Vegan Tattoos – a guide to animal free tattoo inks and more



In most tattoo parlours the tattoo process can use animal by-products. The Vegan Society explained to us just how vegan tattoos really are, and vegan alternatives for inks, soaps, anaesthetics and aftercare. Cheers, chaps!

Getting a tattoo is an involved process that requires ink, cleansing soaps applied at the tattoo parlour, and aftercare that you choose yourself. All of these stages in tattoo application are likely to involve animal by-products. All of them have vegan alternatives. If you’re a dedicated vegan who wants every level of their future tattoos to be animal-friendly, we’ve compiled a list of awesome resources. Enjoy! Well, we use that term loosely. ‘Research’ is probably more appropriate.

Vegan Tattoo inks

So, where’s the animal hiding in a poor innocent tattoo? Mainly in black ink – with coloured inks you’re fine, at least for the pigment – though the liquid the pigment is suspended in may contain bad.

Tattoo ink is formed of a pigment suspended within a carrier solution. The pigment gives the ink its colour and is typically derived from metals or plant matter. The pigment used to give black ink its colour however, can (but doesn’t have to) be made from charcoal and soot sourced from burnt animal bones. This is known as ‘bone black’. Black inks may also contain shellac.

The liquid suspension which carries the pigment acts to keep the ink sanitary and evenly mixed, whilst also aiding the ease of application. The carrier will contain purified water, ethyl alcohol, propylene glycol and glycerine and may also contain witch hazel. It’s the glycerine you’d need to watch out for. The glycerine used within the ink can be derived either from plant material or obtained from animal fat.

Animal Free Inks

Getting Vegan Soaps into the Tattoo Parlour

Green soaps are used to clean a client’s skin before, during and after tattooing. These soaps contain glycerine which may be derived from either plant material or obtained from animal fats. Yep, it’s that potentially naughty glycerine again.

The Vegan Society has been giving it their best shot but as of Spring 2011 hasn’t had confirmation from any green soap manufacturers regarding the suitability of their products for vegans. An alternative soap recommended by tattoo artists is Dr Bronner’s liquid soap, with the Baby Mild formula being particularly recommended.

Animal Free Soaps

Vegan Tattoo Aftercare

Tattoo aftercare products are designed to promote healing and prevent both infection and colour loss. Many aftercare treatments contain animal products, such as beeswax and lanolin. However, aftercare is down to you sourcing it and applying it in your own free time, so it’s easier to research and control what goes into the products you choose to put on your skin.

Animal Free Aftercare Products

Vegan Anaesthetics and Tattoo Transfer Solutions

The anaesthetic is what gets applied to the skin before the needle does its thing. Transfer solutions are applied to the skin prior to the stencilled tattoo design, to make the applied stencil crisper. One thing you can do as a resolute vegan before getting tattooed is enquire about the brand of anaesthetic and transfer solution used in the tattoo parlour(s) of your choice. Then you can research that brand – even email them if necessary – and get the lowdown on the ingredients used.

So there you go. We’re not trying to scare you about future tattoos, or make you feel bad about the beautiful tattoo you’ve already got. But information is everything, and information should be free. So a big sloppy kiss to the Vegan Society for helping us give the info you might need in future research. G’luck, and happy vegan tattooing!

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‘Dermaglo’ Vegan tattoo ink