The loss of a loved one is always excruciating. But one of the ways we deal with the loss is to try to commemorate the person we've lost. The new tattoo approach from Everence, however, truly challenges the boundaries of science.

Literally carrying your loved one with you forever

Everence is now offering a service that allows you to incorporate DNA, hair or cremated remains into any tattoo you want. The remains can come from a person or a pet, and you still have your choice of any licensed tattoo artist you trust.

Patrick Duffy, Everence's Co-Founder and CEO, says he got the inspiration for the new type of tattoo from his interactions with Gold Star families--these are families who have lost someone in military combat. Tattoos stood out to Duffy as a way these families tried to stay emotionally connected to those who passed away. And when a Gold Star mom happened to swim by him on a during a dive, he got the chance to see her tattoo up close and honed in on the idea that tattoos could be turned into meaningful vessels.

"The idea grabbed a hold of me and I couldn't shake it," says Duffy. "I changed jobs and spent the next 3.5 years assembling a team of leading scientists and tattoo artists to turn the idea of Everence into a reality."

That initial vision--honoring a connection to a loved one in a way that lasts forever--is encapsulated in the company name, which is a combination of the words "forever" and "reverence".

How it works

All Everence customers go through the same process:

  • Order a kit on the Everence website.
  • Send Everence a cheek swab, ash or hair via the kit.
  • Everence purifies the sample and encloses it in a polymer that keeps your body from absorbing or destroying it. The finished sample (Everence) resembles a white/silver powder.
  • Everence sends you your finished sample.
  • Take the Everence to your choice of tattoo artist.
  • The tattoo artist mixes the Everence into the tattoo ink and applies your tattoo as they normally would.

Cool? Yes. Safe? Also yes.

Duffy asserts that Everence doesn't change the safety of a conventional tattoo at all. It is FDA-reviewed and classified as a cosmetic. It also is backed by a product liability insurance, which protects the tattoo artists.

Dr. Edith Mathiowitz of Brown University is one of the scientists that helped create Everence. She asserts that Everence, which went through both release studies and clinical trials, is designed to a higher safety standard than any other tattoo product in the world. The purification and encapsulation process contains over 20 distinct steps, and the materials used are medical grade. The facility that produces Everance also is ISO certified and GMP compliant.

"I didn't have any concerns in terms of safety or in terms of achieving our goals, which were to encapsulate DNA in such a way that it never leaches out," Mathiowitz says. "Although it's the exact opposite objective of what I'm normally trying to achieve (normally I design things that release), I knew that we could do it. And we have done it."

Ensuring no regrets

Not everyone who uses Everence has experienced a devastating adversity. Some people use it to commemorate positive experiences, such as having a baby, too. Duffy says his company approaches both scenarios with the same reverence and appreciation for the trust customers place in the Everence team. They want each customer to be proud of getting inked, rather than having regrets or feeling taken advantage of.

"We've taken several steps to ensure our customer-facing staff are properly prepared when communicating with customers," Duffy says, "especially those going through a difficult time, beginning with creating a Customer Advisory Board made up of Everence customers who have been through the process with us of creating Everence from a loved one who has passed. In addition, our customer -facing staff also undergo training from  (Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors)."

A following without even really trying

Everence is not the first to pursue the idea of finding a unique way to use tattoos as memorials. Skin Motion made headlines in January 2018, for example, when it developed a soundwave tattoo that works with an app to play an audio recording. But according to Duffy, no other company offers the science- and safety-backed production methods and insurance Everance does, and Everence is the only company where the tattoo carries a physical part of your loved one. So while he acknowledges Everence isn't a fit for everyone, the company already has diverse customers across the U.S. and from seven countries, all without any paid marketing to date.

Connection, heart, success

Mathiowitz says her favorite parts of the entire Everence experience was working with the team of scientists, business people, Navy SEALS and others, and helping people connect. And Duffy reiterates that connection is the whole point, not just for Everence, but for any business leader.

"The strongest brands in the world, with the highest market valuations, are the ones that establish an emotional connection with their customers.  Brands that connect with peoples' hopes and dreams--and which succeed in delivering unique experiences to their customers--are the brands that build the most durable followings and realize the greatest lifetime value from their consumer bases. Smart brands connect with customers' heads; great brands connect with their hearts."