How to Remove a Temporary Tattoo Without Damaging Your Skin

woman with lightning bolt temporary tattoo

@inkedbydani/Design by Cristina Cianci

Temporary tattoos are a great way to try out the look of a tattoo without committing to the real thing, no matter your age or aesthetic. Application is as simple as placing the design, wetting the back of it with water, and peeling the paper off to reveal a transferred tat!

Two advantages of getting a temporary tattoo: being able to test out a potential real piece of ink and getting the look of a tattoo without going under the needle. Either way, the tats “allow you to try out your dream tattoo with chic, minimal, and elevated designs!” says Dani Egna, owner of temporary tattoo company INKED by Dani.

“Temporary tattoos are a good way to visualize what your body might look like with one,” says Egna. “And honestly, it just a fun, inexpensive thing to do alone or with friends!”

Because modern companies like INKED by Dani or NatureTats create more mature designs, you don’t have to worry about your only options being a unicorn or rainbow. Instead, these more contemporary companies lean toward real tattoo designs—think blackwork florals, linework mountains, and metallic tribal designs.

On top of the increased range of design choices, temporary tattoos have generally been getting more popular over the last year or so. Because the internet has made them accessible, it’s now easier than ever for customers to find designs that fit their aesthetic and price range. Plus, because of the pandemic, people of all ages have been looking for at-home activities that help kill time.

But while temporary tattoos are known for their short lives, it can actually be harder to remove them from skin than you’d think—especially if you’re trying to get rid of them before their typical shelf life (skin life?).

“The discomfort comes from the stickiness (skin adhesive) they sometimes have,” says Allison Wilcoxen, owner of NatureTats, a hand-drawn temporary tattoo company. “When you try to remove that, especially early on, it can pull little hairs out with it.”

And pulling out a bunch of little hairs is just as painful as it sounds—think about the pain you feel ripping off an adhesive bandage. In that instance, removing the temporary tat can be even more difficult due to knowing that you’re going to feel a bit of pain. Temporary tattoos aren’t easily removed with soap and water either, so it’s common for people not to know how to properly remove them. This leads to people scrubbing and picking at a temporary tattoo to take it off, irritating and sometimes even breaking the skin. When you choose a high-quality temporary tattoo company like NatureTats or INKED by Dani, though, you can be sure that the materials used won’t give you much, if any, trouble.

“We've chosen to omit any harsh chemicals and made sure to develop a formula that comes off easily whenever you're ready to switch them up!” says Egna.

Here are the best ways to remove a temporary tattoo if you’ve decided they’re just a bit too permanent for you.


Chemical Products

There are a number of household products that contain the correct chemicals to quickly get rid of a temporary tattoo. Don’t worry, these won’t burn your skin or anything; instead, chemical products will quickly fade the pigments and break up the particles of the transferred design itself.

The best products to use if you’re interested in this method are rubbing alcohol and nail polish remover, though hydrogen peroxide and hand sanitizer would also work.

To use these products, simply rub the remover of your choice onto the temporary tattoo with a gentle cloth. Use circular motions for about 30 seconds at a time, careful not to press too hard, as you may irritate the skin. Take a break between each pass, but be sure to keep an eye on the tattoo, as you should be sure to wash off any excess as soon as it’s removed from the skin.


Oil-Based Remover

“At the end of [a] shower, I’ll use some kind of oil like baby oil or coconut oil and a cotton pad to rub it off easily and painlessly,” says Wilcoxen.

An extremely common method for removing temporary tattoos is oil-based products that are typically used to remove makeup. The idea behind this removal method is that using oil will easily get rid of the unnatural material (the temporary tat) without getting rid of the natural one (your body’s oil). The best oil-based products for this method are baby oil and coconut oil, but you can just as easily use olive oil if that’s all you’ve got.

Just as Wilcoxen noted, removing a temporary tattoo with this method is easy. All you have to do is apply the product to the tattoo and rub it into the skin in circular motions until the design begins to flake off.


Household Tape

Yep, you heard that right—household tape can be used to remove a temporary tattoo. However, it’s not as simple as taking off the design as you would removing hair with wax. Instead, each strip of tape removes small bits of the design at a time.

This method is a great choice if the temporary tattoo is fairly new or if it’s quite large. You can use household Scotch tape or something stronger, like packing tape or medical tape, but be sure that it’s not so sticky that it could actually damage your skin in the process.

All you need to do is cut a piece of tape large enough to cover the tat and completely adhere it to the skin. Once it’s pressed down firmly, simply peel the tape off. This process may need to happen a few times to remove all of the tattoo, but keeping at it will eventually remove the design.


Cold Cream

While you may assume cold cream is an oil-based product, it actually combines both oil and water for a different kind of product. Using it is as easy as the other products and potentially even easier, considering you can spread the cold cream on without it running all over your skin.

To use cold cream, apply a liberal amount over the temporary tattoo and let it sit. As long as the design is fully covered (double-check!), you should keep the cream product on for at least an hour. Don’t be alarmed if it’s absorbed by your skin—it’s supposed to be! Once the hour is up, gently wipe away the excess with a wet washcloth, or rinse away the former temporary tattoo under running water.

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