bad apple tattoo

If you live in a big enough city, being a vegan these days isn’t so hard. It’s much easier than it used to be to find restaurants with vegan options; the grocery stores are filled with alternative products; and even faux-leather shoes and accessories are completely the norm. But would you ever consider a vegan tattoo? You can now.

Many people—even dedicated vegans—aren’t aware that getting inked involves animal products at every stage of the process. There are charred animal bones used to make the inks, animal fats in the glycerin that’s used as a carrying agent, and sheep enzymes in some after care products. 

People have been tattooing themselves practically as long as we’ve been on the planet, and animal products have always been part of the routine. Needles were originally made from animal bones—and in fact, some traditional tattoos still use them—and one of the oldest recipes for tattoo ink calls for insect eggs. (Gross.)

But, thanks to modern technology, vegan options are now available—at least, they are if you live in a really big city like New York or LA.  Many say that the same depth of color can’t be achieved with the vegan alternatives, but others claim there’s no difference if you find the right artist.

Be aware: some vegan inks contain plastics, and many people balk at the idea of a petroleum product under their skin. But at least one company, Eternal Inks based in the UK, provides an entirely plant-based line of tattoo inks. Until vegan tattooing catches on, however, good luck finding a parlor that uses it here in the states.

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Image by Deanna Wardin @ Tattoo Boogaloo