• Victoria D.

Gristle Tattoo in Brooklyn: Vegan Tattoo Experience

How does injecting animal products under your skin sound? Ironically, many vegans are unknowingly walking around with tattoos that read ‘vegan’ that are not vegan at all.

The entire tattooing process often contains animal byproducts at every step of the way. Most black ink contains bone char and often the carrying agent has animal byproduct based glycerine.

Since I can remember, I have been interested in tattoos. I would order henna ink off the internet with my friends and paint what we thought we would like in the future. Thankfully it was just henna, or else I would have my star sign on my wrist and probably foot, forever.

vegan tattoo nyc

Although I went vegan at a young age in grade 11, I actually acquired my first tattoo before this. I never even imagined that something like a tattoo could contain something not vegan! It wasn’t until years later I found out that the black ink contains bone char and that some colours even contain slugs! On top of this, many of the creams and aftercare contain enzymes from animals and animal-derived additives.

Unless you are living in a vegan ‘hot spot’ or large city, it may be hard to seek out an advertised vegan artist. Thankfully you’re not out of luck! If you are looking to get a vegan tattoo, some artists are using vegan ink without even knowing. Research different brands and enquire to local shops what type of ink they use.

In the past, artists have spoken out against vegan black ink saying the artificial colouring does not last as long. Like any technology, the increased interest in vegan ink has created change to the inks themselves. Also, different brands offer different results, so be smart when choosing a shop.

I caught up with John from Gristle Tattoo in Brooklyn, NYC to get some work done and chat about vegan tattoos.

vegan tattoo

I woke up and flipped on the news. I had been away from North America for over 10 months and was still getting used to modern conveniences, the time change, and most of all...the weather. The TV told me that today was unusually cold for New York in March and was going to be a high of -7 Celsius. Coming from Bali and our 35 degree daily average we were frozen solid.


Not wanting the weather to get in our way of exploring new areas of New York, we jumped on the subway and headed to Brooklyn. Myself and Colin had an appointment later that day at Gristle Tattoo so we used this as an excuse to eat a very large meal at Champs Diner: an amazing all vegan New York style diner.

Next we walked into Gristle and met John. He told us to relax, hang out, and when we were ready started to place the stencils. Colin was volunteered to go first and myself and a friend sat and observed by his side. After about two hours of talking, laughing, and tattooing, Colin was finished.

vegan tattoo

John sterilized the entire table and workspace and then placed the stencil on my arm. It’s funny what you learn about your body from tattoo artists. In previous appointments I found out my arms are unusually long and at Gristle I found out that my arm overextends slightly. I laughed and agreed the placement counters this strange bend in my arm.


While John was working, I was able to ask him a few questions about his opinion on vegan tattoos. John explained that when he first started working at Gristle, he was reluctant to leave his old black ink behind since he mostly works as a blackwork artist. After he made the switch, he was thankful he did! John explained that he finds this specific non-toxic Eternal Ink actually fades to a more black-black, rather than the traditional blue tinge that traditional old tattoos have.

Gristle Tattoo is located in a trendy area of Brooklyn called Williamsburg. The area boasts many vegan cafes, bars, breweries, and other ‘hipster’ establishments. What sets Gristle apart is that the entire process is vegan.

vegan tattoo

This marks my 6th tattoo and I’ve tried many different aftercare techniques. I’ve never had any significant problems with any but the After Inked I was given from Gristle Tattoo has surpassed anything I've tried. It is absolutely amazing, soothing, and works like a charm to stop your tattoo from becoming dry, itchy, and healing improper. It contains all natural ingredients such as grapeseed oil, veg based glycerine, jojoba oil, shea butter, and more. It is also of course certified cruelty-free.

I look forward to visiting NYC again and having the opportunity to get another piece done at Gristle.

To view Johns portfolio please see:

To get more information or make an appointment see:

#tattoo #vegan #newyork #USA

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