Can Vegans get Tattooed?

Tattoos–a lot of vegans have them, but a lot of ethical issues arise when it comes to body art, such as “Do tattoo inks contain animal products?” or “Are tattoos a form of human cruelty?” While this is a debatable topic, many vegans don’t take this topic into consideration because it’s not something that as obviously involves animal rights and ethics, as perhaps the food industry does, for example. Knowing that, in the past, early tattoos were given using whale bone, I have personally investigated this issue and developed an opinion on this matter that I would like to share.

Do tattoo inks contain animal products? The answer to this question is “yes” and “no.” My tattoos are, in fact, vegan in this regard. Both of the tattoo artists I have worked with use Eternal Ink. When I got my first tattoo, I was a vegetarian, but the possibility of animal products existing in tattoo ink didn’t even cross my mind. I can feel at ease knowing that Eternal Ink is not only cruelty-free and free of animal products, but is also preservative and carcinogen free. Moreover, Eternal Ink meets U.S. standards for ink regulation, is stored in a medically sealed container, and composed of organic pigments, distilled water, and witch hazel. If you’d like to see the full ingredient list for yourself, you can click here. According to PETA, other vegan tattoo ink brands include StarBrite, SkinCandy, and Stable Color. With this in mind, I would recommend consulting your tattoo artist about what ink they use and investigate that brand for yourself, especially before you make your appointment.

What about tattoo aftercare products? The answer for this question is very similar to the question above: Many aftercare products are not vegan, but there are many vegan alternatives, as with most beauty and hygiene products. For example, I was recently dismayed to learn that my favorite go-to for aftercare ointment, Tattoo Goo, is not vegan. While it is an all-natural product, the salve contains beeswax, which is not vegan-friendly (Let this serve as a reminder that it’s always important to research a product before you use it). However, as the Tattoo Goo website suggests, the brand’s lotion is vegan and can be used throughout the entirety of the healing process in placement of the salve (Typically, one uses the salve for 3 or 4 days after getting tattooed and then switches to the lotion, but according to Tattoo Goo, the salve is not necessarily needed). Another vegan blogger, Molly Lansdown, recommends the following vegan tattoo aftercare products: After Inked, The Merry Hempsters, and Stay True Organics.

Are tattoos a form of human cruelty? This question was brought to my attention a while ago while I was browsing some other blogs. One of my favorite animal advocates, James Aspey, actually did a animal rights campaign by getting tattooed for 25+ hours straight, so I found this argument surprising, but here is what it poses: If we wouldn’t tattoo an animal, why would we tattoo ourselves? Personally, I believe that whether or not a tattoo is a form of cruelty depends on the person. For instance, I have a very high pain tolerance and getting tattooed affects me very little. In fact, one of my tattoo artists referred to me as a “beast” because I can carry on a casual conversation, even after being tattooed for a long period of time. However, if someone experienced intense pain when being tattooed, or has a substantial fear of needles, getting tattooed would indeed be a form of “self-abuse.”

Are you a vegan with tattoos? Did your tattoo artist use vegan tattoo ink? I would love to hear your thoughts on being a vegan with, or without tattoos, and why you chose to either opt to get one (or more) or not. Please comment below!

The featured photo was taken by Senjuti Kundu. Find more of her work at


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