Remember those cute temporary tattoos you would get out of the quarter machines as a kid? You would beg your parents for all the spare change they had in their pockets, then run over to choose one of the cheap toys. If you were one of the cool kids you always chose a temp tattoo — ideally the barbed wire or a cupid's heart. Now those washable tattoos have made their way onto the faces of some of the Internet's most beautiful it girls, artists and photographers.
With the resurgence of '90s and early 2000s nostalgia, a time when tacky tattoos lived and thrived, it's no surprise that people are now wearing these childhood memories on their face. Getting real ink on your face can be a risky (and expensive) commitment, but with temp tattoos you don't have to lock yourself in. You can apply just about anything you want, from flowers to snakes and lions; several temp tattoo lovers have even created their own original designs.
One such purveyor is Tattly, a brand that offers a full run of custom temp tattoos so that you can look exactly like Post Malone through Post's Tattoo Parlor. Producer Diplo is notably among Tattly's fans, having worn their custom Starbucks set last spring.
"Face tattoos have been seen all over the runways," says founder and CEO of INKED by Dani, a brand that makes temp tattoos inspired by celebrities like Ariana Grande and Rihanna. "Given that face tattoos are a more adventurous tattoo trend, our temporary mini tattoos are a great option for getting this look. Whether you're reliving your '90s nostalgia, or can't commit to the real deal, INKED by Dani helps make your tattoo dreams a (temporary) reality."
For some it's more than just nostalgia or celebrity obsession, it's a form of self-expression. "I like the idea of having this look of permanency," says photographer and makeup artist, Palma Wright. "I like to be able to live out those fantasies of being a person who is actually strong enough to tattoo their face permanently. It definitely takes a certain type of person and a certain type of dedication to have that type of permanent art on your face. Also as a makeup artist it's an easier and faster way of attaching extremely detailed art to your face. It completely changes you, and the way people look at you. It's powerful."
"I like to be able to live out those fantasies of being a person who is actually strong enough to tattoo their face permanently."
Other notable figures to get behind temp tattoos include PAPER cover star Jazzelle Zanaughtti (@uglyworldwide), New York-based artist and nightlife fixture Austin Smith (@empty.pools), photographer Jude Liana (@judeliana), and even actor Ansel Elgort (@ansel). In the past, designers from Tommy Hilfiger to Dior and the Blonds have sent temp tattoos down their runways, modeled by major stars like Kendall Jenner.
Taiwanese artist John Yuyi is widely credited for modernizing and transforming the trend when she created social media-inspired temp tattoos for an art series in 2016. But she says the idea to add temp tattoos onto the face started the year before. "In 2015, I got my artist visa to stay in New York, and when I moved to New York I was thinking, Would it be a fun thing to do if I saved my friends' and my photos from our own Facebook and then made a temporary tattoo of our selfies?" she says.
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Since then, Yuyi has created temp tattoos for major brands like Nike, Gucci and Chanel. She was even listed as one of Forbes' 30 under 30 for 2018. With everything from app icons, brand logos, Tinder profiles and even cockroaches, the artist uses washable skin stickers as a way to change the way we think about art, technology and the Internet. Some boast powerful messages about self-love, diversity and inclusion: "The world's lack of diversity should not influence one's self love," one of her temp tattoos reads.
Several years now after Yuyi first laid the foundation for a sweeping temp tattoo trend, brands have begun offering accessible ways to get your own. Check out the following, below, and cover your body without any commitment.
Photo via Instagram