In July 2019 we featured in Totally Vegan Buzz in an article about inspiring vegan tattoos. While the article primarily focused on the designs being animal rights statements the subject of whether or not tattoos themselves are vegan became a hot topic and every year on the 21st of March we use #WorldTattooDay to raise awareness.

Tattoo Ink

The primary concern for vegans is the ink used in tattoos. Many tattoo inks contain gelatin as a binder, an ingredient often derived from animals. Some inks use shellac, which comes from beetle exoskeletons. Certain black inks use bone char to achieve a deep black shade.

Additionally, some inks include glycerin to ensure stability and smoothness. Glycerin can be derived from sources like soybean or palm oil (though some vegans avoid the latter), synthetic ingredients, or tallow (beef fat). As the glycerin source isn't always specified, it's best to be cautious and avoid it.

Stencil / Transfer Paper

The stencil or transfer paper, which artists use to trace the tattoo design onto your skin before inking, might not be vegan. It can contain lanolin, a fat derived from sheep and other wooly animals.


Vegans should note that the lubricating strip on a razor used to shave the area before tattooing could contain glycerin, which might be sourced from tallow.


Lanolin is frequently found in skincare items, so be cautious when choosing aftercare creams. Additionally, look out for ingredients like beeswax, cod liver oil, and shark liver oil.

Getting your tattoo

Before getting a tattoo, call studios to discuss vegan options. If necessary, bring your own vegan supplies like razors or tracing paper. Ideally, find a vegan tattoo artist for a completely cruelty-free experience. Opt for natural, vegan-friendly tattoo healing lotions like coconut oil or cocoa butter for aftercare.

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