What Is a Temporary Tattoo?
A temporary tattoo is an image on the skin resembling a true tattoo, but is non-permanent. Temporary tattoos can be drawn, painted, or airbrushed, as a form of body painting, but most of the time these tattoos are transferred to the skin. Temporary tattoos of any kind are used for numerous purposes including self-expression, identification, and advertising.
Modern temporary transfer tattoos are made of ink and glue, and last much longer than older temporary tattoos. In this process, the tattoo is applied to the outer surface of the skin and remains until such time as the image fades away (typically after 3-5 days) or is removed.
Temporary tattoos usually consist of five main elements: the front of the sheet of paper, the back of the sheet of paper, ink, glue and a protective plastic sheet. The front of the sheet is covered with a special coating upon which the tattoo image is printed with special inks. A layer of glue is then applied on top of the image. A thin, transparent plastic sheet is placed over the front of the sheet to protect the image and glue layer. The back of the sheet is left untreated and has a list of ingredients and instructions printed on it.
Transfer temporary tattoos are usually applied by removing the plastic sheet, placing the image face down against the skin and moistening the backing by wetting it thoroughly. The backing can then be carefully removed, leaving the image in place.
Today, temporary tattoos are sold everywhere from vending machines to check-out counters at mass retailers to high-end boutiques. A tattoo exists for every demographic; Marvel superhero tattoos for young boys, glitter designs for girls, Ed Hardy temporary tattoos for trendy adults and clubbing designs for young people. Temporary tattoos have become a healthy activity for children.
Types of temporary tattoos
Decal-style temporary tattoos: Decal (press-on) temporary tattoos are used to decorate any part of the body. They may last for a day or for more than a week.
Metallic jewelry tattoos: Foil temporary tattoos are a variation of decal-style temporary tattoos, printed using a foil stamping technique instead of using ink. The foil design is printed as a mirror image in order to be viewed in the right direction once it is applied to the skin. Each metallic tattoo is protected by a transparent protective film.
Airbrush temporary tattoos: Although they have become more popular and usually require a greater investment, airbrush temporary tattoos are less likely to achieve the look of a permanent tattoo, and may not last as long as press-on temporary tattoos. An artist sprays on airbrush tattoos using a stencil with alcohol-based, FDA-approved cosmetic inks. Like decal tattoos, airbrush temporary tattoos also are easily removed with rubbing alcohol or baby oil.
Henna temporary tattoos: Another tattoo alternative is henna-based tattoos, which generally contain no additives. Henna is a plant-derived substance which is painted on the skin, staining it a reddish-orange-to-brown color. Because of the semi-permanent nature of henna, they lack the realistic colors typical of decal temporary tattoos. Due to the time-consuming application process, it is a relatively poor option for children. If you do choose henna temporary tattoos, ensure that they are pure henna. Dermatological publications report that allergic reactions to natural henna are very rare and the product is generally considered safe for skin application.
Serious problems can occur, however, from the use of henna with certain additives. The FDA and medical journals report that painted black henna temporary tattoos are especially dangerous. Black Henna or Pre-Mixed Henna Temporary Tattoos May Be Harmful – see below for safety information.