Legal status of tattooing in the United States

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In the United States, there is no federal law stating a required age to be tattooed. In most states, when a person reaches the age of 18 in the U.S., they are legally considered an adult. Many states require that the person being tattooed is an adult over 18, but some states do allow minors (17 or less) to be tattooed with parental consent.

In all jurisdictions, even those having no law dictating a minimum age, individual tattooists may choose to set age restrictions for their business as a precaution against lawsuits. This is partially based on the legal principle that a minor cannot enter into a legal contract or otherwise render informed consent for a procedure. Most such tattooists will allow a parent or guardian to give written or oral consent in person. The artist may also choose to place additional restrictions based on his or her own moral feelings, such as refusing any clients under a specific age even with parental consent, or limiting the type and/or location of where they are willing to tattoo a minor (such as refusing any work around intimate parts of the body). Artists sometimes claim their personal business restrictions are a matter of law even when it is not true (i.e. tattooing the hands or face is frequently said to be illegal, even though no U.S. state currently has such a ban.), so as to avoid arguments with clients.


The law says that a minor can be tattooed but must have written parental consent and the parent, legal guardian, or caretaker, must be present during the time the minor is being tattooed.[1]


The law says that no person under the age of 18 can be tattooed.[2]


The law says that the parent or legal guardian must be physically present if the person is a minor (under 18).[3]


In the State of Arkansas anyone over the age of 16 can be tattooed with written consent and presence of a parent or legal guardian. Anyone under the age of 16 cannot get a tattoo at all.[4]


According to California Penal Code 653, a person who tattoos or offers to tattoo a person under the age of 18 years is guilty of a misdemeanor. [5] The Safe Body Art Act also states, "A client shall be at least 18 years of age to be offered or to receive a branding, regardless of parental consent." [6]


Under 18 years of age requires parental consent for body art.[7]


Quoted as is: "No person shall tattoo an unemancipated minor under eighteen years of age without the permission of the parent or guardian of such minor."[8]


Quoted as is "No person shall knowingly or negligently tattoo, brand or perform body-piercing on a minor unless that person obtains the prior written consent of the minor's parent over the age of 18 or legal guardian to the specific act of tattooing, branding or body-piercing. "[9]


Minors under 16 years of age can be tattooed for medical or dental purposes by licensed medical or dental practitioners. No permission is required to tattoo a person between 16 and 18 years of age & no notary stamp is also required for minors age 16 to 18.[10]


"It shall be unlawful for any person to tattoo the body of any person under the age of 18, except that a physician or osteopath licensed under Chapter 34 of Title 43, or a technician acting under the direct supervision of such licensed physician or osteopath, and in compliance with Chapter 9 of Title 31 shall be authorized to mark or color the skin of any person under the age of 18 by pricking in coloring matter or by producing scars for medical or cosmetic purposes." [11]


In the State of Hawaii a minor can be tattooed with the written consent of the parents or legal guardian.[12]


Idaho law requires a written consent by a minor's parent or legal guardian prior to tattooing, branding, or body piercing of minors age fourteen (14) to eighteen (18) years of age. [1]


Per 720 ILCS 5/12-10(a) you must be at least 18 years of age to get a tattoo.[13]


In the State of Indiana a minor can be tattooed but a parent(s) or legal guardian(s) must be present. Must be present during the time the minor is being tattooed and the parent(s) must provide written permission for the person to receive the tattoo(s).[14]


In the State of Iowa a minor may not be tattooed. They must be 18-years-old or older. No parental consent is allowed.[15]


In the State of Kansas, the law says "No person shall perform body piercing, cosmetic tattooing or tattooing on or to any person under 18 years of age without the prior written and notarized consent of the parent or court appointed guardian of such person and the person giving such consent must be present during the body piercing, cosmetic tattooing or tattooing procedure."[16]


In the State of Kentucky, the law says "Registrants or operators shall not perform tattooing and body piercing for any of these individuals: On persons under 18 years of age without the presence, consent and proper identification of a parent, legal custodian parent or legal guardian for persons 13-18 years of age. ".[17]


It is unlawful for anyone to tattoo or pierce a minor under age 18 without the consent of the minor's parent or legal custodian, who must accompany them to the procedure. Upon conviction, violators shall be fined between $100 and $500 or imprisoned between 30 and 100 days, or both.


In the State of Maine, the law says "No tattooing shall be practiced on the person of any one who is less than 18 years of age, as verified by a driver's license, liquor ID card, military ID card, or other adequate record."[18]


Maryland's health regulations refer to tattooing and piercing as "Skin-Penetrating Body Adornment Procedures" (this excludes piercing of the earlobe). Tattoo artists are required to inform the client of the risks for the tattoo procedure, and must obtain the client's consent in writing. If the client is under the age of 18, their parent or guardian must sign the consent instead. The parlor is then required to keep this consent document for at least 3 years, along with the client's name, the date, a description of the procedure, and the artist's name who performed it.[19]


All body art procedures, which includes tattooing, piercing, branding and scarification, are regulated by the state health board. Salons and individual artists must obtain a permit to practice any kind of body art, and must abide by a set of regulations with regards to sanitation and safety of equipment. Clients for any body art must sign a standardized informed consent document provided by the health board, which outlines the risks of such body art as well as providing guidance for after care and how to file a complaint. Tattooing, branding, scarification and piercings of the genitalia are completely banned for anyone under 18, even with parental consent. Piercing of areas other than the genitalia are allowed if the parent appears in person, presents proper identification and signs a consent document.[20]

Tattooing was completely banned in Massachusetts from 1962 to 2000 which was prompted by a series of hepatitis outbreaks and concerns about unsanitary practices in salons. During this time, many residents simply traveled out of state to get tattooed. This ban was declared unconstitutional in 2000.[21] As a result of the ban, many tattoo parlors and shops opened for business along the state line in neighboring states, especially in northern suburbs of Providence, Rhode Island. Most of these shops are still in business.


Michigan law (MCL 333.13102) prohibits tattooing anyone under the age of 18 without written consent of a parent or guardian, who must also provide proof of guardianship.[22]


Minnesota requires that you be 18 or older in order to receive a tattoo.[23]


Tattooing of a person under 18 requires the consent of a parent or guardian.[24]


Montana law prohibits tattooing or body piercing "on a child under the age of majority without the explicit in-person consent of the child's parent or guardian." [25]


No person shall perform any tattoo procedure whatsoever upon a person under the age of fourteen (14) years, unless under the supervision of a medical professional. Tattoo procedures performed upon a person under the age of eighteen (18) years require the written consent and proper identification of a parent or guardian unless the person has been emancipated by a court of competent jurisdiction and can provide legal documentation stating this fact. Any tattoos performed on a minor must be done in the presence of a parent or guardian.[26]

New Hampshire[edit]

Per RSA 314-A:8, "Branding and tattooing a person under the age of 18 is prohibited."[27]

New Jersey[edit]

New Jersey State Sanitary Code §8:27-2.6(5): "No tattoo or permanent cosmetics shall be applied to any person under 18 years of age, without the presence, written consent, and proper identification of a parent or legal guardian." [28]

New York[edit]

It is violation of section 260.21 of New York State Penal Law to tattoo minors under the age of 18, regardless of parental consent.[29] Tattooing a minor is considered "unlawfully dealing with a child in the second degree" and is a class B misdemeanor.[30] A class B misdemeanor in New York is punishable by up to 3 months in jail.[31]

North Carolina[edit]

N.C. General Statute 14-400(a) states: "It shall be unlawful for any person or persons to tattoo the arm, limb, or any part of the body of any other person under 18 years of age. Anyone violating the provisions of this section shall be guilty of a Class 2 misdemeanor"[32]

North Dakota[edit]

No person may perform any body art procedure upon a person under the age of eighteen years without the presence, written consent, and proper identification of a parent, legal custodial parent, or legal guardian.[33]


Per Ohio Revised Code section 3730.06, a parent, guardian, or custodian must give consent for a tattoo or body piercing procedure to be performed on a minor.[34]


minors are not allowed to get tattoos.


A minor may not be tattooed regardless of the presence and written consent of a parent or legal guardian.


Under Title 18 of Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes, "A person commits an offense if he tattoos any person under the age of 18 years without the parent or guardian of such person giving consent for the tattooing of the person and being present at the time of the tattooing of the person.

A person who commits an offense under this section shall be guilty of a misdemeanor of the third degree for the first offense. A person who commits a second or subsequent offense under this section within one year of the preceding offense commits a misdemeanor of the second degree."[35]

Rhode Island[edit]

§ 11-9-15 "Tattooing of minors." – "Every person who shall tattoo any minor under the age of eighteen (18) shall be guilty of a misdemeanor and, upon conviction, shall be imprisoned not exceeding one year or be fined not exceeding three hundred dollars ($300). For the purposes of this section, "tattooing" means the practice of marking the skin with indelible patterns or pictures by making punctures and inserting pigments. Nothing in this section shall be construed as prohibiting the removal of tattoo markings from the body of any person of whatsoever age."

South Dakota[edit]

Under chapter 26-10-19 of South Dakota’s Codified Laws tattooing a minor without parental consent is a misdemeanor. A signed consent form is required.[36]


It is illegal in the state of Tennessee to tattoo the skin of any person under eighteen (18) years of age. (TCA 39-15-403. Title 39: Criminal Offenses, Chapter 15: Offenses Against the Family, Part 4: Children, Tattooing of minors.)


A tattooist may not tattoo a person younger than 18 years of age except under the provisions of Section 146.012 (a-1) with the consent from the person's parent or guardian where the tattoo will cover a tattoo that contains obscene or offensive language or symbols; gang-related names, symbols, or markings; drug-related names, symbols, or pictures; other words, symbols, or markings that the person's parent or guardian considers would be in the best interest of the person to cover.[37]


In Utah, a minor may only be tattooed with the consent of a parent or guardian. For the purposes of this law, a minor is defined as a person under the age of 18 who is not married and has not been declared emancipated.[38]


People who perform tattooing and body piercing, as well as the shop they practice in, are required to be licensed by state law. Full licensing requires an apprenticeship of at least 1000 hours within 2 years, under the supervision of a licensed artist who has been in practice for 3 or more years.[39]

A person under 18 cannot receive a tattoo without written consent of their parent or guardian.[39]


Prohibits anyone from tattooing or performing body piercing on a person under age 18, knowing or having reason to believe that the person is under 18 except in the presence of the person's parent or guardian or when done by or under the supervision of a medical doctor, registered nurse, or other medical services personnel in the performance of their duties. Excludes ear piercing as a form of body piercing. Violators are guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor.


The law says every person who applies a tattoo to any minor under the age of eighteen is guilty of a misdemeanor.[40]


Tattoo artists and establishments where tattoos are performed must be licensed by the state health department, and establishments must be inspected before a licence is issued (statute 252.23). Alternatively, in areas with a population over 5000 people, the state health department can authorize a local health department to do inspections and licensing (statute 252.245).

No one may tattoo children except doctors doing so in the course of their medical practice: "(2) Subject to sub. (3), any person who tattoos or offers to tattoo a child is subject to a Class D forfeiture.". (3) Subsection (2) does not prohibit a physician from tattooing or offering to tattoo a child in the course of professional practice.[41]

No one under the age of 18 may be tattooed, regardless of parental consent.


It is illegal to tattoo a minor without the consent and presence of a parent or guardian.[42]


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  2. ^ "Sec. 08.13.217". Alaska Statutes. Retrieved 25 October 2011. 
  3. ^ "13-3721". Arizona Revised Statutes. Retrieved 25 October 2011. 
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  21. ^ Ferdinand, Pamela (November 8, 2000). "Judge throws out 38-year ban on Massachusetts tattoo artists". The Washington Post. Retrieved 14 May 2013. 
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  24. ^ "Section 324.520". Missouri Revised Statutes. Retrieved 4 June 2013. 
  25. ^ "45-5-623. Unlawful transactions with children". Montana Code Annotated 2011. Retrieved 4 June 2013. 
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  27. ^ "RSA 314-A:8". New Hampshire Revised Statutes Annotated. Retrieved 26 May 2011. 
  28. ^ "NJSSC §8:27-2.6(5)". New Jersey State Sanitary Code. Retrieved 30 June 2011. 
  29. ^ Body Art - Tattooing and Body Piercing
  30. ^ Section 260.21 of New York State Penal Law - Unlawfully Dealing with a Child in the Second Degree
  31. ^ Laws of New York
  32. ^ GS_14-400
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  34. ^ "ORC 3730.06". Ohio Revised Code. Retrieved 14 June 2011. 
  35. ^ "18 Pa.C.S. § 6311". Title 18 of Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes. 
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  40. ^ RCW 26.28.085: Applying tattoo to a minor — Penalty
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