If you’ve ever considered getting a tattoo but have been put off by its permanence – who knows how you’ll feel about that “E = mc2” face tattoo in 10 year’s time? – then a new startup called Ephemeral has you covered. The fledgling company, run by a team of New York University graduates, is developing a special kind of tattoo ink that disappears in just one year.
Basically, after a year has passed, the tattoo starts to fade, and you have the opportunity to either adapt the original design or simply get rid of it. Oh, and current tattoo artists won’t need specialised equipment to use the new ink, so if this stuff makes it to market, it shouldn’t be too hard to find.
So here’s the science behind it: a standard tattoo remains permanent because the dye molecules are too big for your body’s immune system to clear them up, as Brian Heater explains at TechCrunch.
The ink developed by Ephemeral uses smaller molecules that can be ‘flushed out’ by a special removal solution, which is tattooed over the temporary tat after a year’s use. Before now, laser surgery was the only way to fully remove a tattoo – a process that’s expensive, lengthy, and painful. Basically, laser tattoo removal works by pulverising the ink particles trapped in your skin, allowing your body to carry them away to get pooped out. Yes, pooped out.
As ScienceAlert’s Josh Hrala explained to Modern Notion last year: “After your white blood cells obtain the ink particles, they take them to your liver, which sends it out of your body when you poop – the same way your body gets rid of all of its waste. In essence, the laser only plays a very small role in the whole ordeal because it just aids your body’s natural response to contamination.”