Getting A Vegan Tattoo
I had been talking about getting a tattoo for about four years. It took me a long time to commit to a specific design and placement of the tattoo. And to be honest I initially didn’t give much thought to my tattoo being vegan—the design or the ink. Four years ago I had just begun my venture into veganism so I never thought about vegan inks or realized how deeply committed to veganism I would be today.
It’s hard to say exactly what triggered my decision to finally get a tattoo this August (2010). But if I had to narrow it down I would say that it was partly due to the fact that I was going through some emotional challenges—starting in late June/early July. I was feeling super stressed and a bit down and out both personally and professionally, so I decided to halt the spiral, pick myself up, and make some new rules for getting out of the funk. These were some of the goals I set for myself:
- daily exercise
- better food choices
- go dancing more often
- smoothie for breakfast everyday
- wear my hair down more often
- spend at least 10 minutes doing nothing everyday
- start planning my next big trip
- finally getting that tattoo I had been talking about
After a bit of research I narrowed it down to the tattoo I wanted—I was originally going back and forth between a memorial of horses that I had grown up with and a “vegan” tattoo. After some waning, reading this interview with vegan tattoo artist, Brad Stevens, getting some great feedaback from B.T. Wilson of Scapegoat Tattoo (a vegan owned shop — see his email to me, below), and some input from friends, I decided to go with something representative of my commitment to veganism. You can read about how and why I became vegan here.
I found two designs that I really loved, here and here. After learning more about the complications with white ink tattoos I chose to go with a black ink “V” from The Vegan Society logo. Then it was just a matter of finding a shop that I not only felt 100% comfortable with—I was a bit nervous—but also one that uses vegan ink.
Right around the same time that I had started the aforementioned ‘get out of the funk’ plan I was also planning a weekend trip to Chicago (one of my favorite cities) with my best travel buddy. I heard that getting a tattoo in Chicago is much cheaper than getting one in Boston, so while in Chicago I finally got that tattoo I had been talking about.
It was the last day of our Chicago adventure and the shop I originally chose was full up and wasn’t taking any walk-ins and my tattoo was too small for an appointment. But, we happened to be around the corner from The Chicago Tattooing and Piercing Company– we had just eaten at The Chicago Diner (YUM!). So I took a chance (read about my experience at the tattoo shop here). In short, it was awesome. And yes, they use vegan inks. Score!!
I even found some great all-vegan aftercare products thanks to Vegan Beauty Review. About a week before I got my tattoo I ordered the fresh ink healing wash and colorfast healing and conditioning balm from Stay True Organics. It’s great stuff—and I even received a personal email from Alison, the founder of Stay True Organics. She asked where I heard of the company and even followed up after I got my tattoo. Very cool.
After all the build up I must say that I’m truly happy with my first tattoo. I’m happy with where and when I got it, the awesome friends who were with me when I got it done, and how it looks now all healed and beautiful. Oh, and I did want to mention that I found plenty of scary ‘tattoos aren’t vegan’ info on the ‘interwebs’ but I can tell you after the careful research that I did, it’s honestly not difficult to find shops that carry vegan inks. In fact, from what I understand it’s not common for tattoo shops to carry non-vegan inks these days. Here’s what B.T. Wilson of Scapegoat Tattoo had to say when I emailed him about vegan inks:
So, the short answer is yes. Most tattoo inks are vegan. That is except black. Rarely, you might find bone black, but someone would have to go out of their way to get it. What you do need to look out for is shellac. And there is a very popular tattoo black called tallens that happens to contain shellac. When you ask about their pigments, you should really just find out what black they use.
Alternatives are Waverly, my favorite! Classic, Pelican, Eternal, Kuro sumi, and Dynamic. There are probably more, but those are the only ones I’ve checked. And out of these as I’ve said, Waverly is the best.
There are a few other things you might want to pay attention to as well. A&D ointment can contain either lanolin or cod liver oil, sometimes both. Petroleum jelly can sometimes be filtered through bone char, razors shouldn’t have a gel strip and I think green soap is okay, but I use Dr. Bronners.
Check out our myspace blog just in case I’ve forgotten anything.
Good luck and don’t fret! The best advice I can give you is be patient and humble when asking a tattooer about what they use. Tattooers are notoriously closed lipped. Find a tattooer that you like and see if they’d be okay with getting some other inks and such. You will probably have to pay for it, since they will probably only use it on you, but don’t expect them to give it to you when they’re done.
Actually, I think that there might be a list of vegan tattooers online. There used to be a website called vegan ink. I have a few people in some sort of list also on our myspace page too.
Anyhow, I hope that helped!
Hope to see you in Portland someday!
I still can’t believe how awesome it is that B.T. took the time to write this thoughtful response. It seriously made me want to fly out to Portland just to get my tattoo at his shop. I had emailed about 5 shops and he was the only one to provide this much detail, among the few who responded at all! Thanks, B.T.!! I’m adding you to my awesome list.
I’m also happy to report that I feel much better as well. The Chicago trip was exactly what I needed and I’ve been doing an okay job of keeping up with some of the other goals. I just moved to a new apartment so it’s time to reassess and adjust a few things. But I’m in a much happier place than I was just a few weeks ago.
This post was originally published on a different blog of mine in September 2010.