How Long Do Temporary Tattoos Last?

Let’s face it tattoos are pretty rad. But if you’re not quite ready to take the leap for the real thing tattoos are forever, after all then you might want to experiment with some temporary tattoos.

Temporary tattoos are images that are created to look like real tattoos when applied to the skin, but eventually, wash away with soap and water after several days of display. While by their nature they are designed to wash off, there are few helpful tips that you can take advantage of if you’d like to make them last a little longer.

While most of us are familiar with the inexpensive tattoos that can be found in novelty shops and quarter toy machines, there is a wide range of realistic tattoos available online and in craft stores that are made by actual artists. These images can be created by actual artists, cover an entire arm, leg, or torso, and are meant to look just like an actual tattoo.

Temporary tattoos are a great way to decide where on your body or what type of image you’d like to get when considering an actual tattoo. And, just like an actual tattoo, there are a few easy steps you can take to ensure your temporary tattoo looks better and lasts longer.

5 Tips For How to Make Temporary Tattoos Last Longer

Tips to Make Temporary Tattoos Last Longer

Cleansing The Spot Where To Place the Tattoo 

By thoroughly cleaning the area where you plan to apply the temporary tattoo, you give your skin the best chance of retaining the ink on your body for as long as possible. That is because temporary tattoos are designed to break down in oil. In fact, wiping the tattoo with baby oil is a preferred method of removing temporary tattoos!

Cleaning your skin also removes any dirt, lotions, or other products from your skin. Removing gunk from the area before the application is good for temporary tattoos for the same reason it is recommended before adding a decal or bumper sticker to the body of an automobile if there is dirt on the surface, the adhesive will stick to those particles rather than the intended material, making it more likely to fall off prematurely.

Temporary tattoo cleaning

Exfoliate Your Skin Before Application

The surface layer of your skin is covered with dead skin cells. By exfoliating your skin, you are able to remove dead surface skin cells, leaving only living, healthy skin.

The dead skin cells act as a barrier that prevents the tattoo from adhering to the skin and causing the decal to fall off prematurely.

When choosing an exfoliation method, lean more towards a physical scrub brush, pumice stone, or loofah as opposed to anything that might leave an oily residue on your skin products such as sugar or coconut rubs.

Shave That Area Before Tattooing

Shave the area where you plan to place the tattoo decal before applying it to your skin. Hair can get between the bonding agent and the top layer of skin. By removing the hair, you also remove the impediment to the tattoo getting the best possible stick. 

Many people shave body parts, such as arms and legs, regularly. By removing the hair before applying the decal, you give yourself the longest time available before having to re-shave the area which might cause the tattoo to come off. When possible, use a nice, clean, sharp razor in order to remove the most hair and leave the softest skin available on the application area.

Choose the Application Area Carefully 

Black Girl with a lot of temporary tattoos

You want to pick an area on your body that is ideal for placing the temporary tattoo. In addition to looking as cool as possible, you also want the area to be covered with skin that does not move more than necessary.

Your elbows and knees, for example, are constantly in motion. Each time you take a step or make a movement with your arms, the stretch skin around these areas expands and contracts.

The skin over your calf, or under your collar bone on the other hand is pretty stationary. As you go about your day, these patches of skin move a lot less than other parts of the body.

Increasing the Life of Henna Tattoo

Henna tattoos are another form of temporary body art. But the art of caring for a henna tattoo and increasing its lifespan is much different than that of a stick-on temporary tattoo.

This form of body art has been practiced for religious and secular reasons in Southeast Asia, North Africa, and other parts of the world for centuries or longer. Henna tattoos are made using a dye created with the pigment from the henna plant and are applied to the top layer of the skin without penetrating it.

Increasing the Life of Henna Tattoo

A traditional henna tattoo artist mixes henna extract with other ingredients to make a paste, which is applied to the skin using a piping bag similar to the way decorative icing is added to the top of a cake or using a bamboo stick or shoot.

Henna pastes naturally fall off of the skin as the paste dries out and flakes off. So in order to keep your tattoo longer, try keeping the surface of the henna tattoo moist by spraying it with lemon juice mixed with sugar. This will allow the henna to penetrate the uppermost layer of the skin, where the dye can temporarily take root.

Things Should Totally Avoid

How Long Do Temporary Tattoos Last

According to FDA guidelines, you should avoid any temporary tattoos that have the words ‘black henna’ on the label. This goes for the variant ‘pre-mixed henna,’ or anything that has any of the following words in the ingredients list: paraphenylenediamine (PPD), silver nitrate, pyrogallol, carmine, disperse orange dye, chromium or any other dangerous chemical compounds.

Video Guide: How to Make a Temporary Tattoo Last Longer

People Also Asked

Is a temporary tattoo painful?

If the temporary tattoo is one created on top of the skin using paints, stickers, and such there will be no pain associated with it. If the tattoo makes use of ephemeral ink that is applied using traditional tattoo guns and equipment the pain is relatively the same as the pain of a permanent one.

Are there tattoos that last for 1 year?

Tattoos that are created using ephemeral ink are designed to last for about a year and then fade away. The dye molecules in this type of ink are much smaller than the dye molecules in the typical tattoo ink. The body is able to use the immune system to remove the smaller molecules and over time the ink disappears, as it is removed by the immune system.

Do temporary tattoos use needles?

There are two basic types of temporary tattoos. The first type using henna stains that color the outermost layer of skin and wash away quickly. They are normally applied using paper stickers, or possibly through brushes and other topical applications. The second kind uses ink that has smaller dye molecules in the makeup and has to be injected into the dermis of the skin just like a normal tattoo is. The injection of ink into the dermis requires a needle.


Temporary tattoos are great ways to explore body art like tattoos without making a permanent commitment. It is recommended that when you want to put someone’s name on you with tattoo ink you use the temporary style first, and make sure the relationship lasts.

Remember that the only tattoos that can be guaranteed to be temporary are the ones applied to the outer layer of skin using paints, brushes, stickers or henna stains. If the ink is injected into the dermis layer then it can fade away, or it can stay. There is no guarantee to assure you that 100% of the ink used to create a temporary tattoo will fade away in the same amount of time.

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