Tattoos are a valuable outlet of self-expression–a permanent token to commemorate a special moment, honor a loved one, or share a message.
Some vegans will get tattoos as a dedication to the plant-based lifestyle and for self-representation. Unfortunately, many may not be aware that not all tattoos are vegan.
What does animal consumption have to do with ink?
Much more than you’d think!
Tattoo ink can contain animal-based ingredients such as bone char used for pigmentation, glycerin from animal fat as a stabilizer and moisturizer, gelatin from hooves to bind the ink and shellac from beetles as a for shine or as a finishing agent.
It doesn’t stop at ink transfer paper, after care products and even razors used to prep the skin are also not always vegan. Transfer paper and some aftercare products can contain lanolin, a fat from sheep and other wool-bearing animals. Some aftercare products can also contain beeswax, cod liver oil or shark liver oil as moisturizers, and the lubricating strip on razors can be made from animal-based glycerin.
Fortunately, vegan tattoo ink exists!
Vegan inks are made from plant-based alternatives like witch hazel or ethanol, vegetable-based glycerin, and carbon or logwood for pigmentation. For different colors, parlors would use the vegetable-based glycerin as a binder with vegan pigment powders. These alternatives are safe for human skin and do not contain any carcinogens like PET plastics, acrylics, or solvents.
When researching parlors, you can call and ask about their ink alternatives. If they don’t have any. If not, they may be willing to accommodate by ordering some, or you could provide your own.
There is also vegan transfer paper made from vegetable-derived wax blends that you can buy yourself. For aftercare, you can buy or use products that use all-natural jojoba oil, olive oil, or shea butter.
So, before getting a tattoo, be sure to:
1. Call ahead and ask about what kind of ink the parlor uses.
You can call the parlor you want to visit to let them know you are vegan and want to know about the kind of products they use. Ask about ink alternatives and if they have any. If the parlor can not accommodate you, you can look around more to hopefully find one that will.
2. Ask to bring your own supplies
If you have contacted a parlor that does not have vegan ink and other supplies, you can ask the parlor if it is okay to bring your own supplies.
3. Visit a vegan tattoo parlor or work with a vegan tattoo artist.
This way, from start to finish, there is no question of the ethicality of your tattoo in addition to supporting a plant-based business or artist.
Here are some amazing vegan parlors and artists to consider:
Derek Brimsy is an awesome tattoo artist at Victory Tattoos located in West Nashville. Victory Tattoos is a tattoo parlor with great art and inclusive artists like Brimsy. On his website, you can see photos of his past work and he makes sure every aspect of his work is as vegan as possible from ink to soaps and ointments!
Scapegoat Tattoo is an all vegan tattoo parlor located in Portland, Oregon. They are dedicated to providing professional and ethical services with quality art that will last a lifetime.
The shop also happens to be located in Portland’s first and only vegan strip mall, so there are other local businesses to support just outside the door!
Koneko Studio is another all vegan tattoo parlor in Dallas, Texas. They are dedicated to bringing customers an ethical boldness in the form of body mod art by introducing a new lay of life, koneko life.
Their koneko life mantra is to love and accept people for who they are or are striving to be, to be there for one another and running against the wind when everyone else is running with it.
“Be Bold, Authentic, and Natural. Be Koneko.” – Koneko Studio
Located in Springfield, Illinois, Poke and a Rub is an all vegan friendly art studio that offers custom tattoos as well as paintings, drawings, business logos, boards, murals, etc.
Owners and artists Trent and Erica are completely vegan friendly who can create a custom design for you or a design you bring yourself specializing in realism, new school, abstract and cover-ups.
Common Difference Tattoo Co. is a fully vegan-owned and operated tattoo studio located in Austin, Texas.
Owner and artist Trina Lee created an ethical business where being 100% cruelty-free is a top priority from ink to aftercare products. The business strives to provide a safe, vulnerable free, and non-judgmental space and to make the environment as inclusive as possible for both artists and clientele.
Many vegans have to travel to get tattoos, which is a part of the journey. If none of the suggestions listed speaks to you, then you can visit vKind to search for a vegan tattoo parlor or artist near you or anywhere in the country! You can even use the site to search for other 100% vegan restaurants, shops, and more! Maybe there’s an adventure where you can get your new tattoo as well as try out some vegan eats and other businesses in a new city!