The good news is that you can actually get a completely vegan tattoo. However, one needs to be aware of the various parts of the process that may not be vegan in order to anticipate this. What should vegans look out for?
The first thing vegans should worry about is tattoo ink.
Gelatin is used as a binder and is the most common animal ingredient in tattoo inks. Some inks will use shellac instead.
Charred bones are used in some brands of ink to give them darker pigmentation.
Some inks also contain glycerin, which is used to stabilize the ink and keep it smooth. Glycerin is a tricky ingredient because it can be made from soy or palm oil (although some vegans refrain from the latter) or synthetic ingredients, but it can also be derived from beef tallow. Because the source of glycerin is rarely listed on any product, it’s safest to avoid it altogether.
Stencil or transfer paper
This surprises many people, even if they are aware of the various animal products found in most tattoo inks.
The stencil or transfer paper that artists use to sketch the tattoo onto the skin before ink is applied may be non-vegan as it may contain lanolin (fat from sheep and other woolly animals).
Lanolin is a common ingredient in skin care products, so keep an eye out for it when shopping for creams and lotions for aftercare.
Other ingredients to look out for include beeswax, cod liver oil, and shark liver oil.
While many tattoo studios insist on buying specialized creams that may contain many unacceptable ingredients, there are also many natural alternatives. Some companies pride themselves on selling ethical balms that are 100% safe for health.
Lubricating tape on a razor
If your tattoo artist has to shave the area where he will be tattooing, he will most likely use a disposable razor, and some disposable razors have a lubricating tape.
Most people don’t give much thought to what this strip is made of, but vegans should be aware that it is likely made from glycerin and, as we saw above, glycerin can be derived from beef tallow.
How to make sure you’re getting a vegan tattoo
So now you know that you may come into contact with animal products at every step of the process, from shaving to tattooing, to aftercare products used at the end of the process. However, this does not mean that it is impossible for vegans to get a tattoo.
Here are some things you can do to get a cruelty-free tattoo.
Call the tattoo parlor and ask about this possibility.
Most tattoo studios are very knowledgeable about the products they use and often have alternatives if they have a client who is allergic to certain ingredients or otherwise abstains from them. They will also be able to advise on suitable products to use throughout the healing process.
So call ahead and let them know you are a vegan and ask about your options. If they can’t accept you, chances are they can help you find someone who can.
Bring with you
Even if your tattoo artist has vegan ink, they may not have a razor without glycerine or paper. If they don’t have the supplies you need for a comfortable experience, you can bring your own razor or purchase your own transfer paper.
Find a vegan tattoo artist
This is by far the best solution. When you work with a vegan tattoo artist, or if you’re really lucky, with an entire vegan tattoo studio, you can be sure they’ve made sure the whole process is ethical. There is no better peace of mind than knowing that your artist shares the same values as you.
Getting a vegan tattoo won’t be easy, but if you really want it, you’ll find a way. The world is changing and every day vegan tattoo processes are becoming more accessible.