How Old do You Have to Be to Get a Tattoo?

How Old Do You Have to Be to Get a Tattoo?

Navigating the legal age requirements for tattoos in the United States can be complex due to varying state regulations. This article provides a comprehensive guide to understanding these laws, highlighting the potential exceptions and consequences of non-compliance.

Whether considering your first tattoo or seeking clarity on these restrictions, exploring the legal landscape surrounding tattoos will equip you with the necessary knowledge to make informed decisions.

Key Takeaways

  • The minimum age to get a tattoo in California is 18, and parental consent does not exempt individuals under 18 from the age restriction.
  • Licensed doctors or medical professionals trained in the healing arts can legally tattoo a minor under 18 in California for specific health-related reasons.
  • Tattooing a minor in California is considered a misdemeanour. It can result in jail time, fines, and the loss of a tattoo artist’s license.
  • All 50 states and the District of Columbia require individuals receiving a tattoo to be at least 18. However, some states allow minors to get tattoos with parental or guardian permission.

Tattoo Laws in the USA

Tattoo Laws in the USA

Across the United States, almost all 50 states and the District of Columbia mandate that individuals must be at least 18 years old to receive a tattoo. This universal requirement protects minors from making a potentially regrettable decision without fully comprehending the permanence and potential health risks. It is also rooted in the legal principle that minors cannot give informed consent.

However, laws vary across states regarding parental consent. While some states allow minors to get tattoos with parental or guardian consent, others maintain the 18-year-old threshold regardless of parental permission. For instance, in California, even with parental consent, individuals under 18 cannot get a tattoo. On the other hand, states like Alaska require written consent and parental presence for minors getting tattoos.

Medical necessity might be an exception to age restrictions for tattooing in some states. Violations of these tattoo laws can lead to severe penalties, including fines and imprisonment. Therefore, it is crucial to be aware of and comply with the specific tattoo laws in your state.

StateMinimum Age (with Parent/Guardian Consent)Relevant Statute(s) and Rules
AlabamaNone SpecifiedAla. Code § 22-1-17A, State Board of Health Rules on Body Art Practices and Facilities
Alaska18 (Piercing Excepted)Alaska Stat. § 08.13.217
ArizonaNone SpecifiedTattoos. Ariz. Rev. Stat. § 13-3721
Arkansas18Ark. Stat. Ann. §§ 20-27-1501 et seq.
California18 (Piercing Excepted)Body Art. Cal. Health & Safety Code § 119300 to 119328, Cal. Penal Code 653
Colorado18Body Artists. Colo. Rev. Stat. § 25-4-2101 to 2103
ConnecticutNone SpecifiedConn. Gen. Stat. §19a-92a, Conn. Gen. Stat. §19a-92g
D.C.18 (Ear Piercing Excepted)Body Artists. DC Code § 47-2853.76d
Delaware18Del. Code Ann. Title 11, Ch 5 §1114(a), Del. Code Ann. Title 16, Ch 2 §122(3)(w)
Florida16Fla. Stat. § 381.00787, Fla. Stat. §381.0775 et seq., Fla. Stat. §381.075
Georgia18 (Body Piercing Excepted)Ga. Code § 31-40-1 to 31-40-10, Ga. Code § 16-12-5, Ga. Code § 16-5-71.1
HawaiiNone SpecifiedHawaii Rev. Stat. § 321-13, Hawaii Rev. Stat. § 321-379
Idaho14Idaho Code § 18-1523 (2004)
Illinois18 (Body Piercings Excepted)Ill. Stat. 720 §5/12-10.1, Ill. Stat. 410 §54/1 to 54/999
IndianaNone SpecifiedInd. Code Ann. §35-42-2-7, Ind. Code Ann. §16-19-3-4.1
Iowa18Iowa Code §135.37
Kansas16Kan. Stat. Ann. §65-1953, Kan. Stat. Ann. §65-1940 to 65-1954
KentuckyNone SpecifiedKy. Rev. Stat. §211.760, Ky. Rev. Stat. §194A.050; 211.760, 902 KAR 45.065
Louisiana16La. Rev. Stat. Ann. §14:93.2
Maine18 (Piercings Excepted)Me. Rev. Stat. Ann. Title 32 § 4201-4329
MarylandNone SpecifiedCOMAR and
Massachusetts18 (Except Body Piercing Other Than Genitalia)Model Regulations for Body Art Establishments
MichiganNone SpecifiedMich. Comp. Laws § 333.13101 to 333.13112
Minnesota18 (Piercings Excepted)Minnesota Statutes 146B.07
Mississippi18Miss.Code Ann. §73-61
MissouriNone SpecifiedMo. Rev. Stat. §324.520
MontanaNone SpecifiedMont. Code Ann. §45-5-623, Mont. Code Ann. §50-48-101 to 110, Mont. Code Ann. §50-48-201 to 209
NebraskaNone SpecifiedNebraska Revised Statute 38-1008, 38-1009, 38-1010, 38-1011, 38-1060, 38-10,165
New Hampshire18 (Piercings Excepted)N.H. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 314
New Jersey16N.J. Stat. Ann. §2C:40-21, N.J.A.C. 8:27-1 et seq., N.J. Stat. Ann. §26-1A-7
New MexicoNone SpecifiedBody Art Safe Practices Act. N.M. Stat. Ann. § 61-17B et seq., N.M. Administrative Code 16.36 et seq.
New York18 (Piercings Excepted)New York Public Health Law, Article 4-A, N.Y. Public Health Law §460-466, N.Y. Penal Law § 260.21
North Carolina18 (Piercings Excepted)N.C. Gen. Stat. § 130A-283, N.C. Gen. Stat. § 14-400
North DakotaNone SpecifiedN.D. Code §23-01-35, N.D. Code §12.1-31-13
OhioNone SpecifiedOhio Rev. Code Ann. §3730.01 to 3730.99
Oklahoma18 (Piercings Excepted)Okla. Stat. Title 21 §842.1, 842.2, 842.3
Oregon18 (Piercings Excepted)Or. Rev. Stat. § 690.350 et seq, Or. Rev. Stat. § 690.401 to 410, Or. Rev. Stat. § 679.500, Health Licensing Office Rules
PennsylvaniaNone SpecifiedPa. Cons. Stat. Title 18 § 6311
Rhode Island18 (Piercings Excepted)RI Gen L § 23-1-39, RI Gen L § 11-9-15
South Carolina18 (Piercings Excepted)S.C. Code § 44-32-10 to 44-32-120, S.C. Code § 44-34-10 to 44-34-110, S.C. Code § 44-32-10 to 44-32-120, S.C. Code § 44-34-10 to 44-34-110

Why Age Matters When Getting a Tattoo?

Why Age Matters When Getting a Tattoo

It is essential to understand the importance of age restrictions in the tattoo industry. There are various legal, social, and health implications associated with this factor. Legally, most jurisdictions mandate a minimum age to obtain a tattoo, usually 18, to guarantee informed consent. Failure to comply with this rule can result in penalties, including fines and license revocations for tattoo artists.

From a social perspective, age is important because perceptions and preferences can evolve. A design chosen by a younger individual may not be appreciated or seen as relevant later in life. This can lead to regret and the desire for tattoo removal, which can be costly and sometimes successful.

Health-wise, tattooing involves skin puncturing and ink insertion, which carry risks, such as infections, allergic reactions, and scarring. As the immune system continues developing until late adolescence, younger individuals might face higher health risks.

The role of age extends beyond mere legality. It encompasses broader concerns about personal development, decision-making capacity, potential regret, and health risks. Therefore, considering these aspects is essential when contemplating a tattoo, especially for younger individuals.

The Consequences of Getting a Tattoo Too Soon

The decision to get a tattoo at a young age can lead to various consequences that extend beyond immediate legal repercussions. These can include regret, social stigma, and potential health risks.

Regret is arguably the most common consequence. A study by the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology revealed that nearly a third of people who get tattoos regret the decision later, and this figure is often higher for those who get tattooed at a young age.

Social stigma can also be a repercussion. Despite societal attitudes towards tattoos becoming more accepting, negative perceptions persist in some quarters. Young individuals, particularly those seeking employment, may face discrimination due to their tattoos.

Furthermore, there are potential health risks. Tattoos break the skin barrier, leading to infection if not done in a hygienic setting. Young people might be more inclined to opt for cheaper, potentially unlicensed tattoo artists, thereby increasing their risk.

Essential Things to Consider Before Getting Inked

Several crucial factors should be diligently contemplated before deciding to undertake the permanent commitment of getting a tattoo. Foremost among these considerations is the design and location of the tattoo. It should have a significant personal meaning and be placed where it can be displayed with pride or concealed when necessary.

The choice of a professional and reputable tattoo artist is equally important. Ensure they adhere to strict hygiene standards to avoid complications such as infections or allergies.

Another factor to consider is the pain involved in the process. Depending on the location and duration of the tattoo session, the level of discomfort can vary.

Lastly, remember that a tattoo is a lifelong commitment. Ensure that you are prepared for the permanence of your decision and any potential social or professional implications.

Factor to ConsiderWhy It’s Important
Design and LocationPersonal Significance and Visibility
Choice of ArtistSafety and Quality Guarantees
Pain ToleranceComfort During the Process
Permanence of DecisionLifelong Commitment and Implications

Frequently Asked Questions

What Is the Process of Getting a Tattoo?

The process of getting a tattoo involves consultation with a professional tattoo artist, selection and design of the artwork, preparation of the skin, application of the tattoo with sterilized equipment, and aftercare for healing.

Can I Get a Tattoo if I’m Visiting From a Country Where the Minimum Age Is Lower?

In the United States, the minimum age to get a tattoo is 18. This applies to residents and visitors alike, irrespective of the age laws in their home country. Always check local regulations before proceeding.

What Are Some Health Risks Associated With Getting a Tattoo?

Tattoos carry health risks like skin infections, allergic reactions, bloodborne diseases like Hepatitis B or C, and MRI complications. Additionally, poor tattoo aftercare can lead to scarring or other skin complications.

How Can I Ensure That the Tattoo Artist Is Following All Required Safety Protocols?

To ensure your tattoo artist is following safety protocols, research their qualifications, ask about their sterilization process, ensure they use new, disposable needles and gloves, and observe the cleanliness of their studio before receiving services.

What Should I Do if I Regret Getting a Tattoo?

If you regret getting a tattoo, consider professional tattoo removal services. Laser removal is the most common method. Alternatively, some opt for tattoo modification. Consult with a professional to discuss which option is best for you.


The age restrictions for tattoos in the United States are complex and vary from state to state.

The consensus is that one must be at least 18. Minors may be eligible in certain states with parental consent.

Understanding these laws is crucial to avoid potential legal consequences. Furthermore, considering the permanence and potential health risks, thoughtful contemplation is advised before getting a tattoo.

Zlatko is a passionate ink enthusiast and connoisseur of body art. With an insatiable curiosity for the world of tattoos, Zlatko has dedicated his life to exploring the diverse realms of tattoo culture, history, and modern trends.

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