The art of tattooing has been around for centuries and experienced many changes in regards to style and technique, but what about ethics? Today, I thought it would be a good idea to talk about vegan tattoos, a topic near and dear to my heart.
A vegan lifestyle and eco-friendly practices are huge aspects of modern society that influence pretty much every industry you can think of, and the tattoo industry is no different. A tattoo is there for life, so it makes sense to have peace of mind knowing that you didn’t compromise your beliefs to get it and that everything used was vegan products.
What is a Vegan Tattoo?
In short, a vegan tattoo is a tattoo that did not (or the artist did their very best not to) utilise materials made of or used animal products during production. Below, I’ll point out a few of the things tattoo artists use every day that may well be made of animal products.
Tattoos are often referred to as ‘ink’, so tattoo inks are bound to be the first thing that springs to mind when discussing tattoos. According to PETA’s website, some tattoo inks are made from animal products such as bone char, hoof gelatine, shellac from beetles and glycerin from animal fat. Lovely, right? Fortunately, there are several brands out there who recognized the ethical issues this raises and successfully sought a solution. Although vegan tattoo ink isn’t something you will find in every studio, there are those who endeavor to adopt ethical practices. However, if they do not, you can ask ahead of time and give them an opportunity to order vegan tattoo ink and other materials. World Famous Tattoo Ink is all vegan! Beware that claims that vegan tattoo inks are healthier and don’t contain carcinogenic chemicals have not been proven or won’t affect those with an autoimmune diseases, in either case. Always do your own research! Good quality ink contains stable color particles that will last a long time and are less risky.
If you have ever got a tattoo, you will know how vital the aftercare process is for healing and ensuring that your (hopefully) vegan tattoo maintains its awesomeness. Unfortunately, most aftercare products you will stumble upon or have used in the past (sorry to be the bearer of bad news) contain animal-derived wax such as Beeswax or Lanolin. The good news is that, much like vegan tattoo ink, several brands have produced vegan tattoo aftercare products made of natural ingredients such as shea butter, jojoba oil, witch hazel, and olive oil. It’s also worthwhile checking the ingredient lists of the products you use to ensure that they are cruelty-free and also look out for additional benefits such as being non-toxic and made from clean ingredients — less potential allergic reactions and health risks as a bonus.
Tattoo artists use stencil paper to transfer their design onto your skin to give them guidance for linework and placement. But: surprise surprise, commonly-used stencil paper is another factor to consider when it comes to getting a vegan tattoo. In many cases, stencil paper is made from lanolin, a material made from sheep’s wool. However, there are brands that sell vegan alternatives like vegan transfer paper and vegan transfer gel to cover all bases. Again, this is something you can discuss with your artist ahead of time.
Plastic disposable razors
Shaving the area that is going to be tattooed not only ensures that the transfer of the design is as clean and accurate as possible, but it also makes sure that the artist has a clear view of the design itself and the linework it features. Shaving is also beneficial for hygiene and healing. This is because it prevents the possibility of the needle pushing hairs into your skin and the risk of infection from ingrown hair. But as you know, many tattoo artists use single-use plastic razors as it’s a simple solution to maintain efficient hygiene — which of course is crucial in their work environment. The gel strip on those razers may contain animal products.