Regulations for Tattoos & Body Piercing

Most rules and regulations for tattoo and piercing parlors focus on sanitation and health safety and preventing individuals who may not be able to make the decision to get a tattoo or piercing on their own. Rules and regulations vary by state, but most include language regarding who can give tattoos and piercings, the need for personnel to take classes on first aid and blood-borne pathogens and the need for personnel to get vaccinated.

  1. Sanitation

    • General sanitation regulations and rules apply to both piercers and tattoo artists. The building, its furnishings and supplies must all be clean and well-maintained. Artists must always wash their hands with antibacterial soap, wear clean clothing and wear single-use gloves as well as personal protective equipment. Artists must use sterilized and single-use instruments.

    Tattoo-Specific Rules and Regulations

    • Most states have rules and regulations on what supplies tattoo artists use and how they give a tattoo to ensure safety and sterile tools. Dye and pigments must be from professional suppliers made specifically for tattooing on humans, for instance, and artists who prepare dyes must use only nontoxic materials. Artists must typically discard unused pigments and dyes rather than saving them for another customer. Artists must use single-use paper stencils or sterilized stencils and must sterilize the customer's skin before working on it.

    Rules and Regulations for Piercings

    • Piercers must use jewelry approved for body piercing. The jewelry must be made from surgical implant grade material, like high-quality stainless steel, platinum and low-porosity plastic. Piercers must also keep inspection records of jewelry on hand. Piercers must set up equipment and open sealed autoclave bags or new, single-use equipment in front of clients. They must also disinfect the jewelry piece with the autoclave and presterilize needles or piercing tools, then immediately dispose of them in a proper disposal bin after the piercing.

    Who Can Get Tattoos

    • States typically require licensed parlors to prohibit tattoos and piercings to minors altogether -- or at least those without parental consent -- as well as refuse to tattoo or pierce intoxicated clients. The minimum age to get a tattoo without parental or guardian consent varies among states. As of January 2010, the National Conference of State Legislatures indicates that states such as Arizona and California restrict tattoos to anyone under 18 without parental consent and presence. In California, a person cannot offer a tattoo to someone under 18. In Tennessee, minors 16 or older can get tattoos with written parental consent only to cover up an existing tattoo, and the parent must also be present and show proof of parenthood or guardianship.

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