Ink can be an incredible way to celebrate your dedication to a compassionate lifestyle. There are some beautifully tattooed vegans out there, and as we know, veganism goes beyond what you eat. So if you are a vegan and thinking about getting a tattoo, there are some things that you need to know. The bad news? Not all ink is vegan. The good news? Vegan-friendly ink is so easily found that you can get a vegan tattoo almost anywhere!
Is Tattoo Ink Vegan?
Tattoo inks are comprised of pigments, or color-based materials, combined with a carrier, which functions as a solvent to help carry the pigment and deliver it into the skin via the tattoo needle. The pigments can be comprised of anything from plant-based materials to iron oxides, metal salts or even products derived from animals. It is so frustrating that animal products lurk everywhere, just like the hidden ingredients in makeup and cosmetics, but unfortunately they do.
What is NOT Vegan in Tattoo Ink:
- Shellac is a resin derived from crushed beetle shells (often found in red ink)
- Bone char comes from the act of burning animal bones (commonly used in black ink)
- Gelatin is derived from boiling various animal parts and may sneak into pigments
- Glycerin is made from animal fat as a carrying agent (the most commonly used carriers are water or ethyl alcohol)
Anything You Can Do, I Can Do Vegan
Some of the most popular and mainstream brands of ink are vegan-friendly and easy to find. This makes the act of getting a vegan tattoo so much simpler. A quick round of phone calls to the local tattoo shops here, in New Jersey, lead to this surprise: the seven nearest shops all use a vegan-friendly brand as their primary ink. Score! Unfortunately, some shops did not know whether or not their ink was vegan, even when it was.
Popular vegan ink brands:
If you find a tattoo artist you absolutely love but they don’t have animal-friendly ink in stock, see if its possible for them to order it or buy and bring it yourself (but not all companies will sell to individuals). Some shops will be happy to accommodate, but others prefer to do it their own way. As a courtesy to the tattoo studio, be sure to contact them about this ahead of time to ensure neither the artist nor client is inconvenienced.
Pay Close Attention to the Details
While many shops have vegan ink on hand, not all know what it means to carry out the process in an entirely vegan manner. Before you get tatted, for example, the artist will wash the area with soap and water and then shave it. More often than not, these disposable blades are coated with gel, which is not vegan. Sometimes the soaps contain animal fat. More products used in tattoo sessions may include petroleum and Aquafor ointment, neither of which are plant-based. Even the transfer paper, used to copy the design to your skin, is a non vegan product because it often contains lanolin (is it really necessary for animal products to be in paper?!). Thankfully, there is a vegan alternative for that, too.
So, if you are concerned about the products that might be applied during your session, speak with your artist beforehand to check if you can bring your own products without a problem.
Aftercare ointments need to be double-checked for ingredients as well (but we are basically professionals at that by now, aren’t we?). Tattoo Goo contains beeswax and A&D contains lanolin or cod liver oil, so those are out of the picture. However, there are a slew of fancy vegan aftercare products including Merry Hempsters Vegan Hemp Tattoo Balm, Hustle Butter Luxury Tattoo Care, Lush Ultrabalm, and After Inked balm. Quite a few vegans swear by the ever-versatile coconut oil, an alternative that many already have stocked in their pantry.
Now, You Are Ready to Ink!
While there are only a handful of tattoo shops that are entirely vegan, you can probably get a vegan tattoo done just about anywhere. All you need is a little knowledge and a friendly discussion with the artist at your local shop. The most inconvenient part of this process would be having to obtain a full palette of vegan inks yourself, but since cruelty-free brands are becoming pretty mainstream, it is not that difficult to get a vegan tattoo. It might not be a piece of cake, so to speak, but it is a great opportunity to let artists know about the demand for vegan body art.
Are you rocking a vegan-themed tattoo, or have a tattoo experience to share? Tell us in the comments.