Should I Get a Temporary Tattoo?

Are you unsure about the commitment of a tattoo? Do you want to celebrate the here and now, without being branded for the rest of your days? Are you too young to legally get one done anyway?

If you answered a resounding ‘Yes!’ to any of the above, then a temporary tattoo might be for you. Unfortunately, the term doesn’t have a single clear meaning. There are multiple methods out there for obtaining a non-permanent mark upon your epidermis.

So, to help you navigate this ink-stained minefield, the options before you are summarised below.



One of the most common varieties, mehndi is the process of applying henna paste to the skin, often with a paintbrush, leaving a brown image. Most designs in this medium tend to be intricate, and reflecting the Indian origins of the practise.

Mehndi can last up to a month, depending how much care is taken afterwards, and there are few associated health risks, bar a slight chance of allergy to the henna. If the colour is not reddish-brown, there is a chance the paste may have been adulterated with dye, which can increase the odds of a negative reaction.

Transfer Tattoos

Another popular temporary tattoo, especially among children, is applied via transfer. These come on a sheet, which can be moistened, pressed to the skin and removed, leaving the image in place. For many years, magazines or sweets have used these as free gifts with minimal health concerns.

However, they tend to look rather obviously fake, and either fall off or fade away in a matter of days. Also, since transfers tend to be mass-produced, you are unlikely to get a custom design.

Temporary Airbrush Tattoos (TATs)

Airbrush tattooing may be preferable to either of the above, especially if you want your temporary tattoo experience to be as similar as possible to a real one. This involves a stencil being placed on the skin and ink sprayed over it using an airbrush gun.

Although there is a degree of adherence to the stencil, more potential for customisation exists than with transfers. The TAT will disappear after a couple of weeks, or it can be removed with rubbing alcohol if need be. A well-done TAT can closely resemble a real tattoo.

Semi-Permanent Tattoos

Some tattoo parlours may claim to offer not-quite-tattoos, in which a standard tattoo gun is used, but the practitioner assures you that the image will only last six months, or three years, or some other arbitrary duration. These are regarded as a bad idea by most with any experience of tattoos or tattooing, as there is no reliable method of creating such a thing.

The odds are good that you would end up with a permanent tattoo in the end, or an ugly combination of scar tissue and half-faded ink. If you decide you do want a temporary tattoo, the more reliable methods described above should be perfectly adequate, and offer much lower odds of mutilation.

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