The $50 billion tattoo industry gets a tech-forward makeover

Nearly half of Millennials in the U.S. have a tattoo, and the marketplace is evolving to reflect growing interest in body art (and its removal). Recent years have seen companies reimagine tattoos digitally, and now others are leveraging technology to create communities around tattoo culture and innovative product offerings.


A Danish duo is rethinking how people discover and share tattoos with the help of Miami Ink’s Ami James. Their startup, Tattoodo, is a lifestyle hub for all things body art and is currently the world's largest online tattoo portal, a place where artists and tattoo lovers meet to share inspiration, custom designs, personal stories, guides, and art. Reflecting just how big interest in the category has become, the site boasts two billion monthly content views and 40 million+ followers on social media. To fuel growth further, the founders recently relocated the company’s headquarters from Copenhagen to NYC.


A new product from MIT Media Lab and Microsoft Research called DuoSkin turns metallic tattoos into connected interfaces. Using gold leaf for connectivity, the Flash Tat-like tattoos act as an inputs for smartphones or computers, transmit data to other devices via NFC, and create on-skin light effects through embedded LEDs. The developers believe that in the future, on-skin electronics will no longer seem like something out of Science Fiction but instead take on the user-friendliness and aesthetic quality of body art.


The latest in a line of companies to rethink the temporary tattoo, UK-based Ephemeral offers options that disappear in about three months. The inks are applied in the same manner as traditional tattoos but last only a season, giving people the freedom to get tatted without a lifetime commitment. Per the company’s founders, traditional tattoo inks are permanent because the dye molecules are too big for the body’s immune system to remove, so they circumvent the problem by using smaller molecules encapsulated inside a spherical structure that’s big enough to last a matter of months.