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Chicago’s First Semi-Permanent Tattoo Studio Opens In West Loop

The biodegradable ink from Ephemeral Tattoo can last one to three years before the tattoos fade, according to the company.

Ephemeral is Chicago's first temporary tattoo studio.
Cesar Rubio
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WEST LOOP — Donita Sylvestre has always wanted a tattoo, but the commitment of permanent ink kept her from following through.

On Monday, Sylvestre was the first customer at Chicago’s only semi-permanent tattoo studio, giving customers like her a less daunting option for body art.

Ephemeral Tattoo, 1356 W. Lake St., offers the first made-to-fade tattoo ink that lasts at least a year.

Developed in 2021, Ephemeral’s ink is biodegradable and is broken down by the body over time. The fade time varies depending on where the tattoo is on the body, Smallwood said.

The company previously advertised the ink would break down in about a year, but some customers have reported it lasting far longer. Ephemeral now says the ink can last up to three years.

“As someone who has a lot of permanent work, I would have loved to have known about Ephemeral years ago, because there’s pieces I definitely regret and I would have loved to have gotten them in temporary ink,” said Teylor Smallwood, studio manager at Ephemeral.

Credit: Cesar Rubio
A tattoo booth inside Ephemeral in the West Loop.

Sylvestre planned Monday to get a flower placed mid-chest.

“I feel like I’m going through a time in my life, like I’m blooming. So, it’ll bloom with me and then fade … and around that time, I’ll probably transition to something else,” Sylvestre said.

Simpler line work placed above the waist can fade in one to two years, while tattoos that are more complex and placed on the lower body can take up to three years to fade, Smallwood said.

But don’t be fooled: A semi-permanent tattoo is placed just like a traditional tattoo, meaning there is still pain associated with the application.

“We try to be very conscious about how we explain pain to our clients. It’s a little different for everybody. It’s the same as a permanent piece,” Smallwood said.

The inside of the studio features 11 jewel-toned tattoo booths made to emulate the light reflections on the Chicago River at night. Guests are welcomed by a comfortable, sleek waiting area and the smell of incense.

The studio has four artists with three to 20 years of experience in tattooing. Customers that book online will choose between a subtle tattoo for $195 and a statement tattoo for $350. Prices are all inclusive and includes tip and a free design consultation.

Tattoos are only done in black for now. The company is working on developing colored ink that can withstand the same amount of time as its black ink, Smallwood said.

Credit: Cesar Rubio
The welcome area at Ephemeral, a temporary tattoo studio in the West Loop.

The Chicago studio is among eight Ephemeral studios nationwide, with other locations in New York, Miami, Houston, Atlanta, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Washington, D.C.

The Chicago studio is booking about four appointments a day and is about 97 percent booked through the next two weeks, Smallwood said. Appointments are available through May 29, and you can book on the studio’s website.

“Whether you have permanent work or you’ve never been in a tattoo shop before, we really want to make the experience transcend the temporary nature of the tattoo,” Smallwood said.

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