I’ve never taken the plunge to actually get a real tattoo. While Kristen’s tattoos look amazing, the pain and permanence hold me back. So, when I saw the ads for semi-permanent tattoos from Inkbox in my Facebook feed over and over,  I thought I’d give one a try as part of our Damn You, Facebook Ads series in which we check out those products you may be wondering about too.

So what are they?

Compared to most temporary tattoos, the semi-permanent tattoos from Inkbox actually look like real tattoos. The claim is that they last much longer — from 8 to 18 days (more on that below), or long enough from to make a cool first impression at your middle school parents’ night.

That said, unlike most temporary tattoos, they’re fairly expensive, starting $19 for the most basic designs. But the catalog is vast, and the designs are pretty terrific, as you can see below.

So, if you’re thinking of trying them out too, here’s what to expect.

Related: The loveliest temporary tattoos now from Tattly.

How well do Inkbox semi-permanent tattoos really work? We put them to the test.

Related: 12 unique tattoo ideas for parents, beyond your kid’s name on your back.

How Inkbox tattoos work

Think of Inkbox semi-permanent tattoos as similar to henna tattoos, penetrating the top layers of skin, only the ink is all-natural and derived from a fruit that grows in Darién Gap, Panama.

(In fact, I like that the company donates a percentage of each portion back to education and fair trade programs that support the indigenous people who harvest it; one of the reasons I wanted to try them in the first place.)

Damn you, Facebook ads: How well do Inkbox semi-permanent tattoos really work?


You can choose from a lot of nicely designed options, from geometric symbols, to designs representing concepts like exploration and protection (a sentimental choice for a parent). There are also twee animals, inspirational quotes, and even the molecular diagram for coffee in their Science category, which is full of a lot of great choices.

As for me, I shelled out $23 — the higher end — for the floral sakura semi-permanent tattoo.

Each semi-permanent tattoo is basically a peel-and-stick stencil on a huge patch that you put on your body, stencil side down. Honestly, it looks a little like something they’d slap on you in the ER.

Next, you rub an alcohol swab over the patch, and apply pressure for 12-15 minutes with a warm compress, all of which are included in the kit.

FYI, that’s a loooong time to firmly hold a compress on your arm.

Inkbox tattoos: Directly after application, and a few hours later.

My wrinkly arm right after application! Eep!

When you’re finished, pull the patch off and the tattoo will be faintly visible on your (very wrinkly) skin. So don’t plan on sticking one on just before running out to a wedding or anything.

Over the next couple days, the tattoo will get darker and darker, eventually looking more like a real tattoo.


Inbox semi-permanent tattoos: The results

Indeed, my temporary tattoo has fooled a lot of people the first week I wore it. You can see below how nice and sharp it looked on day 2.

After about a week, it started to fade just slightly, though it still looks real, if a bit worn. Unfortunately though, my semi-permanent tattoo quickly vanished over the following days.

At the 14-day mark, mine was essentially gone, looking more like my kid had scribbled something random on my arm with a pen that I had yet to wash off. Boo. No 18 days for me.

(And for reference, in the application stage I held the compress on for the full 15 minutes.)


How Inkbox semi-permanent tattoos hold up over two weeks.


Our verdict

It definitely looks great for about a week. After that, no guarantees. I wouldn’t count on it looking amazing for a full 18 days, especially if you plan on swimming or um, bathing anytime after getting it. Though they suggest that you can apply petroleum jelly or a favorite oil to the area before getting it wet, to counteract exposure.

If you’re a decent artist, you can also order a bottle of freehand ink at $30/oz (comparable price to henna ink) that you might be able to use to freshen an existing design.

So is it worth it?

You have to look at the cost-benefit ratio. Liz swears that her (far less expensive) Tattly temporary snake tattoo looked so real for about four to five days, her kids’ camp counselors asked if it was real. Inkbox’s semi-permanent will give you double that time.

Bottom line: for around $20, the Inkbox tattoos do look great, and it’s a relatively easy way to see if you’re ready for a real tattoo. Or, just try one out to look little edgier for a special event coming up.

Like that middle school parents’ night.

You can choose from dozens of semi-permanent tattoos at Inkbox…or find them on Facebook like we did, ha!

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