What is a Vegan Tattoo? — Things to Think About

28th January 2021

vegan tattoo

The art of tattooing has been around for centuries and experienced many changes in regards to style and technique, but what about ethics? Today, let’s talk about vegan tattoos.

Dating as far back as ancient Egypt, tattoos have carried meaning and allowed people to embed artwork and messages on their own skin. Throughout the years, tattoos have experienced many different trends (such as tribal, sailor tattoos, and now, boy am I thankful for it — vegan tattoos) and continued to evolve to suit the needs of modern consumers or enthusiasts in this case. But what about tattoo processes, and more specifically, the ethics of these processes? Have you ever wondered if your brand new tattoo was in fact a vegan tattoo? And what exactly makes a tattoo vegan?

Veganism and eco-friendly practices are a huge aspect 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 the peace of mind knowing that you didn’t compromise your beliefs to get it.

In this post, I’ll highlight the factors you need to consider when it comes to vegan tattoos and vegan tattoo studios.

What is a Vegan Tattoo?

what are vegan tattoos

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.

Tattoo Ink

Tattoos are often referred to as ‘ink’, so it’s 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 recognised 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 endeavour 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.

Aftercare Products

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. It’s also worthwhile checking the label of every product 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.

Stencil Paper

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 who sell both vegan stencil paper and vegan transfer gel to cover all bases. Again, this is something you can discuss with your artist ahead of time.

Single-Use Plastic 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.

An easy workaround for this is to either shave yourself ahead of time, or bring your own razor when you get a tattoo, ideally with a new blade. Just because a studio uses single-use plastic razors for their tattoos, it doesn’t mean you have to. However, if you visit a vegan tattoo studio, this will be something they have considered and found a solution for already as there are alternatives out there. Be aware though, however much vegan-friendly your tattoo studio is, the zero waste situation is always very tricky with tattooing. Sadly, there will be a lot of plastic waste generated no matter what. Just something to keep in mind.

vegan tattoo ink

Tattoo in progress by Martin Meir in Berlin

Vegan Tattoo Studios

If you are someone who would prefer to get a tattoo in a studio and from a vegan tattooist who ensures that every part of their process and their studio is vegan-friendly, you’ll be pleasantly surprised to learn that it isn’t as uncommon as one would think. Gaining momentum in part due to the ever so popular Veganuary, veganism is significantly less ‘niche’ these days, and something that is becoming more and more common as vegan-friendly products become readily available. For tattoo artists who are vegan and have previously struggled to apply their ethical choices to every aspect of their work, times are a-changin’. Scratch that, times have changed.

Today, vegan tattoo studios are a common occurrence in countries all over the world, and there’s a good chance there’s one near you. This not only applies to the tattoo processes but also the furniture and other materials being used. If you want to find a vegan tattoo studio near you, a quick google search should provide you with a few options, or at least some studios you can contact to learn more about their eco-friendly practices. Also, the helpful folk at vegantattoostudios.com have made your quest a lot easier with a simple way to search for suitable studios in your country and town/city.

As you can see there are many factors that make tattoos vegan or not. Does a tattoo hurt? Yes, yes it does. Do animals need to be hurt in the process? No, they do not.

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