particles and creates a matrix that allows the ink to stay and not migrate or go away on its own. These are inflammatory cells that surround the ink and keep it in place.

When you get a permanent ink tattoo, most of the ink stays where it is deposited. In contrast, Ephemeral ink is made of a material that the body naturally breaks down over time. The ink works the same way as biodegradable medical devices like stents used in implants or sutures used in stitches. These products, like ink, are broken down naturally by the oxygen and water available in the body.

“It was more than creating ink,” Mr. Shah said. “We had to understand how the body works, how it takes care of the ink, what the ink does when it enters the body.”

For years, they have tried different inks, tattooing themselves with simple lines and circles. When they got closer to a product that worked, they asked four friends and a tattoo artist to participate in an informal trial. After that, they performed a clinical study supervised and approved by an advisory committee made up of chemical engineers and dermatologists.

Although the engineers do not reveal the exact composition of the ink – “We do not disclose our ingredients for reasons of property” – they have said that it resembles the stitches injured people receive that are made of materials. biodegradable which can dissolve safely in the body. . Stitches are naturally broken down by materials available in the body such as oxygen and water. (A patent filed by Ephemeral states that the ink is made of different materials, including polymers and hydrogels.)

Mr. Pierre and Mr. Shah said they only use components in their ink that have been approved by the Food and Drug Administration for use in other products like cosmetics or medical devices. (The FDA does not approve tattoo ink, and Dr. Marie Leger, a dermatologist in New York City, said, “In the United States, tattoo companies do not have to disclose ingredients.”)

Still, Dr. Léger would like to know exactly what’s in the ink before deciding if it’s safe. “It’s hard to comment on security without knowing what’s in the ink,” she said. “I would also be skeptical about reassuring my patients about its safety because I don’t have enough data. With ordinary tattoos, they have been around for a long time, so we learned about them. But this is new. “

Mr. Pierre and Mr. Shah are constantly trying to improve the ink. The company does not currently allow customers to get tattoos on their hands, feet, or face, as these locations have not been extensively tested.

Ephemeral estimates that more than half of its clients are first-time tattooers, like Barbara Edmonds, 27, who works for a media sales company and lives in Greenpoint. “I’m a commitment phobe,” she said. “I never really could find something that I thought I could have on my skin forever. It made me nervous.

So when she heard about Ephemeral on Instagram, it piqued her interest. “Their slogan is ‘Don’t regret anything’, and that’s basically why I decided to give it a try,” she said. On August 7, she received a Claddagh ring, a traditional Irish symbol that represents love, loyalty and friendship, on her right forearm, just below her elbow.

“I’m having a lot of fun with it,” she said. “It’s kind of like when you have a new skirt or something, and it’s so much fun to wear.”

But she’s also glad it’s temporary. “I think it’s a weird size,” she said. “I’m also like, ‘This part of my arm doesn’t look like it used to.’ It’s scary.

Keith McCurdy, 35, an artist known as Bang bang who has worked in New York for over 16 years, disputes Ephemeral. “This product seems to push the needle backwards, for lack of a better term,” he wrote in an email. “A tattoo designed not to last potentially diminishes the value of this art form, which has historically struggled to gain monetary value from other art forms like painting or sculpture.”

He said the temporary tattoos “remind me of a gadget.”

Sue Jeiven, a famous Brooklyn tattoo artist passing by Sweet Suesaid tattoo artists, like sculptors and painters, strive to make beautiful art that will last. “We have spent our entire careers trying to figure out the mystery of how to get nice, clean, solid lines to stay perfectly in the skin and stay forever,” she said. “It makes me want to cry to see all this hard work go away.”



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