Can you tattoo yourself, and even if you can, is it legal?
The internet and social media have made it possible for you to access all kinds of information and guides on how to get pretty much everything done. There is a DIY guide for pretty much anything, and with people spending more and more time at home thanks to the COVID-19 global pandemic, you may find yourself gravitating to more of these guides. Through social media, we’ve seen people transform their homes impressively, without breaking the bank, and without any professional help. And somehow, it looks like you can do pretty much anything right at home.
But can you really do everything from home? What if one of those things is getting a tattoo? Is it safe or legal to tattoo yourself?
Is it illegal to tattoo yourself?
While you can buy the right tattooing equipment online and have everything you need for that tattoo right at home, there are laws that govern tattooing. And states have specific legislation that governs tattooing because this body modification procedure isn’t the safest.
According to the state laws, your state would require that the individual tattoo artists apply for the tattoo licenses and only give tattoos (to themselves and others) after receiving the license. Secondly, the tattoo establishments and tattoo parlors are required to apply for licenses for their establishments, and they can only offer the service once their applications have been approved and they’ve gotten the licenses. With this in mind, the establishment would only offer tattooing services after its licensing.
That said, the main reasons for the regulation of the tattoo industry include the fact that some legislators just don’t like tattoos and they believe that tattoos are wrong and immoral, which means that they use their influence to make tattoos illegal or put in place very restrictive measures. Secondly, there are serious health concerns around tattoos.
How about tattooing yourself?
Well, it would be safe to say that tattooing yourself at home without a license is illegal. This is because tattoos come with inherent risks to both personal and public health.
Now, you may argue that no one will know – if you don’t tell them. While this is true, it’s prudent to be realistic. For starters, home tattooing is quite unsafe as it puts you at great risk of serious infections. As a result, tattooing yourself at home or even giving tattoos to your friends at home might be illegal.
Licensing requirements for tattoos require that all tattoo artists go through an apprenticeship, and an apprentice would be allowed to practice under the guidance and supervision of a licensed artist. So, unless you are licensed, it wouldn’t be safe to tattoo yourself. Think of this in the same way that doctors go to other doctors for treatment.
Is it illegal to tattoo yourself under 18?
State regulations regarding tattoos for minors in 45 states have prohibited minors from getting tattoos or even body piercings. While some of these laws feature blanket prohibitions against all persons that give tattoos to minors, other laws allow minors to get tattoos but only if they have the permission of their parents or guardians. And anyone found tattooing a minor would be in violation of the law.
In the same breath, it’s illegal to tattoo yourself if you are under 18 years.
But, home tattooing isn’t regulated, which means that you could still tattoo yourself if you know what you are doing.
Is it illegal to own a tattoo gun without a license?
Yes, but the state laws differ.
In Tennessee, for example, it is illegal for any unlicensed tattoo artist to possess any kind of tattooing equipment with the intent of using the equipment. This law was amended recently, and owning a tattoo gun without a license is classified as a Class A misdemeanor, and anyone who is found guilty of possessing the equipment without a tattooing license can be jailed for a maximum of 11 months and 29 days or fined $2,500.
The state also prohibits tattooing minors under 18 years, with minors above 16 allowed to get tattoos only if they have the consent of their parents or guardians, and that the parent or guardian is present when the procedure is done – the parent must have identification to show their connection to the minor.
In Florida, for example, tattooing when unlicensed and owning a tattoo gun without a license is a second-degree misdemeanor that attracts a jail sentence of 60 days.
State Tattooing Laws
While it doesn’t make sense to have states regulate tattoos and tattooing, there are real dangers that come with this industry being unregulated.
For starters, tattooing done incorrectly carries with it a huge risk of the person getting tattooed falling ill. It is a risky process that comes with several health concerns, which is why the equipment used must be sterilized and the environment largely free of risks.
The biggest issue around tattoos is that there is a real risk of the spread of blood-borne infections such as Hepatitis C, Hepatitis B, as well as HIV/AIDS, all diseases that could be transmitted by the tattoo needle after it’s been used on one person then it’s used on someone else.
The tattoo inks are also unsafe as they harbor bacteria and viruses when used on multiple individuals. The risks of infection are increased by dirty surfaces as well as unwashed hands. But that is not all; there are other factors that make the regulation of the tattoo industry essential. These include:
Bad tattoo – this is a potential issue where homemade equipment is used, and the ink goes in too deep or worse, it’s hard to control. When either of these happens, you are left with significant scarring or, worse, an unattractive, defaced tattoo.
Unsafe ink – although just about any ink could be used to make a tattoo, it’s not a good idea to use just any ink. Regulation ensures that you get a tattoo from a licensed professional who knows the best and the safest ink to use on you.
Specific State Laws on Tattoos
Tattoos are legal in all 50 states – Oklahoma was the last state to legalize tattoos, but they budged in 2006. However, city laws on tattoos might differ, meaning you must be aware of the state’s specific laws.
Generally, all states require that tattoo artists only offer tattooing services if they are licensed and that the tattoo parlors have to pass inspections by city/ county officials, as well as public health institutions.
Main regulations include
- Minors under 18 cannot get tattoos.
- It’s illegal to get tattoos on some parts of the body, like the face.
- Tattoos cannot be made of hateful or offensive words or images.
- It’s illegal to get tattooed at home or at some party, even by a licensed tattoo artist – the license applies to the shop’s location only.
- Alabama – this state requires that minors must have consent from their parents or guardians to get tattoos
- Alaska – tattoos for minors are prohibited.
- Arizona – Parent must be there for a minor to be tattooed
- Arkansas – for tattoos to minors, the parent’s signature must be provided, the artist has to be certified and licensed, and the shop must pay up the required annual fees.
- California – for tattooing, the safety standards specified under The California Conference of Local Health Officers have to be met. The state regards tattooing minors as a misdemeanor.
- Colorado – minors may get tattoos if they have the consent of their parents
- Connecticut – for tattooing, the process must be done under the supervision of a registered nurse or physician, and minors can get tattoos only if parents/ guardians consent.
- C – All body artists require licensing
- Delaware – the tattoo artists and parlors have to meet specific set safety standards, and tattooing minors without parental consent is illegal.
- Florida – Tattoo artists are individuals licensed to practice dentistry or medicine or individuals under the supervision of these professionals. And minors can only get tattoos if their parents consent
- Georgia – it’s illegal to tattoo an inch next to the eyeball. For minors, tattooing is only acceptable if done by a licensed osteopath or physician, or an experienced person, under the supervision of the licensed party.
- Hawaii – minors can only get tattoos if they have the consent of parents – there is a need for a consent form that should be maintained for a minimum of 2 years.
- Idaho – it’s illegal to tattoo minors under 14 years, and minors aged 14-18 must provide proof of parental consent.
- Illinois – the tattoo artists, are required to meet the requirements of the Tattoo and Body Piercing Establishment Registration Act. And minors can only get tattoos from physicians or from the tattoo parlor if they have parental consent.
- Indiana – the tattoo parlor must meet the required safety and sanitary requirements, and minors can only get tattoos if they have written consent from their parents and if the parent is present.
- Iowa – individuals must have permits to operate tattoo parlors, and minors cannot get tattoos unless they are married.
- Kansas – the state requires all tattoo artists to be licensed. Minors must have a written consent to receive tattoos, and the written consent has to be kept for up to 5 years.
- Kentucky – To be a tattoo artist, you have to be registered via the Health Department, and minors need consent for tattooing.
- Louisiana – tattoo artists must be registered, and minors must have parental consent.
- Maine – Tattoos are illegal for minors, and all tattoo artists are required to meet the licensing requirements for Public Health.
- Maryland – no tattooing allowed in salons
- Massachusetts – tattooing must be done according to the regulation of the Board of health by a physician. They have to meet the model codes set up.
- Michigan – tattoo artists and parlors must meet the requirements for licensure, application, and insurance. And minors can only get tattoos with parental consent.
- Minnesota – parental consent needed for minors
- Mississippi – Tattoo artists must have a Certificate of Registration, and it’s illegal to tattoo minors.
- Missouri – Parlors and artists must be licensed; minors can get tattoos only in the presence and with the consent of their parents
- Montana – state regulations to be met by the tattoo artists, and guardian’s consent needed for minors
- Nebraska – Tattooing laws for minors under the Body Art laws
- Nevada – there are no state regulations for tattoos.
- New York – tattooing minors is unlawful.
These are just some of the common state laws on tattooing. The requirements are pretty much the same with all other states, with licensing, parental consent, and meeting state health and safety requirements being the standard.
If you wanted to know more about the dos and don’ts of tattooing in your state, this article shares important insights to guide you.
Stephanie is a jewelry lover when she was a teenager. Her major was fashion design when she was in college. She is a jewelry designer at SOQ Jewelry and other design companies. Now she is also a writer for our website. She writes a lot of designs&brands posts with very actionable tips.