Tattoo artist Nerida Nicolson grew up on an orchard in the bush, about an hour and a half out of Sydney. She has been tattooing for the past six years from her studio base in Surry Hills. At around the time she was starting out, she switched to a vegan lifestyle, and now she walks the talk in her business life, too. We had a chat, and here’s what she had to say.

During my apprenticeship, one of my colleagues was vegan. I went vegetarian after listening to him talk about the realities of animal exploitation. Then I watched Earthlings. I don’t think I’ve ever cried so much in my life. I have been vegan ever since.

Inks used in tattooing used to regularly contain things like bone char, carmine, shellac, animal derived glycerin and gelatin. But these days, most inks are accidentally vegan. You can find out by emailing the ink company if you can’t find the information online. Other products used may not be vegan, however. Things such as the razors, and the soap used during tattooing, may contain animal products and often aren’t cruelty free. Aftercare products may also be an issue, but this is usually up to the client.

I just love tattoos! I remember flicking through pages and pages of images on BMEzine when I was in school, just wanting to have what those people had.

Everything I use is vegan and cruelty free. Razors were an issue for a long time – just trying to find something that was affordable and vegan/cruelty free. But I’ve finally found some. I use an organic, natural soap during tattooing and recommend a vegan aftercare product (Hustle Butter), which I also use in the tattooing process in place of petroleum jelly.

I also try to minimise waste without compromising the strict hygiene standards needed, and without compromising the tattoo. None of this makes a shred of difference to the end result.

I only have my left thigh and right arm left to tattoo, apart from a few odd spaces here and there. Next year, I am hoping to get my arm done by Alex Cairns, who has also done my favourite tattoo, a ningyo (mermaid) on my left calf. He is an amazing tattooer.

The universe has brought me some great people. My customers are actually lovely. I’m a massive introvert, but my clients are a joy to be around.

About the Author


Sara is a journalist by trade and spent many happy years editing magazines until people stopped buying them and she was forced to transfer her talents to a brave new digital world. Sara lives in the inner city with two small kids, a dog and a cat, and tries her darndest to live an ethical life.

Sara’s background as a journalist and editor includes lengthy stints on titles such as inside out, donna hay magazine and the Sunday Telegraph (no judgement!). She has freelanced for a plethora of brands including Body + Soul, Marie Claire, GQ and Qantas Insider. She has also worked client side in property, retail, fashion, beauty and food.

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