Tattoos are maybe something that you wouldn’t think to consider when following a vegan lifestyle, but surprise! There are many things to look out for when deciding to get inked, and it isn’t just the design.

Firstly, the ink itself.

The main components of tattoo ink tend to come from plants or metal, which is good news for tattoo lovers. However as with many products and industries, it’s never that simple. Black ink is often referred to as ‘bone black’, because it can contain charcoal derived from charred animal bones. Which is really just a lovely thought. Charred animal bones in your skin forever? Nah thanks. I’m good.

Unfortunately it doesn’t stop there, sometimes tattoo ink can also contain gelatin (hopefully we all know what gelatin is, but to recap it’s a jelly type product made from the boiled up bones, skin, tissue and ligaments from animals – and nope it isn’t just a byproduct of the meat industry, animals are killed directly to make gelatin, so it’s best avoided), and also shellac (from the lac bug).

In addition to this, the pigment within the ink is suspended in a carrier, and this ‘suspension’ keeps the ink mixed evenly to help with application. The carrier solution contains a variety of products such as ethyl alcohol, purified water, propylene glycol and glycerine etc. Glycerine typically comes from animals, specifically animal fat, so this is also something to avoid if you’re looking for a vegan tattoo (or you just don’t want to be gross forever).

Ok, enough with the bad news.

This doesn’t mean you have to remain vegan and ink-less forever, there are a lot of vegan inks now on the market! is a great resource for anyone considering a tattoo and wants to ensure it is ethical and animal free! And some vegan ink brands include: Eternal, StarBrite, SkinCandy, and Stable Color.

So once you’ve got the ink sorted, there are other things to look out for when planning your ink is the process itself that also have ethical implications. For example:

  • Vaseline: This brand tests their products on animals and the end product can sometimes contain bone char
  • Shaving: The moisterising strip on most razors contains glycerin – oh and they’re normally always tested on animals
  • Cleaning: Soap is normally used to clean the area – again, this might be from a brand that tests on animals or contain glycerin
  • Transfer: When transferring the design onto your skin, lanolin is quite often in the transfer paper which is derived from sheep wool
  • Furniture: It’s likely a leather couch will be used in the studio during the inking process
  • Gloves: Latex can often contain animal products
  • Aftercare: Many lotions and products used during the healing process can contain things like beeswax and fish oils

Whoa. I know.

But the good news is there are alternatives for all of these things! You can talk through these issues with your artist first and either many alternate arrangements, take along your own products or go for a completely vegan studio!

It just takes that little bit extra planning and consideration, but ensures you have an ethical statement on your body for the rest of your life.