Are Tattoos Vegan Friendly?

By | January 14, 2014

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There have been a few times when a die-hard “vegan” has proudly shown off their new tattoo, usually one that has Bambi or the word “vegan” on their wrist, and the owner does not realize they have just broken their vegan rules. Tattoos are rarely vegan because the ink is made from animal products. Anyone who takes the lifestyle seriously should know about tattoo inks before getting a tattoo.

The vegetarian/vegan debate:

A vegan is someone who does not eat any animal meat or by-products. They do not wear or use animal by-products. A vegetarian doesn’t eat meat, but might still consume some animal by-products such as milk and eggs. Somehow, there has become a fine line between the two. Celebrities, such as Alyssa Milano and Andre 3000, are often called one or the other. By the way, they both have tattoos. A vegetarian could get away with a tattoo from any shop, but a strict vegan would be breaking rules. You could always call yourself “almost vegan” and get the tattoo anyway.

Why aren’t tattoos vegan-friendly?

Tattoo inks are pigments in a carrier solution, according to BMEzine. The pigments are made up of different substances based on the color of the ink. Many of the colors are made from plant extracts. For example, yellow can come from curcuma yellow which comes from turmeric. Red can be made from iron oxide, also known as rust. The troublesome color is black. Black is often made from “bone black,” which, as the name suggests, is made from bone. Animal bone, to be exact. The bone is ground up and heated to high temperatures to make the pigment. Black is most often used as the outline of the tattoo before color is filled in. The second problem is the carrier, itself. Commonly, tattoo ink carriers are made of glycerin, which can be made from animal tallow.

Is it possible to have vegan tattoos?

Very few tattoo pigments are made from animal by-products, making tattoo pigments relatively safe as long as you don’t choose black. If black is necessary for a tattoo, make sure the ink being used is not “bone black.” Black pigment can be made from magnetite crystals, jet and logwood. Carriers can also be vegan if the glycerin is made from plants. Some carriers are made from both animals and plants. If you tattoo artist can’t tell you what carrier and pigment is in the ink, go to a different shop.

Tattoo products that are not vegan:

Just because you found ink that is vegan-friendly, doesn’t mean aftercare products are safe. A&D ointment, a product commonly recommended by artists for tattoo aftercare, contains lanolin. Many times a tattoo artist will use the ointment as a needle lubricant. Some well-known aftercare products, such as H2Ocean and Tattoo Goo also contain animal by-products. BMEzine has a great list of vegan and not-so-vegan tattoo products.

Are there any vegan aftercare products?

Use vegan soaps and cleaning products during tattoo aftercare. Some examples include Dr. Bronner’s and Jason Satin Soap. Since you are already vegan, they shouldn’t be a problem to find.

Are there any vegan tattoo shops?

Save a lot of trouble by going to a tattoo shop that is strictly vegan. Tattoo artists care about animals, too. A few vegan-friendly tattoo shops are Alchemy Ink in Los Angeles, Resurrection Tattoo in Austin, Texas and Brainwave Tattoo is Sarasota, Florida. These shops know what is in their ink and make sure to use, and recommend, vegan friendly products. Visit Vegan Tattoos for a full list of tattoo shops. Sadly, there aren’t that many vegan tattoo shops. Talk to tattoo artists and find one that is willing to work with you.


Vegan Tattoos

Vegan, BMEzine

Tattoo Ink, BMEzine

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