Vegan choices extend to tattoo parlors

VEGAN INK: Tattooed Planet, located on University Drive and Forest Avenue in Tempe, is one of the many tattoo parlors around the Valley that carries Starbrite inks. Starbrite offers vegan-friendly alternatives to inks that include glycerin, which is usually derived from animal fat. (Photo by Sierra Smith)

For vegans, sticking to an animal-free lifestyle is more than just watching what they eat. The most dedicated vegans are also cautious about what’s in the products they use, including the ingredients of their tattoo ink.

Because vegans strictly avoid anything created from animals, tattoo ink with any animal product in it would be going against vegan beliefs.

Jason Wynn, a UA graduate and employee of Scapegoat Tattoo, an all-vegan tattoo parlor in Portland, Ore., said most tattoo ink is considered vegan, but there are certain colors that are by-products of animals.

“Black is a tough color because it is often derived either from burnt bones or from the resin of shellac bugs,” Wynn said.

He also pointed out that most tattoo parlors use soaps or ointments in the treatment of tattoos that contain animal by-products. Even if customers were able to use vegan-friendly ink, such as ink of the brand Starbrite, they would still have to be cautious about what to use to treat the tattoo.

For vegans in the Valley, it can be difficult to find a vegan-friendly tattoo parlor.

Fritz Andrews, a tattoo artist at No Regrets Tattoo Parlor located on the corner of University and Hardy drives, said that although his shop offers Starbrite ink, he doesn’t like the idea of giving a vegan tattoo to someone because he worries the quality might not be the best.

“I’m not comfortable with only using certain inks, because some ink has better pigment quality than others,” he said. “I wouldn’t want to use an ink I’m not familiar with because I want to give my customer the best art possible.”

Though he said he has never had a request for a vegan tattoo, he does have some customers who ask for all-natural tattoo ink.

He said that it’s hard to fulfill these requests, as ink companies aren’t obligated to list all their ingredients on the ink bottles. So in reality, companies could be putting whatever they want into the ink.

Because of the lack of information about ingredients, Scapegoat Tattoo does a lot of research to ensure the ink they use is vegan, Wynn said.

He said that the quality of vegan-friendly ink is on par with other inks and there isn’t a significant price difference between vegan and non-vegan ink.

Andrew Stravers, 21, a vegan for five years in Tempe, said that he sought out a vegan-friendly tattoo shop after hearing that some tattoo ink used squid ink as one of its ingredients.

He chose to go to No Regrets Tattoo Parlor to get his four tattoos done because he heard they use Starbrite ink there.

Stravers said it’s hard to be 100-percent vegan in a non-vegan world, but it’s important to him to stick to the tenants of veganism.

“I think that it’s important to treat others, including animals, how you want to be treated,” he said.

Reach the reporter at danielle.legler@asu.edu