Tattoo the right way, the lawful way.
Before you ever setup your tattoo shop, you need to make sure you follow the correct tattoo laws and regulations in your state.
Many people are surprised to learn about the existence of tattoo laws and regulations.
These laws exist because the process for giving a tattoo is similar to a medical procedure. Tattoo shops need to be clean and tattoo artists need to use equipment and tools that have been properly sterilized.
The dangers of using unsterilized equipment are real, including exposure to blood-borne diseases like hepatitis C, hepatitis B and HIV.
Many tattoo supplies are designed to be single-use only. This is because supplies like tattoo inks and caps that are shared by multiple people can be breeding grounds for bacteria and germs. Unwashed hands and unclean surfaces in a shop are additional potential sources of infection.
State Tattoo Laws
Currently tattoos are not regulated at the federal level.
Each of the 50 states has its own set of tattoo laws. Tattooing is legal in each state, although it didn’t become legal in Oklahoma until 2006. Despite the fact that there are no tattoo laws barring tattooing, many states allow local governments to outlaw tattoo shops.
There are wide variations in local regulations of tattooing businesses. Even in areas where tattoo shops are legal, there may be local tattoo laws that govern licensing and safety inspection of tattoo shops. Some local jurisdictions require professional tattoo artists to complete a registration process.
There are very few places that do not have some regulation of tattoo businesses.
Examples of Tattoo Laws
Some states and local governments only have tattoo laws that govern tattoo businesses. Other areas have tattoo laws that pertain to people getting tattoos. These are some examples of tattoo laws that regulate who can get a tattoo and what type of tattoos they can get:
- No one under 18 can get a tattoo.
- A person getting a tattoo must be sober.
- Tattooing must take place in a license tattoo ship and cannot be done in a private home.
- Certain body parts such as the face are restricted from tattooing.
- Tattoos can’t contain hate speech or obscene words or images.
Check your Local Tattoo Laws
The best way to find out which laws pertain to your area is to check with your city, county and state governments.
The Internet is one of the best resources for finding out about tattoo laws. Begin with your state department of health. In a few states, an unexpected department may control tattoos. If you can’t find the information on your state website, contact your state’s health department directly.
County and city tattoo laws and regulations can also be researched online.
If you can’t find information online, don’t hesitate to make some phone calls. Some tattoo websites that provide state-by-state information about tattoo laws, but remember that these could be outdated or inaccurate. It makes more sense to find out about local tattoo laws directly from your local and state government offices.
One site we found that has the tattoo laws for each state is here.
Importance of Tattoo Laws
Some tattoo artists find it tempting to ignore tattoo laws under certain circumstances, such as when doing work for friends. This is risky business, since the license of the tattoo artist could be revoked and there is even the possibility of arrest and conviction.
Some disreputable tattoo shops and tattoo artists ignore tattoo laws altogether, doing tattoo work in private homes or at tattoo parties. There are also people with limited tattoo training who perform tattooing with homemade equipment. These practices are illegal and dangerous. While some people enjoy the image of the outlaw tattoo artist, these are the possible risks:
- An unsightly tattoo. When home-made equipment is used or when a tattoo is applied by someone who’s not properly trained, the ink may not penetrate the skin correctly. The tattoo may end up being an embarrassment, with a fuzzy or messy design. Even worse, a tattoo that’s applied incorrectly may cause unattractive scarring.
- A skin infection. Using improper inks can cause an allergic reaction that may leave scarring in the tattoo area.
- A serious illness. When sanitation procedures are ignored, it’s possible to contract blood poisoning or a potentially fatal disease such as HIV / AIDS or hepatitis.
Although tattoo laws may seem like an unnecessary bother, they are designed to protect both the tattoo artist and the person getting a tattoo.
Being aware of local and state tattoo laws is the safest and smartest way to conduct a tattoo business.