this thing's incredible

These Tasteful Temporary Tattoos Are Like a Needle-Free Toe Dip Into the Real Thing

The Neverland design on the site. Photo: Courtesy of Inkbox.

The first time I remember being told not to get a tattoo was in 1996. I was 10, and after watching the Friends episode in which Rachel and Phoebe get inked, my father gave me a Serious Parenting Talk outlining the reasons I should not emulate my then-idol Rachel: how I would look bad when I got old, my inability to ever get buried in a Jewish cemetery (this is a myth!), the pain. As I got older, I still couldn’t — and can’t — think of anything I liked enough to have on me forever. But perhaps because of the tiny tattoo trend or Instagram, I’ve started to really want one over the last few months. When the desire became too strong, I looked into temporary options. That’s how I found Inkbox, a site where you can get tasteful temporary tattoos.

I was drawn to the site’s designs, many of which were understated and real looking. (As with tattoos on real people, you do have to sift through some dubious tribal symbols and cursive mantras to find the good stuff.) For my first foray, I went with “Neverland.” Full disclosure: I like Peter Pan, but I actually thought these were the stars on the top of each page in Harry Potter. There are a lot of Potter tattoos on Inkbox, if you are interested in other, less subtle nods to the Wizarding World. Most tattoos run about $16–20, but I also picked up Inkbox’s freehand drawing kit, which was a little more expensive ($55). If you prefer not going freehand, you can also create a custom design on the site and have it produced into a tattoo for you; those range from $26–30.

How the “tattoo” actually looked on my arm. Photo: Sara Gaynes Levy

What’s awesome is how long the tattoos last, which is not at all like regular temporary tattoos. After you stick the tattoo on your body, you rub the backing with an enclosed wipe, then heat up a moist towelette (also included) and hold it down over the tattoo for 15 minutes. You have to wear a glove to do this, because the ink will bleed onto your hand otherwise, and you have to apply firm pressure to get a good transfer. (This is still a lot less painful than holding still for a real tattoo.) The ink is plant-based — water, isopropyl alcohol, genipa plant extract, L-arginine, and ultramarine blue pigment are the only ingredients — and will last an impressive 8 to 18 days, depending on how much friction or exposure the area receives. Mine tended to last closer to eight days since I chose the inside of my wrist, but the more covered-up the spot, the longer Inkbox says it will last.

All the tattoos take 24 to 36 hours to develop, though I found the Neverland design appeared in only about 10 hours, much faster than the one I drew myself, which did take closer to 24. Once they’re developed, they really do look superreal, to the point where I was shocked no one in my life commented on them (or maybe I just seem like someone who’s always had a Harry Potter tattoo).

Other minimalist Inkbox temporary tattoos

Glug glug: a line drawing of a coffee mug.

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These Temporary Tattoos Are a Toe Dip Into the Real Thing