How Do Temporary Tattoos Work and Why We Love Them

Temporary tattoos for many people are most often regarded as playthings for children. In fact, they sometimes come for free with cereal boxes or bags of chips, and they’re a safe way to adorn the skin with fun stenciled designs more easily applied than, say, drawing on oneself with ink or marker.

Even adults are getting in on the trend, with temporary tattoos gracing the skin of pop stars and celebrities on red carpets and runways alike to show off or accentuate a body part with some “ink” without having to enter a lifelong commitment.

Temporary tattoos

Below we’ll detail how temporary tattoos are made and how they work, and the reasons why they’re all the rage.

How They’re Made

There are several ways to create temporary tattoos, as well as various methods of application. The most common type, the ones played with by children and often come as a free gift with a box of cereal or a snack, is called a decal type tattoo. This is basically a stenciled image that is printed on a special type of paper and transferred onto the skin using a bit of water. Using a screen printing process, the stencils are made with non-porous paper that separates the screen during printing. Colorants are always FDA-approved to comply with safety regulations and avoid any issues with the skin.

Why They’re Cool

There are several applications for temporary tattoos, not just as body art or a form of expression. Temporary tattoos are a great way to keep your children safe at a venue where you might be separated from them—think a theme park, water park, or the zoo. You can use a customized temporary tattoo to keep identifying information right on your children’s skin, so if ever they get lost, whoever happens upon them will be able to call you right away.

You can also use temporary tattoos to keep handy medical information on your child at all times—say, if he or she suffers from an allergy or needs medication to be taken at certain intervals. These can be particularly helpful if your child is going somewhere for an extended period of time without you to mind them, like a field trip. Put a temporary tattoo on your child that lists his or her allergies, as well as any other attendant medical concerns, to make sure the supervising adult is aware of what to do during the trip.

Temporary tattoos aren’t just for kids either. You can also use them as a means to identify people for large-scale events, similar to admission wristbands in a concert or a music festival, to figure out who has access to what—instead of using lanyards or IDs that may be easily lost, forgotten or discarded. They’re also a great way to try out how you feel about getting some real ink work done. You can experiment with the placing, size, and designs you want before committing to a permanent one done by a professional.

They are also a fantastic way of adorning yourself with body art without any of the health risks involved with having a real one made. Permanent tattoos can cause scarring, dermatitis, or skin infections. Some people have allergic reactions to tattoo ink. Getting a permanent tattoo may even hinder certain medical diagnostic procedures from being done to you. You may not be able to go in for an MRI or the procedure can cause complications due to metallic dyes and inks used in tattoos. Finally, temporary tattoos are great exactly because they’re temporary: when the fascination fades, just wipe it right off.

Temporary tattoos, just like real tattoos, are a great way to express yourself without committing to the real thing. They also have many practical applications aside from using them as fun body art. So whether you’re a kid or an adult, feel free to have a little fun and get “inked” the fun and safe way with a temporary tattoo. has a Shopper Approved rating of 4.6/5 based on 3757 ratings and reviews.