The recent rise in popularity of semi-permanent tattoos


Photo illustration | Zara Iqbal

Anish Vasudevan and Zara Iqbal

Senior Sachi Bhatkar is determined to get a tattoo within the next year. Because of her close relationship with her mom and sister, she plans to get tattoos that illustrate the meaning of their names — she would get the sun for her mom, as her name means light, and doves for her sister, as her name means peace.

When Bhatkar saw her friend, junior Tanisha Desai, use an Inkbox product called “Freehand Ink,” which consists of ink coupled with a pen that can be used to draw on skin, she decided to try it herself. Inkbox is a brand that provides semi- permanent tattoos and ink that last one to two weeks, longer than temporary tattoos.

“The reason I used Inkbox was because I wanted to see how [the tattoo] would look like [before I get a permanent one],” Bhatkar said. “It was really fascinating in a way — I just wanted to see how it would turn out.”

According to English teacher Jessica Kaufman, who has a sleeve of tattoos, the rise in semi-permanent tattoos is understandable, since it allows for younger people have less pressure on them when deciding on artwork they want on them for the rest of their life.

“Semi-permanent tattoos are a smart move for anybody considering a tattoo to just try something and see if they like it,” Kaufman said. “I think especially at the point in your life where you are, it’s probably wise to think through what you want to do, especially because being a teenager comes with impulsivity and can lead to regret later in life.”

Desai encountered an Instagram ad by Inkbox and was interested in seeing how a tattoo would look on her. She originally considered getting a tattoo, but decided to get the Freehand Ink because it was cheaper and could be used multiple times. However, her experience with the product didn’t go as well as she hoped, as she believes it is meant for individuals who have practice using its squeeze bottle.

“I didn’t really like it because I didn’t realize how hard it was — it didn’t turn out that good,” Desai said. “Drawing it is hard. It turns out sort of dark if you make [the lines] thick, but if you buy one of their sticker tattoos, the lines [are] really clean and straight … when you do it yourself, the lines are shaky and it’s more limited.”

Like Bhatkar, senior Stephanie Chang knows she wants tattoos after she turns 18. Chang discovered Inkbox through social media, applying her first one during the summer, and recently bought another one that she has yet to use.

“It’s cool — people get tattoos and they regret it so I think it’s a good opportunity for people to figure out what they want and … make a decision that they don’t regret,” Chang said. “[And to] have something on them that looks good and [is] what they want. My mind was blown the first time I saw Inkbox, I was like, ‘You could do this, but only for three weeks? That’s awesome.’”

Chang used the custom feature Inkbox provides on their site for both of the tattoos she bought: she uploaded an image of a tattoo design she wanted — an anti- possession symbol from the television show “Supernatural” — and decided on dimensions before confirming the purchase.

“For me, I want [my tattoos] to look cool, but I also want [them] to mean something to me,” Chang said. “Usually all the things I want tattoos of are things are important to me and they’ve kind of impacted me as a person as I’ve grown up, and Inkbox helps [you] figure out the exact placement you want, like if there’s any minute details you want to change because once you get the actual tattoo, you can’t change that, but with the semi- permanent tattoos you definitely can.”

Bhatkar agrees and believes the realistic aspect of Inkbox allows one to figure out if they can commit to a permanent tattoo.

“The reason I used it was to experiment and see how it’d work but then it definitely comes back to the fact that getting a tattoo is a fat commitment — you can’t take it back,” Bhatkar said. “It just looks so realistic and it feels like a real tattoo so a lot of people probably [think] it’s kinda cool.”

However, even though semi-permanent tattoos are gaining popularity with teenagers, Kaufman explains that they will probably never replace permanent tattoos because of the long history of the art form itself being rooted in the military and gangs in America. Kaufman says that by introducing semi-permanent tattoos, it’s somewhat tarnishing the artform since tattoo artists wouldn’t be needed anymore.

“I think permanent and semi- permanent are just so vastly different that you can’t ever replace one with the other because having something permanently on your body is a commitment that you think about differently, versus something semi permanent which you know is going to go away,” Kaufman said. “The semi- permanent aspect of it takes some of the kind of artistic talent away from that which makes me a little sad. Semi-permanent tattoos make it more commercial than artistic which is not cool. However, in terms of helping kids decide on getting something permanent, it’s a valid product.”

Bhatkar claims that because the tattoos she plans to get are small, she sees herself using Inkbox in the future to experiment if she wants more tattoos. However, Chang believes Inkbox is somewhat pricey and recommends that one should come to a decision as soon as they possibly can to prevent overspending. Designs in Inkbox’s shop have set dimensions and prices that range from $14 to $22, but prices increase when you order a custom design: 2×2 inches is $26, 3×3 is $28 and larger 4×4 and 5×2 are $30.

“It’s pretty expensive … for customizing, [so] the one thing is if you’re not committed to actually getting a tattoo, having this over and over is kind of expensive,” Chang said. “Otherwise, it’s great. I just turned 17. I still have a whole year [before I get] a tattoo, so this is cool. I still get the experience for having a tattoo except without color — that’s annoying, I just wish they put color.”

Chang explains that she personally hasn’t had issues with commitment, but rather mainly used Inkbox for placement. She describes a method to help people decide if they’re committed to a tattoo — hang the design in your room for a month, and if you haven’t gotten sick of it, you should get it.

“If you don’t feel committed to a tattoo but still want to see how it looks, it’s definitely great, [it’s] a very non commitment thing,” Chang said. “I’ve always known what I’ve wanted [to get tattooed] and what I want out of it. I just need someone to draw it for me.”