How to Tell If Tattoo Ink Is Really Vegan

Photo: Stocksy/Guille Faingold

Tattoos have become increasingly commonplace in the last few years. It's to the point where body artists are now making office visits and being booked at events to send guest home with permanent party favors. But if you're vegan and thinking about getting one, here's something you should know: Like makeup, which often contains animal byproduct or uses insects to create pigments, many types of tattoo ink use similar ingredients including insect parts, charred bones, gelatin, and glycerine made from animal fat.

"Sometimes, there are resins from bees in it," says Lou Rubino Jr., founder of the vegan and animal-friendly World Famous Tattoo Ink line and owner of SOHO Ink in New York City. He says that unless explicitly stated or highlighted, you should always assume that your ink is non-vegan. To know for sure, he says, "Just ask the artist what type of inks they use and go directly to the manufacturer yourself and ask."

They should be able to tell you pretty quickly and confidently whether or not their ink meets your requirements. Another option is to start your search by using this online database of vegan tattoo parlors. Having to do a little extra research, however, doesn't mean that vegan ink is hard to come by. Rubino Jr. says have vegan ink varieties are widely available at this point. You just have to ask—it's kind of like the body art version of Starbucks' secret menu in that way.

If you're not ready for the permanent stuff quite yet, try out these scratch and sniff temporary tattoos or try the ancient and traditional henna practice

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