Can Vegans Get Tattoos?
Tattoos can serve as a way of expressing your personality or preserving a special memory. The ink lines that decorate skin come in different sizes and shapes and represent something different to everyone, but not many are aware that the whole process of getting a new tattoo is not necessarily vegan.
Why Isn’t Tattoo Ink Vegan?
The first thing that vegans need to consider is the ink itself. Some inks contain ingredients that are derived from animals, such as glycerine obtained from animal fat that is used as a stabiliser and provides a glossy shade. Not all glycerin is animal-based as it can be made from soybeans, palm oil or synthetic ingredients according to The Vegan Society. However, the glycerin source is rarely specified on products and so avoiding it remains the safest option.
Non-vegan gelatine is the most common animal ingredient used in some brands as a binding agent. Other tattoo inks use shellac instead, which is derived from beetle shells. Bone char is sometimes used in black ink to ensure an increased colour of the pigment according to PETA.
What is Vegan Tattoo Ink Made Out of?
Vegan inks use plant-based glycerin, witch hazel or ethanol and carbon or logwood to achieve the black colour.
Jana Gomez Paratcha Silve Page, 25, is a hand-poke tattoo artist from East Sussex that follows a vegan diet.
She says: ‘’I think it is important to use products that are in line with my ethos in life, especially as a lot of people do not even know that most inks are not vegan.’’
She uses World Famous Tattoo Ink, which is a popular vegan ink.
‘’We understand the importance of cruelty-free products. Our Vegan Tattoo Ink contains no animal products and is never tested on animals,’’ says the World Famous Tattoo Ink website.
Harriet Rose Heath,33, a vegan tattoo artist (@LoneRoseTattoo) from Manchester also avoids non-vegan ink. She uses Dynamic Black Ink and Solid Ink for colours.
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Other vegan brands include names like Stable Color, Eternal, Bloodline and many more.
Is Your Tattoo Artist Using Stencil paper?
The use of stencil paper is one of the initial steps in the tattooing process used by artists. It is used to create a tattoo outline on the skin before applying the ink. The stencil paper is usually made with lanolin, which is a fatty substance derived from sheep’s wool as reported by PETA.
‘’We use Spirit stencil paper which is certified vegan,’’ Harriet says.
Not all artist use vegan tattoo stencil papers. Jana’s process consists of mostly freehand tattooing using a guideline drawing on the skin.
Are the Razors That Tattoo Artists Use Vegan?
In some occasions, tattoo artists will have to use razors to ensure the place where you are getting your tattoo is hair-free so the ink goes deep enough in the skin. They are likely to use disposable razors with a moisture strip, which contains gelatine.
A possible alternative is bringing your own razor that contains a plant-based lubricant strip or consulting your artist.
How Can I Make Sure the Aftercare is Cruelty-Free?
Anyone who has a tattoo is not new to the aftercare process that is crucial for the quality of the tattoo and skin healing quickly. Many aftercare balms contain lanolin or beeswax or other animal-derived products.
Find out why beeswax isn’t sustainable or vegan.
Ensure you choose a plant-based brand using ingredients like shea butter, olive oil or jojoba oil as tattoo aftercare.
Got a new tattoo and don’t know how to care for it? Check out this vegan tattoo aftercare video:
Are Tattoo Inks Healthy?
A report from the European Commission Joint Research Centre from 2016 found that tattoo inks are associated with health risks because of the chemicals they contain. The report says that azo pigments, found in some inks, can release carcinogenic substances into your skin when exposed to sun, UltraViolet radiation or laser irradiation.
Harriet says: ‘’There’s EU regulations on inks so certain brands are not able to sell here because they are not medically safe. So, it is honestly not something that anyone should be worried about.’’
Are Vegan Inks Healthier?
World Famous Tattoo Ink claims that vegan tattoos are “better for immunity and overall health” and “more reliable and safer on skin.”
However, the only health benefit seems to be no risk of dermatitis as non-vegan inks containing shellac can cause this eczema.
Luckily for vegans, the vegan tattoo market is growing and there are many conscious artists out there. With a bit of research and discussion with the artist, everyone can make sure their tattoo not only fits their personality but also their lifestyle.
Harriet says: ‘’As far as the products I use directly on my clients (soaps, sprays, inks etc) I make sure they are all vegan friendly, but just for myself but because I have a large vegan client base.
‘’We even have a biscuit jar in the studio for clients and we make sure they’re all vegan friendly. I try to make conscious decisions with what I consume and use at home, so it’s only natural that I would do the same in the workplace.’’