I don’t have any tattoos, but I do appreciate them on others. I think it’s a beautiful art. However, not until the other day when I met with my friend Erick Cedeno of Bicycle Nomad, did I realize that not all tattoos are vegan. I asked him, ‘wait, how can a tattoo be vegan or not?’ I was pretty shocked to learn about this. The vast majority of tattoo products often contain animal ingredients.
Inks and aftercare products use a variety of animal-based products.
• Glycerin: Made from animal fat, glycerin is a common ink stabilizer used to make the ink easier to work with.
* UPDATE* Corrections made by James Spooner from Monocle Tattoo: – “Most inks use vegetable based glycerine.”
• Bone char: Black ink, the most popular and widely used color of all, is usually made with bone char, which is the soot from burned animal bones. Inks formulated with bone char are said to achieve the darkest, crispest shade of black.
UPDATE* Corrections made by James Spooner from Monocle Tattoo: “Bone char is used in exactly one brand of ink. Its called “one” There are other blacks that are not vegan but 9 out of 10 of the most popular brands are all vegan. So the ink isnt as much of an issue as a lot of articles would have you believe.”
• Gelatin: Made from animal hooves, gelatin is a binding agent and a frequent ink ingredient. James Spooner says this ingredient is not found in any ink to the best of his knowledge. * UPDATE* Corrections made by James Spooner from Monocle Tattoo: “Gelatin is not an ingredient in any ink to the best of my knowledge.”
• Shellac: Shellac is used as a binding agent and is made from beetles.
• Lanolin: Made from sheep wool, lanolin is a common ingredient in lotions, ointments and salves used during the tattooing process, as well as in after care products. Some say lanolin is used in essentially all stencil paper as well. * UPDATE* Corrections made by James Spooner from Monocle Tattoo: “Lanolin is present in A and D ointment which essentially every tattooer uses, and Stencil paper BUT the only brand that matters, Repofx spirit paper, began producing a vegan variety last year. It is just as good but costs a little more. Most tattooers don’t know it exists as they are creatures of habit and there has been very little advertisement or distribution but it is available online. So There is a vegan stencil paper out there.”
• Beeswax: Used in aftercare lotions and salves.
• Cod Liver Oil: Used in aftercare lotions and salves.
Additional Notes by James Spooner from Monocle Tattoo: “Vaseline is sometimes used in place of a and d ointment. Vaseline is a Johnson and Johnson product who test on animals. And petroleum jelly is filtered with bone char so that’s out too”
I can understand how for a vegan or vegetarian, this news may be rather depressing. But you can always begin fresh and make sure all future tattoos comply with your ethics. There are vegan alternatives for all of the ingredients listed above. If you’re lucky enough to live in or near a major metropolitan area, you’ll be able to find a tattoo studio that’s either all vegan or employs at least one vegan tattoo artist. They’ll understand what you’re looking for and why.
Here are some animal-friendly tattoo establishments in major cities:
• Los Angeles – Spooner Tattoos, Monocle Tattoo
• New York City – White Rabbit Tattoo Studio, Three Kings Tattoo
• San Francisco – Industrial Tattoo, Mermaids Tattoo
• Seattle – Damask Tattoo, Emerald City Tattoo
• Portland, Ore. – Scapegoat Tattoo
• Washington, D.C. – Jinx Proof
• Chicago – The Chicago Tattooing & Piercing Co.
Additional Notes by James Spooner from Monocle Tattoo: “Some of the tattoo shops listed above, use vegan inks but do not go the extra mile to provide a completely vegan procedure. The ointments and stencil paper is a big hang up for a lot of tattooers who don’t really care that much.”
When you visit these places, or any vegan tattoo artist make sure you also ask what ingredients are used to replace the animal products. I’ve found that some include plastic in it, and you definitely don’t want that engraved in your body forever. Also, although some artists say it doesn’t make a difference, vegan ink may have less depth of color than the bone-based variety. To those interested in getting a vegan tattoo, just make sure to include all these points in your questions.
Written by Diana Paez. If you liked this post, and want to show your appreciation please like, share or comment below. I’d love to hear from you! I am always open to any questions, suggestions, or comments. You are more than welcome to share the information in this article in your own blog or page, all I ask is that you link back to this post. Love, Peace and Health to you, friends!