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Vegan tattoos - what you need to know

Molly Waring-Moore • January 23, 2019

Vegan Tattoo 1

Fancy a tattoo but not sure how it fits in with your ethics? Here's everything you need to know on vegan tattoos.

There are so many elements to tattooing which means that there are so many opportunities to use non-vegan products. The skin preparation, transfer paper, ink and aftercare can all contain animal-derived ingredients so it's important to know what to look out for.

Vegan tattoo preparation

This is often overlooked but your skin will be prepped before the tattoo. This will include sterilisation and sometimes shaving. You'll want to make sure that the products the studio are using are cruelty-free and vegan. If they are not suitable but you are keen to use that artist, you can ask to provide your own products. Make sure you run this past them during your first consultation and don't suddenly spring it on them.

You can offer to shave and gently exfoliate the area before the session with your own razor or provide one of the following:

When they sterilise the area, if they don't already have vegan-friendly wipes, Wipe Outz is a great option to request or provide.

The studio may also use something called 'green soap.' This is just the term used for a sterilising soap used and there are many different brands. This usually contains glycerin so you need to make sure that the glycerin is from a plant source and not animal. Cosco offers a green soap that has plant-derived glycerin.

Vegan Tattoo 2

Vegan tattoo session

During the session, the artist will, of course, need vegan ink and then will use wipes throughout to keep the area clear. Tattoo ink is often not vegan because it contains glycerine, and sometimes gelatine which act as stabilisers. You can see a list of non-vegan animal ingredients in our vegan beauty guide. Sometimes bone char is even added to darken the pigment of black inks. Ask your artist if they use vegan-friendly tattoo ink. Some of the vegan-friendly brands are:

Wipe Outz is a great sterilised towel option if they are not already using regular paper towels.

The transfer paper can often contain lanolin, making it non-vegan. Spirit tattoo products offer vegan transfer paper.

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Vegan tattoo aftercare

Looking after your tattoo is often where people trip up with non-vegan products. You want to keep your tattoo moisturised throughout the healing process to help it heal at the quickest rate and with the least distortion - through early peeling etc. Do not be tempted to peel the skin! However, do not suffocate the area with too much product and stop the skin from breathing. This will have the opposite effect and reduce the healing process.

For the first few days, opt for more concentrated ointments that contain vitamin D and A. These will give the skin what it needs immediately after the 'trauma' to it. The most common non-vegan ingredients in these products are Cera Alba (Beeswax) and Lanolin so make sure to check the labels.

Note: You should follow the advice of your tattoo artist for the initial healing period - ask them for vegan recommendations during the initial consultation or look for a vegan tattoo studio.

Some vegan tattoo aftercare products are:

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Vegan tattoo studios

The best thing you can do is to go to vegan tattoo studios that are already set up with vegan products and ink. It's also great to support these cruelty-free artists. Vegan Tattoo Studios is a great resource that lists all of the vegan-friendly practices around the world - we've noticed that the main search function doesn't work very well, so put in your city in the top right search bar and it'll filter for you.

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