After opening its first studio in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, just four months after developing an ink that disappears in a year, Ephemeral Tattoo has raised $20 million in a funding round. Anthos Group, which also invests in Conor McGregor’s sports recovery system, TIDL, led the Series A round. The funding came after Ephemeral quickly became popular on TikTok among people who cannot commit to a permanent tattoo. In a statement, the company said that appointments have doubled every month since opening. An 8-to 9-month waiting list now exists.
Chief executive officer Jeff Liu says, ‘The problem we’ve solved is one that is felt universally’. Whether it is for cultural or religious reasons, disapproval from family, or indecisiveness, 60 million Americans have considered tattooing, but are held back by their permanent nature. Ephemeral’s new funding will go to developing colored inks (they only offer black for now) and opening a second studio in Los Angeles, the city with the highest number of appointments. Customers put down $20 to reserve slots once they are available at Ephemeral. Liu is hopeful that Ephemeral can expand globally.
‘Our fundraising goal is to expand as wide and as fast as we can by entering as many markets as we possibly can’, says the CEO. The company’s goal is to be able to expand into ten to twenty markets with this fundraising.’While Ephemeral is open to licensing and wholesaling ink in the future, its focus is reinventing ‘the tattoo studio experience’ at its own locations.
Getting an Ephemeral Tattoo involves needles and gritty teeth, just like getting any other tattoo – unlike temporary dermal embellishments such as henna or long-lasting stickers that are applied topically. Over the last six years, the company has perfected 50 formulations and hundreds of tattoo trials to make ink composed of medical-grade, bioabsorbable polymers that slowly dissolve and are removed by the body’s immune system in nine to 15 months. Using the ink requires no additional training, however, it does take a little longer to get consistently saturated lines, according to co-founder Joshua Sakhai. It can take slightly longer to heal than traditional tattoos, on average four to six weeks.
Within the first three to six months, fading might be noticeable. Since shading can’t be done with Ephemeral’s ink, artwork must be stippled or crosshatched to maintain tattoo design integrity over time. Another factor to consider is the tone of the skin. According to Sakhai, fading may be more noticeable on those with darker skin tones, since the ink is placed against a darker surface. The best results tend to come from thicker and farther apart lines.
In addition to their ‘Subtle Style’ tattoos ($175 to $225), Ephemeral offers larger ‘Statement Piece’ tattoos ($350 to $450) which are bigger and usually take an hour and a half to complete. All prices include custom design consultations, gratuities and after-care kits. The company is the first to guarantee tattoo artists a salary as opposed to the commission-based or profit-sharing setups usually found at street shops, a notable benefit for some after the pandemic. The goal is to create ‘a more inclusive tattoo culture’ beyond ink, which already factors out the most arduous part of tattooing: the life-long commitment.
The studio in Williamsburg, has a spa-like atmosphere with eight salaried artists, most of whom are female, and several part-time artists who visit occasionally. Pop-ups beyond New York and LA are planned to involve guest artists. Liu says the studio’s backlog equates to about $1 million in revenue and ‘continues to grow at a faster rate than appointments can be filled’. The average waitlist size/cost for a tattoo booked in the next eight months will be somewhere between 278 and 714 people.
Who’s getting them
From first-timers to those who already have multiple tattoos, to millennials and Gen Zers and their parents, all types of clients have flocked to a made-to-fade tattoo. According to Liu, 30% of Ephemeral’s clients have tattoos and ‘can’t justify using up all their real estate on permanent tattoos’. Millennials make up the bulk of Ephemeral’s clientele, but Liu expects that to change.
According to the CEO, the majority of our followers [on TikTok] are Gen Zers under 18 years old. Parents often email us to ask, ‘My child is turning 18. Can I make an appointment for them on their behalf? We’d love for their first tattoo to be at Ephemeral instead of committing them to a lifetime’. The ultimate goal, Liu says, is to change the way tattoos are viewed: as a fashion statement rather than a permanent mark on your body. ‘There’s absolutely nothing to worry about’, says Sakhai.