A few weeks ago I wrote an article about Bepanthen as a tattoo aftercare product. I was overwhelmed with the feedback – over 18,000 people have read the blog so far. Interestingly, the main response I received from Inkluded’s (both vegan and non-vegan) followers was that they didn’t feel comfortable knowing that they were putting a non-Vegan product on their skin. It made me realise that many tattoo customers were actually concerned about how vegan the tattooing process was, more than I had realised. I just had to explore this topic further.
Working as a vegan tattooer and where to find the right products
Let’s meet the artists
- Ashley Luka. Ashley works atThe Square Tattoo Studio in Solihull
- Holly Astral. Holly works at Hand of Mysteries Tattoo Collective in Dunstable
- Tom Harris. Tom owns a fully-vegan studio, The Rising Tide Tattoo Collective based between Poole and Bournemouth
Is it hard to find vegan products to tattoo with? What are some of the main challenges?
Ashley: There are quite a lot of vegan products out there so I don’t find it too hard! Lots of companies are coming out with vegan versions of things or are just going vegan across the board. I think it has become apparent that people want the option. I personally don’t know everything yet and there’s always something new that I want to try. As far as I’m aware, the only thing that isn’t vegan is the cleaning products we use at the moment, but I don’t want to compromise on hygiene. As soon as I find a vegan-alternative that is as effective then I will use that. Everything that touches or goes into my customer’s skin is 100% vegan though (to the best of my knowledge).
Holly: Finding products is pretty easy! A quick look through the ingredients lets me know if something is OK to buy, and I regularly find out about new vegan products from other vegan tattooist friends.
Tom: Over the past 15 years I’ve seen huge changes in the availability of products. I am constantly surprised to see new inks, stencil applicators and so much else being proudly-labelled as vegan-friendly. I would say however that unless you are actively trying to achieve a fully vegan set-up, you are still almost certainly providing a non-vegan tattoo (latex gloves, Sharpie markers and razors with moisturising strips for example are in common use and not suitable for vegans). The hardest things to source are items which aren’t tattoo-specific. Such as surgical tape, quality non-latex gloves and medical-grade cleaning products. Also, there are currently no ‘certified’ vegan products on the tattoo market. Certification means we could be sure that they contained no animal products and hadn’t been animal tested – it would save a lot of research.
Do you think there are ways the industry can help you work as a vegan tattooer?
Ashley: I think the industry is doing really well at it. A whole bunch of tattooers are vegan (for some reason it often goes hand in hand) so there is an increased demand. I think it’s only going to get better!
Holly: Clearer labelling on products would be really helpful. Lots of products are already labelled as vegan and that makes it super easy to choose.
Tom: The industry is doing a great job. Most supply brands are doing good things and I think the remaining gaps will be filled in the next few years. A huge step forward would be for suppliers to start gaining Vegan Society certification and better labelling. On a personal level I’ve found that, as with many creative industries, most tattoo artists are open minded, friendly and supportive of progressive lifestyles.
What’s it like outside of tattooing, living a vegan lifestyle?
Ashley: Super, suuuuuper easy. The easiest thing I’ve ever done. I was vegan 7 years ago and it was HARD. There was only one kind of milk I could use and restaurants wouldn’t cater for me, so I decided to just be vegetarian for a while instead. But I constantly felt like I was doing half a job because I was fully aware of all of the suffering present in the egg and dairy industries. Now, I can eat pretty much anywhere without an issue. So many restaurants are actively advertising vegan dishes on their menus… the world has changed a lot! There are so many accidental vegan foods in supermarkets as well, like Lotus biscuits… my secret vice! I love food so much.
Holly: Veganism means not consuming products made from animals – consumption in the sense of eating or using. For me specifically it means thinking outside of my own experience to consider other creatures and the planet, and thinking about where food and products come from. Food is the obvious one. Meat and pre-packaged food are presented to us as ‘items’, and for most of my life I didn’t pay much mind to their journey from conception to my plate. Once I looked into how our food is produced, and the suffering it causes animals (and farmers, and the planet), it felt like an obvious time to try and reduce my footprint on the environment.
Tom: Being vegan to me simply means having respect and empathy. I just don’t think it’s acceptable on any level to slit an animal’s throat, shoot in in the head, skin it, electrocute it, burn it or do anything else to deliberately harm or kill it, simply because I think it tastes nice, or any other excuse that attempts to justify personal lusts over the wellbeing of others. I’ve been vegan for over 15 years and so to me it is simply my life. To live otherwise is just unthinkable to me. There are certainly things that could be easier, but I genuinely can’t believe how quickly the world is changing – it’s certainly happening faster than I could have hoped for when I was a teenager. In Bournemouth alone, there are four fully-vegan eateries as well as a vegan supermarket. We have over 30 places with solid vegan menus and the range of food and lifestyle products is growing every day. It’s never been easier and I can’t see it slowing down anytime soon.
We’ve talked about the challenges, so – tell us why it’s amazingly rewarding!
Ashley: Where do I start! This is something that I am so passionate about. It has changed my whole outlook on life. It’s just about being a compassionate human and realising that all animals are sentient, with personalities of their own. They love and feel pain, and I don’t want to make any of them suffer for my own selfish choices. Being vegan means I’m helping to save animals, save the planet, and stay healthy (apart from all of the junk food I eat!) just by choosing to leave something off my plate. I think that’s pretty cool.
Holly: I feel healthier and lighter mentally knowing I’m trading a little more gently on the planet. I’m a real food lover and my husband is an amazing cook. So we have fun together cooking and learning about new foods. I feel like I can 100% enjoy food now without worrying.
Tom: For me veganism is simply a moral baseline. I think it probably makes food more exciting. It’s great when you discover something you wouldn’t expect to be vegan and of course it is healthy, easy, and great for the planet. Veganism allows me to know I am doing my best to make the world a bit less terrible.
Describe vegan values in one word.