How to Get Non-Toxic AND Vegan Tattoos

How to Get Non-Toxic AND Vegan Tattoos

Today I’m talking about something you’ve maybe never thought about. In this article, I’ll touch base on why most tattoos aren’t vegan and how to marry your clean, healthful lifestyle with injecting ink under your skin.

Beyond making sure they use sterilized equipment, if you work so hard to eat clean and take care of your body, you should think twice about using conventional ink.

I’m sharing my own research in hopes that it helps you with your own decision.  

I ‘ve been slooowwwly creeping my way towards getting a tattoo for several years now. Yes, I have virgin skin. And some of my peers in wellness might say I should leave it that way. After all, if health is my first priority, are tattoos really compatible? Well, that is the same difficult question I’ve been struggling with and why it has taken me so long!

But I love the self-expression of tattoos, and I’m one of those people who thinks a full sleeve looks hot. When I first started dreaming, I wanted to get a tattoo that covered my entire back. But then I heard that was one of the most painful places so decided I’d better start a little smaller…

I have just about decided on the design I want at this point, and I’m getting close to taking the plunge. Especially now that I know about some great local vegan tattoo artists. How cool, right?

Wait a sec. Tattoos aren’t all vegan?!

Not so, my friend. So, if you want to brand your body with positive self-expression, you might consider using vegan ink.

What makes tattoos non-vegan?

  • Animals bones burned down into charcoal for black pigment
  • Animal fat (glycerin) in the carrying agent
  • Gelatin (hooves) and shellac (beetles) used in some inks
  • Disposable razors may contain a glycerin “moisturizing strip”
  • Aftercare lotions and ointments including beeswax and lanolin (oil from sheep’s wool) or codliver oil

The best way to get a vegan tattoo is to find a vegan tattoo artist, but depending on where you live that might be hard. If you can’t find one, here are some easy ways to make your tattoo vegan:

How to get a vegan tattoo

Although a vegan tattoo parlor would be sweet, if your artist allows you to choose your own ink or they already use one of the high quality vegan brands, you’re all set! You may not even need to use the v-word at all!

The brands Eternal, Starbright, SkinCandy, and Stable are all vegan ink.

A few other tips:

Use Dr. Bronners or other castile soap instead of green soap (which has animal fat). Bring your own razor. Use jojoba oil, olive oil, or shea butter to moisturize (the tattoo parlor may have petroleum jelly which is the lesser of evils if your other choice is animal-based).

But if you choose to go strictly vegan, beware because some vegan inks use plastics which brings me to my next question…

Is Tattoo Ink Safe?

Unfortunately the FDA doesn’t regulate tattoo inks and pigments, which is crazy considering they are forced into your skin repeatedly with a needle!

According to How-To-Tattoo.com, a few of the highest quality brands that are transparent with ingredient info and manufacture non-toxic inks are: National Tattoo Supply, Eternal, Skin Candy, Dynamic and Kuro Sumi.

Beyond ink, the other important aspect to avoid overlooking is the ingredient that carries the pigment into the skin, known as the carrier. Non-toxic versions include purified water, glycerin (vegetable-based), and ethanol.

White and black (iron) are the most toxic colors of conventional tattoo ink, and red pigments cause the most allergic reactions due to the iron oxide (rust), cinnabar, or cadmium red content. Brightly colored or neon pigments are best to avoid as they probably require plastics or chemicals.

  • Non toxic (and Vegan!) ink ingredients

    • Black – carbon and logwood
    • White – titanium dioxide
    • Yellow – tumeric
    • Green – monoazo, a carbon-based pigment
    • Blue – sodium and aluminum (is that really safe?), many that contain copper are safe
    • Red – Naphthol which can still cause a reaction
    • Purple – dioxazine and carbazole

So which tattoo inks are both vegan and non-toxic?

Upon taking a look at both lists – it looks like Eternal and Skin Candy are great ones to start with. But I didn’t look in depth at the others yet – it may be that they all fit both categories!

Hopefully this gets you thinking – whether you are already tatted up or have virgin skin like me.

Now your turn. I want to hear what you have to say!

Got vegan ink? Share your experience. Worried about mixing tattoos and a clean lifestyle? What’s your biggest concern and how do you plan to address it?

41 Responses to How to Get Non-Toxic AND Vegan Tattoos

  1. This is awesome!! There are a few choices for vegan tattoo shops in NYC but locally the choices are a bit more limited. Now I’m going to call around and ask about inks with this list in hand! Thank you so much for sharing it!!!! xoxoxo

    • You are very welcome Mrs. Moore! 😉 P.S. just checked out your blog. Love all the photos of Margot – what a personality!

    • It would be awesome if the inks were non toxic but if you look up the actual chemical safety data sheets on the chemical company’s various websites (not the ink makers) you will find they cause cancer and birth defects and more. Of course the ink companies which use the chemicals to make the inks will not tell you that. They are marketing them right here as non toxic. This should be illegal. It’s terribly misleading to poison people like this!

  2. This is awesome!! There are a few choices for vegan tattoo shops in NYC but locally the choices are a bit more limited. Now I’m going to call around and ask about inks with this list in hand! Thank you so much for sharing it!!!! xoxoxo

    • You are very welcome Mrs. Moore! 😉 P.S. just checked out your blog. Love all the photos of Margot – what a personality!

  3. I’m a vegan here in Las Vegas and my boyfriend is a licensed tattoo artist. He uses vegan inks — they’re brighter and more high quality than the others, as well.

    And, in the healing process, there are a couple of very nice vegan lotions that can be purchased at Whole Foods that work super well.

    His work is 100% custom and he is by appointment only. I encourage fellow vegans to check out his Instagram:
    Instagram.com/chriswachal

  4. I’m a vegan here in Las Vegas and my boyfriend is a licensed tattoo artist. He uses vegan inks — they’re brighter and more high quality than the others, as well.

    And, in the healing process, there are a couple of very nice vegan lotions that can be purchased at Whole Foods that work super well.

    His work is 100% custom and he is by appointment only. I encourage fellow vegans to check out his Instagram:
    Instagram.com/chriswachal

    • Alysson, I cannot get to Vegas and I cannot seem to find via google a vegan tattoo artist in Dallas. Can you help? How to google to find one?? Maybe you know of someone in Dallas? I want to get my tattoo in December. Appreciate your help.

  5. Hello I was wondering if you got your non toxic tat and wonder how you feel? I too have virgian skin and love tats!! I am very concerned about health and the toxicity of tats. Thank you for posting this. 😉

  6. Hello I was wondering if you got your non toxic tat and wonder how you feel? I too have virgian skin and love tats!! I am very concerned about health and the toxicity of tats. Thank you for posting this. 😉

  7. Hey, I resently got my first tattoo and it was done by a vegan tattoo artist. I’m not actually vegan myself and I didn’t have any idea that tattoo ink involved any animal products! But I’m delighted with the results and I have noticed that the colours in my little snowdrop flower tattoo are really vibrent and realistic! Mine was done in a little shop in North London

    • my google search is not turning up anything in dallas, tx. can you point me to a way to find an vegan artisit in my area of the world?

  8. I’m a licensed female tattoo artist and shop owner in Las Vegas and I tattoo with all vegan products, so the entire experience is all vegan. I choose to use Eternal and Electric ink, vibrant colors! I have people from all parts of the world traveling to me for this type of experience and I’m pleased to offer this to my fellow hardcore vegans out there! As a matter of fact, I’m tattooing a vegan from out of state this morning! Check me out on Instagram, VEGASVALSTATTS
    Xo, Vegas Val

  9. These sound a little cleaner, but I’m also very allergic to metal and do not want to inject that into my skin. Any ideas on Metal Free ink?

  10. I’m the same totally virgin skin but love tats. My husband has quite a few and I would like one but my problem is that I am worried that the inks would affect my heart palpitations. This might not be true it could just be how I react which could cause me to have a palpitation. I remain a virgin skin for now.

  11. I’m also a virgin and want to do a full sleeve and a midback tattoo but am afraid of the reactions and long term health consequences given all the chemicals usually added to the ink. Many tattoo artist think one is crazy for asking or take offense when asking. One even said that using a cellphone is more harmful. I’m looking for a tattoo artist in NYC who is great at doing detailed custom tattoos who uses good non toxic chemical based ink that doesn’t fade quickly. Not sure if it being vegan vs animal based would make a difference. Any suggestions?

  12. Hi good people. I am from Scandinavia. Does anyone know any vegan ink artist in my area?
    Thank you. I looove tattoes 🙂

  13. April Nicole at Green Apple Long Island NY. She is an amazing artist using CrazyHorse Color Co. inks, they are vegan and people are really getting excited with their vibrant colors.

  14. So good to see people are looking for vegan artists, I’ve been a professional tattoo artist for 7 years and a vegan for 3. Like it wasn’t hard enough to switch diet and life choices, it was almost impossible to find any ink that did not use animal based glycerin.
    Just watch.out for Kuro Sumi, as they supposedly still process squid ink T_T

    • Squid Ink sounds extreemly natural. I am all in for that. Trust Nature and all that shit, right? Do you have a link to their web site?
      Cheers and many thanks 🙂

      • Ken you kind of missed the point here—a vegan ink would not come from a squid because a squid is a sentient being–veganism does not use or abuse animals or any products that have come from the animal. The issue is not “natural” the issue is “cruelty to animals.”

  15. I’m getting my first tattoo and found someone who uses these. This is what he says about them (briefly): “I only use 3 brands of ink, all are premium top quality, all vegetable based ingredients. (vegan friendly) Intenze, Starbrite, and Silverback ink.” The artist is in Canada and apparently, their regulations are more strict than in the US. I’m really excited to have found him and to get my first awesome ink. <3

    • All the fancy brand names and marketing in the world doesn’t change the actual chemicals used. They are very toxic!

  16. Reading this echoed the voice of reason that interrupts, then destroys my impulse to tattoo myself. I just cannot reconcile the ingredients, vegan or not, with my health goals. But, if I did venture down that road, I would definitely do it vegan. Hopefully the demand for vegan ink will contribute to more ingredient transparency, and better alternatives.

  17. I believe a lot of the transfer paper they use has lanolin (derived from sheep) in it, so you may want to double check that before you ink.

  18. FYI: I’m in Columbus Ohio tattooing at Evolved Body Art and we found out a couple of years ago that the thermofax paper (stencil paper) uses lanolin to attach the carbon to the paper, BUT we also found out that they make a vegan version! Spirit offers vegan thermofax paper and a vegan stencil application cream. (Something else to consider when asking for a vegan procedure.)
    I use Lush’s Ultra Balm for my ointment during the tattoo.
    For my blacks I use Silverback. I called them up to check, and yes, they are vegan!

  19. This is so helpful, thank you. Can anyone direct me where to purchase said vegan/healthy ink in Canada, Toronto (or online) for my friend who does stick and poke.

    • Agree with you. The tattoo industry is just using clever marketing like this website, plus the fact that most people won’t take the time to look things up. It’s all just another scam. If you are going to get a tattoo, you may as well go out and eat bacon or some other poison.

  20. If you actually take the time to look up the ingredients on the vegan and safe list you will find they are not actually safe. The very first ingredient listed, Carbon Black (used in the black and the green inks) causes cancer. For Carbazole, the last one on the list the chemical manufacturers SDS or Safety Data Sheet states “GHS Hazard and Precautionary Statements

    Hazard Statements: H351-H400-H410

    Suspected of causing cancer. Very toxic to aquatic life. Very toxic to aquatic life with long lasting effects.

    Precautionary Statements: P201-P273-P281-P202-P308+P313-P391-P405-P501a

    Obtain special instructions before use. Avoid release to the environment. Use personal protective equipment as required. Do not handle until all safety precautions have been read and understood. IF exposed or concerned: Get medical advice/attention. Collect spillage. Store locked up. Dispose of contents/container in accordance with local/regional/national/international regulations. ”

    The tattoo industry is clearly only concerned with making money, regardless of what it does to the health of it’s customers. It’s all just marketing hype. If you are thinking of getting a tattoo, forget it!

  21. Sounds like a person needs to go to Canada in order to get ink that has been scrutinized better than in the US . Or I would think California as things are more strict in the state.

  22. Also for tattoo after care calendula oil is a great vegan non toxic and cruelty free alternative to bepanthen and other antibacterials.

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