Eco & Art: zero waste tattoo care
When it comes to tattoos, a lot of work goes into not only the art of the piece itself, but also into the preparation and care of the creation when it has been finished. Not to mention the subsequent worry of waste that comes along with getting a tattoo. From the disposable razor used to shave the area to the plastic wrap to cover up the work when it's done- it all adds up to a bit of waste, even if much of it is necessary for safety!
This is where a holistic zero waste mindset can come into play. The most important aspect of getting a tattoo is to be both sanitary and safe— while this can mean a little trash, that's perfectly okay! A low waste life isn’t perfect. I personally see tattoos as a form of self care, and it's time that I allow myself some looseness when it comes to my waste worries. Still, there are some things you can do to minimize your waste when getting a tattoo! Read on for some zero waste tattoo care tips.
Prep for Your Tat
Zero waste tattoo care starts even before you step into the studio. Before my appointment, I shave the area where the tattoo will be, to hopefully avoid the artist using a disposable razor at the appointment. For shaving, I love to use a safety razor, which is a sustainable swap to a traditional plastic one.
Also, when choosing your artist, you can look out for what kind of ink a tattoo artist uses. I try to opt for places that use vegan tattoo inks, which are becoming much more common in the tattoo scene. I got my most recent ink done at Slave to the Needle right here in Ballard, and was pleased to see their use of all-vegan inks. Some vegan and ethical tattoooink companies to keep an eye out for are Intenze, Fusion, Silverback, Waverly, Classic, and Starbrite.
One of the biggest ways you can reduce your waste when getting tattooed comes with your aftercare and creating a zero waste tattoo care routine for the longterm.
The first few days after your appointment, your tattoo is going to be in its most sensitive state, and you'll need to focus extra on the quality of your zero waste tattoo care routine. Ointments like Aquaphor are commonly recommended to protect your newly tattooed skin, and while those are great, I've found some alternatives I personally enjoy much more and that are also more sustainable! Some Aquaphor alternatives I use for my zero waste tattoo care are: Dr. Bronner's Unscented Organic Magic Balm, Badger Tattoo Balm, or Healthy Jelly, which is a plant-based alternative to petroleum jelly made from beeswax.
During this time, it's also important to clean the tattooed area with unscented and antibacterial soap. This makes for an easy zero waste tattoo care swap. I look for bar soap, which is waterless and thus lowers carbon emissions related to shipping, and which often comes packaged in recyclable cardboard!
Once the tattooed area has healed a bit, I switch to a gentle unscented lotion for my long-term zero waste tattoo care. My favorite sustainable body lotion has always been our Shea Butter Lotion, which I’ll apply a couple of times a day for the first few weeks after getting my new tattoo. My coworker Rachel swears by using Yay for Earth on hers, saying her tattoos heal much faster this way, given that it's intended for healing sensitive skin! Through the zero waste grapevine, I’ve also heard of using cocoa butter or coconut oil for the tattoo after-care process as well. With the trial and error of products, just comes the need for more tattoos!
Tattoo Care is Forever
It is important to remember that once you get a tattoo, you are devoted to tattoo care for life! That means just one word: SUNSCREEN. Every time you go outside, just as you should always be putting sunscreen on your face, you should also always be putting it on your tattoo! Seriously please do this, it protects not only the health of your skin but also the longevity of your ink and its color! Remember y’all, we wanna be those cool hip old people with still fresh looking tats! At least, that's my plan anyway. For the zero waste tattoo care version of this, I always hunt for reef-safe sunscreens in non-plastic packaging, and my all-time favorite is the Raw Elements Face + Body Sunscreen!
Lastly, I always try to seek out local tattoo artists to support small businesses and get the most beautiful original pieces of work. I had another tattoo done recently by Eli Jorgenson, a Seattle-based tattoo artist running their own small business, and absolutely loved my experience there. I’ve also recently come across an artist who is devoted to all zero waste tattoos here!
We always love to hear your experiences and tips too! Feel free to send us questions or recommendations. We can’t wait to see your new art!