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Temp Ink Takeover: The Temporary Tattoo Trend That’s Lasting

These skin stickers aren’t just for kids, and temporary tattoos have been embraced by Millennial “grown ups” who are finding new uses for them.

If you still think of temporary tattoos as prizes from surprise egg vending machines, you need to catch up. Temporary ink has grown up along with Millennials, who have no problem borrowing products from their childhoods and fitting them into the lives they live now. At this point, real tattoos are mainstream to the generation, but many of them still have commitment-phobia, or creativity ADD, that holds them back from getting the real thing. Temporaries allow them to play dress up, try out a look, and show off something fun or different, without the pain and permanence of the real thing. For a few years now high-design temp tattoos for Millennial “grown ups” have been sold on etsy and by design start ups like Tattly. (Need proof that adults are actually playing with temporary ink? Tattly has a wedding collection.) But now we’re seeing the trend go beyond faux ink, and temp tats becoming lifehacks, jewelry, and more. Here are some of the ways that temporary tattoos are trending (and why you should care):

1) Temporary Bling

If you see a beautifully bedecked girl out of the town or on the beach these days, make sure you take a second look before complimenting her bracelet or necklace—those could just be temporary tattoos. Gold and silver temporary bling are being sold by brands like Flash Tat and designers like Lulu DK, allowing young consumers to don glimmering skin accessories and designs that last up to six days. The temporary jewelry trend has been popping up on Instagram, and Flash Tats and Lulu DK supplies have been regularly selling out.  In some ways, this trend is case of festival fashion infiltrating daily wear—a touch of the outlandish and edgy that’s also safe for the everyday. But tattoos as jewelry also has a high-end background. In 2012 Dior released temporaries made of 24 karat gold leafing, which cost $120 a set, and in 2010 Chanel released temporary tattoos in necklace and bracelet designs that cost $75 a pack. A few years later, the trend has been made affordable for everyone else—and we’re seeing it spread.

2) Rivaling the Real Thing

As we mentioned, Tattly is one of the leaders of temp tattoos for the post-tween crowd, and the site’s recent partnership with Rifle Paper Co took the concept of tattoos for commitment-phobes a step further. According to PSFK, the two brands “joined forces and taken inspiration from techniques used in print and accessory design” to produce a result that looks like real tattoo art. The partnership also shows the possibilities for outside, somewhat unexpected brands to get in on the temp tattoo trend. Tattly continuously partners with new designers, but they are also ramping up their co-branded products, recently releasing a line in collaboration with blogger and photographer Garance Doré, and opening up to brands in other ways with their custom tools, which turn any brand or event into cute skin decor.

3) Recipe on Your Wrist

We know Millennials are flocking to the kitchen (76% say they like to cook) but they’re also less likely than previous generations to use cookbooks as their go-to recipe sources. When you think about it, it makes sense: cookbooks take up space, they get dirty, and they’re not so easy to reference when you’re stirring a pot or chopping onions. Millennial design team Marina Cinciripini and Sarah Richiuso has come up with a smart solution. Their I Tradizionali line of temporary tattoos makes recipes into visual graphics that you can put right on your arm for easy access. The recipes are classic Italian but come in both English and Italian language versions, with a price tag of $14 for a pack of four. Because they’re straight from designers, they look good on your arm for long after you’ve cleaned your plate. I Tradizionali failed to raise enough funds to go into production, but the amount of internet buzz that the concept received could be an indication that the idea would be popular here in the U.S.

4) The Writing on the Skin

Book quotes, references, and artwork have become a well-known (real) tattoo trend—just Google “Harry Potter tattoo” to see how many book fans are willing to broadcast their love of a novel on their skin. Now Litographs, a small brand that in the past has produced books, tote bags, and t-shirts emblazoned with famous literary quotes, is branching into body art so that consumers can “celebrate how just a handful of powerful, poignant words from a book can shape our lives and imprint themselves forever in our minds and hearts, by (temporarily) printing those very words on our bodies.” They launched a project on Kickstarter in order to start a line of beautiful iconic quote tattoos from books like Call of the Wild, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, and Peter Pan. They also hoped to create the  “World’s Longest Tattoo Chain” of Alice in Wonderland: the first 2,500 backers to the project were reserved a spot in the chain and promised a temp tattoo sentence of the book. In the end, the novel would be printed on 2,500 bodies at once, and a tattoo photo gallery would be created to comprise the full text. The project was so popular that they have now doubled the number of people who will be participating in the chain, and raised $40k—well over their $7,500 goal—with 21 days still to go.

5) Walking Billboards

Tote bags, magnets, koozies…Millennials love free stuff from brands (who doesn’t) but branded products can get a little boring, and take up room in their very small living spaces. This weekend at Comic-Con (which we gave you a full rundown on yesterday) A&E took a different approach to swag, handing out Bates Motel inspired temporary tattoos designed by an Epic Ink tattoo artist. The cross-promotional effort gave attendees a sample of two shows in a creative way they would actually want to show off. A&E wasn’t the only brand using temp tattoo marketing at the Con: HBO gave fans Game of Thrones themed fake ink, and also gave 15 braver fans the opportunity to be inked for real. Ouch.

Why You Should Care:

Yes, on the surface, temporary tattoos look like a slightly niche trend, but as that last example goes to show faux ink can make for some inventive marketing opportunities. Books of fake tattoos based on popular shows, literary series, and films could be extremely popular. Retailers take note as well: temp ink as jewelry and accessories is becoming more popular and it could be smart to put your own spin on the idea.