I get asked this question a lot, by both my vegan and non-vegan clients, so I thought it would be a good idea to outline what goes into a vegan tattoo, that way anyone could walk into a tattoo shop armed with the right information to sit down with their tattoo artist and make sure they are getting a tattoo that’s in line with their ethics. Also, I think this will help you, the clients, be able to go to any tattoo shop or artist you like, rather than just going to shops or artists claiming to be vegan, and you just having to blindly trust what they are telling you. If the information is in your hands, you can then make a well-informed decision about artwork that will be on you for the rest of your life.
Fortunately, ink has come a long way since the dawn of tattooing. Nowadays, most inks are held to a high standard of production, with clearly marked labels that include an expiration date and lot number, which means less guesswork and more peace of mind for both the artist and client. I use exclusively Eternal Ink, as they say vegan-safe right on their website. They also offer an MSDS (Material Safety Data Sheet) that states clearly what goes into their ink (and their inks look amazing in the skin!). Other companies that are considered vegan-safe are Intenze, Fusion, Silverback, Waverly, Classic, and Starbrite, just to name a few. To avoid reactions in the skin I like to stick with one brand of ink, but this practice varies artist to artist. Kuro Sumi black ink is definitely not vegan-friendly as of the writing of this article (I got this information directly from the manufacturer), and this is considered an industry standard ink, so be sure to ask your artist what types of ink they use.
Lubrication strips on razors are not vegan, so make sure your artist is using razors without lubrication strips.
A&D Ointment, Bacitracin, and other petroleum-based products are not vegan. Make sure your artist is not using any of these during the procedure (even to secure ink caps and rinse cups). My number one recommendation is Second Skin tattoo balm and wash for procedural use and for aftercare (used very sparingly as aftercare of course).
Green Soap, which is often used to wipe and wash the tattoo during the procedure, is believed to contain animal glycerin. My recommend is Dr. Bronner’s Unscented Baby Liquid Castile Soap, mixed in a 1:10 ratio of Bronner’s and distilled water, or Second Skin procedural wash. Ask your artist about either of these options.
Per the only company that makes tattoo stencil paper (reprofx), all tattoo stencil paper that they make is now vegan, whether it says vegan on the package or not. The only difference is that one package is certified so it costs more, but it is literally the same paper. I worked alongside other artists and individuals for years, asking them to supply a vegan stencil paper option, even buying their limited stock of vegan hand trace paper to distribute independently, but the work has paid off, and now all stencil paper is vegan – that’s a victory for animals as well as vegans!
NALGENE WASH BOTTLES:
Nalgene, unfortunately, manufactures other devices used in animal testing. Their wash bottles are not used for testing, but I personally do not like supporting a company that participates in this when other options are available. My recommendation is a glass pump soap dispenser to hold the Bronner’s/distilled water procedural mixture. Second Skin procedural wash comes in its own pump container. Ask your artist about either of these options.
If you LOVE the artwork of a particular artist but they are not vegan, make it easy for them to do a vegan-friendly tattoo for you by offering to pay for the vegan items needed for your tattoo! Discuss if they are open to this idea first, and then create a “vegan tattoo tackle box” of sorts to bring with you to your tattoo sessions, or a setup that the artist can keep there. Items to include:
-Vegan Razors (bring several if the area to shave is large)
-Dr. Bronner’s Unscented Baby Liquid Castile Soap (buy a pump container that the artist can use to mix/dispense)
-Second Skin Tattoo Balm/Wash
-Ask them to buy some vegan-friendly inks but offer to pay for them if it’s not something they usually use; they may agree to buy them just to have on-hand anyway.
Bringing your own items will make it easier for your artist of choice and more likely that they will be willing to work with you. Feel free to check out my website, www.ashleythomastattoos.com, for more helpful advice on vegan tattoo aftercare, etc. Wishing you the very best with your tattoo experience!