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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Temporary tattoos shake up tradition

Temporary tattoos shake up tradition

Getting tattooed is something Cambodian parents are highly suspicious of; having one usually tags you as someone who is either in a gang, or who wants to become a boxer. A tattoo is viewed as a lifelong mark on the skin.

Bringing this new concept into the Kingdom, where culture and tradition are highly conservative, is not easy, but in keeping with the pace of changing trends, a new business venture in Phnom Penh is up for the challenge.

Now at Purple Star, a 5-month-old venture in town, those curious about body art can break with tradition without the parental hassle: the shop offers the city’s first airbrush tattoo designs, available for a couple of bucks and easily washed off within a matter of days.

This joint business, established by two friends who simply go by Sam and Ping, already has two branches at Sovanna and Sorya shopping malls.

“There are already existing [airbrush tattoo] businesses overseas,” said Sam, the shop co-owner. “We are the first to bring the product and concept to Cambodia.”

The concept was inspired by a marketing strategy in Malaysia where businesses promote their companies by paying marathon runners to have a brand or product name sprayed on their bodies.

“If you wear a badge or sticker running for a half hour or so, it will fall off, but the airbrush tattoo is sprayed onto your skin and you don’t expect the skin to come off,” said Sam.

And of course, getting an airbrush tattoo is not a painful experience. “It is not like putting needle into your skin,” said Ping. “It takes only a few minutes to get done and it dries without messing up your shirt.”

Though hygiene is not a concern as it is with needle tattoos, the quality of ink has to be thoroughly checked. Kids might think it fun to use pen and draw on their skin, but that could lead to skin allergies.

According to Sam, the ink that the shop imports can be used on eight-year-olds, but they don’t at Purple Star. “We are very careful with our young customers,” Sam explained.

The entrepreneur sees great potential in airbrush tattoos, which can also serve as unique gifts at events like birthday parties or traditional Cambodian wedding receptions where guests are given party favours like key chains, pens or plastic flowers for attending.

“Now with the availability of airbrush tattoo, we can spray a pink heart on their hand instead,” Sam suggested.

Aside from tattoos, Purple Star shop provides trendsetters other novelty products, like glow-in-the-dark personalized rice necklaces and custom-made wax hands.

The wax hands are made by dipping the customer’s hand into hot wax for five minutes in any style – a peace or OK sign, for example- and are also a first in Cambodia.

They come with a lifetime guarantee – if the fingers fall off, the shop will fix it for free.

“Because we are the first in Cambodia, just come to us and we’ll know you were our customer,” said Sam.

Since the business is new and its main concept goes against the grain of Cambodian traditions, the future of Purple Star Shop has yet to be seen. However, Sam and Ping are optimistic that their business will grow.

“Cambodians are not very keen on new stuff, but we are optimistic with what we are doing,” Sam said. “In the long run, we want to expand our service to events such as birthday parties or wedding receptions if airbrush tattooing gains more popularity with time.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Chanvetey Vann at



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