How Old Do You Have To Be To Get A Tattoo? (State-By-State Guide)

If you’re fascinated by all things tattoo, piercing, and body-mod related, there’s a good chance you’re ITCHING to get your first tattoo. It’s an exciting milestone, and for some, it’s the beginning of a journey that will lead to many more modifications in the future. 

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However, making permanent alterations to your body is a very big decision. For the safety of yourself and your tattooist, tattoos cannot be done without adhering to specific state laws.

Most states have implemented minimum age requirements to get a tattoo, and for some other modifications, you may need parental consent if you’re under 18. 

In some states, it’s possible to get a tattoo if you’re under 18, as long as you have written consent from a parent or guardian. In other states, tattoo parlors are completely prohibited from giving tattoos to minors. 

Even if you can get a tattoo as a minor, we highly recommend opting for something small or waiting until you’re older. Tattoos are permanent, and many people end up regretting their choice of design down the road.

This can end up costing hundreds of dollars to cover up or remove altogether – both of these options can also be painful, which you’ll want to avoid if possible! 

How Old Do You Have to Be to Get a Tattoo (State-by-State Guide)

Can A Parent Or Guardian Give Consent For A Minor To Get A Tattoo?

In short, sometimes. In some states, parents or guardians can authorize a tattoo on a minor by signing a consent form. They may also need to be present while the tattoo is taking place. The process is also similar for piercings – some states will accept written consent to pierce a minor, while others prohibit it entirely. 

Before deciding whether you want a tattoo or piercing, you should familiarize yourself with current state laws and regulations. Let’s take a look at the current laws on tattooing by state. 

Alabama

Tattoos can be given to a minor with written consent from a parent or guardian.

Alaska

Tattoos on minors are completely prohibited.

Arizona

A parent or guardian must be present for a minor to receive a tattoo. 

Arkansas

Minors will need written consent to get a tattoo, and their parent or legal guardian must also be present during the procedure.

California

Tattoos on minors are completely prohibited. 

Colorado

Minors must obtain the written consent of a parent or guardian to get a tattoo. 

Connecticut 

Like Colorado, written consent must be given by a parent or legal guardian for a minor to get a tattoo. 

Delaware

The parent or legal guardian must give written consent to tattoo a minor. 

Florida

In Florida, minors will need written and notarized consent from a parent or legal guardian to get a tattoo. This means that the signature on the consent form must be verified by a notary public to confirm its authenticity. 

Georgia

Tattooing a minor is completely prohibited.

Hawaii

Minors will need the written consent of their parent or legal guardian to get a tattoo. 

Idaho

Tattoos on minors under the age of 14 are entirely illegal. However, minors between 14-18 can get a tattoo with the written consent of a parent or legal guardian. 

Illinois

Like many other states, you’ll need written consent from a parent or legal guardian if you want a tattoo under the age of 18. Your parents or guardians will also need to be present during the tattooing. 

Indiana 

Tattoos can be given to minors with the written consent of a parent or legal guardian. 

Iowa

In Iowa, tattooing a minor is completely prohibited. 

Kansas

In Kansas, minors can be tattooed. However, you’ll need the written AND notarized consent of a parent or guardian, and your parents or guardians will also need to be present during the tattoo process. 

Kentucky

Minors can only be tattooed with the written and notarized consent of their parents or legal guardians. 

Louisiana

In Louisiana, minors can be tattooed, but their parents or legal guardian will need to be present. 

Maine

Tattoos on minors are completely prohibited. 

Maryland

Tattoos can be given to minors with the written consent of a parent or guardian. The tattoo parlor is also required to keep your consent form for up to three years, including your name, the date, and the description of the procedure performed. 

Massachusetts

Minors can be tattooed, but only with the written consent of their parents or legal guardians. 

Michigan

For a minor to be legally tattooed, they must receive the written consent of a parent or legal guardian. 

Minnesota 

In Minnesota, tattooing a minor is completely prohibited. 

Mississippi 

Like Minnesota, it is completely illegal to tattoo a minor. 

Missouri

In Missouri, minors must obtain the written consent of a parent or legal guardian to get a tattoo. 

Montana

The written consent of a parent or legal guardian must be obtained to tattoo a minor. 

Nebraska

Nebraska also requires the written consent of a parent or legal guardian to tattoo a minor. 

Nevada

In Nevada, tattoos are entirely prohibited on minors under the age of 14 unless supervised by a medical professional. Between the ages of 14 and 18, minors must receive the written consent of a parent or legal guardian, and they must also be present during the tattooing. 

New Hampshire

Minors must obtain the written consent of a parent or legal guardian, and the parent or legal guardian should also be present during the tattooing. 

New Jersey

The parent or legal guardian must give written consent for a minor to be tattooed. 

New Mexico

In New Mexico, minors must have the written consent of a parent or legal guardian, and the parent or legal guardian should also be present during the tattooing. 

New York

In New York, the tattooing of minors is completely prohibited. 

North Carolina

Like New York, it is completely illegal to tattoo a minor in North Carolina. 

North Dakota

Minors can be tattooed in North Dakota, but only with the written consent and presence of a parent or legal guardian. 

Ohio

Minors will require the written consent of a parent or legal guardian, and they must also be present when the tattooing is being performed. 

Oklahoma

In Oklahoma, the tattooing of a minor is completely prohibited. 

How Old Do You Have To Be To Get A Tattoo? (State-By-State Guide)
Credit: anukatattoo

Oregon

Minors can be tattooed in Oregon. However, they must obtain the written consent of a parent or legal guardian and provide proof of identity. 

Pennsylvania

In Pennsylvania, minors can be tattooed with the written consent and presence of a parent or legal guardian. 

Rhode Island

In Rhode Island, the tattooing of minors is completely prohibited. 

South Carolina

Minors can be tattooed, but only with parental consent. 

South Dakota

In South Dakota, minors will need to supply their tattooist with the written consent of a parent or legal guardian to be tattooed. 

Tennessee 

In Tennessee, minors over the age of 16 can be tattooed with written parental consent. 

Texas

In Texas, minors can be tattooed with the written permission and presence of a parent or legal guardian. However, this is only the case if a new tattoo is being used to cover an existing tattoo that is considered offensive or distasteful.

The parent or guardian must also believe that a new tattoo is in their child’s best interests. Adults will also need to supply the tattoo parlor with proof of parentage or guardianship.

Utah

Minors can be tattooed in Utah, but only with the written consent of their parent or legal guardian. 

Vermont

In Vermont, minors will also need the written consent of a parent or guardian to be tattooed. 

Virginia

Minors can only be tattooed in Virginia if their parent or legal guardian is present during the procedure. 

Washington

In Washington, the tattooing of minors is completely prohibited. 

West Virginia

The state of West Virginia requires all minors to supply their tattoo parlor with the written consent of their parent or legal guardian. 

Wisconsin

In Wisconsin, minors cannot be tattooed, unless the procedure is performed by a physician.

Wyoming

Minors can be tattooed in Wyoming. However, they will need the verbal consent of their parent or legal guardian, who must also be present during the procedure. 

How Old Do You Have To Be To Get A Tattoo? (State-By-State Guide)
Credit: ch.f_tattoo

What Is A ‘Legal Guardian’?

In the U.S, a legal guardian is an adult who has been granted the legal authority to care for another person or their property. The court usually appoints a legal guardian.

A legal guardian will have the authority to make decisions regarding your support or care, and therefore has the power to provide or refuse to consent for a tattoo if you are a minor or incapacitated. 

How Is Written Consent Protected Against Fraud Or Forgery?

Without the appropriate safeguards in place, it would be easy for a minor to forge their note of written consent and receive a tattoo without their parent or guardian’s permission.

However, most states that require written consent have several procedures in place to prevent this from happening. In some states, the written permission must be notarized to ensure the parent or guardian’s consent. 

You may also find that the consent documents require a parent or guardian to specify the exact procedure you’re having performed (i.e., tattoo or piercing) and where on the body it will be. This is an extra step that can help to ensure your written consent is legal. 

Although each tattoo parlor must adhere to state law, the exact methods for consent may vary. You should always contact your chosen establishment before your appointment to ensure you can provide the appropriate means of consent. 

What Happens If You Lie About Your Age?

If you lie about your age to get a tattoo, you may be fined, criminally charged, or face jail time for the offense. 

It’s not just your or your family that will be affected, either. The tattoo parlor who performed the procedure will often face legal consequences and could face heavy fines, jail time, or risk having their license revoked. 

In some cases, the consequences can go straight to the heart of your family. If you provide an establishment with fraudulent consent forms, authorities can take action to remove you from the custody of your parent or legal guardians. 

Divorced Parents – Tricky Tattoo Situations

In cases where the minor’s parents are divorced, consent can be a tricky situation. Legally, to get a tattoo as a minor, you only need consent from one parent.

However, parents may disagree about whether or not a tattoo is suitable for their child. If one parent consents and the other doesn’t, this isn’t illegal. However, it could make family life difficult.

However, this situation may differ if something in the divorce decree or settlement grants one parent more authority than the other. For example, you may live with your mother who has primary custody of you.

However, there may be instances where your father’s consent is required for something such as a ‘medical procedure.’ This can be a tricky grey area to navigate, as although tattoos aren’t a medical procedure, they will make permanent alterations to your body. 

Even if you’re in a situation where your parents have shared custody, this doesn’t change things. You’ll still only need the consent of one parent to get a tattoo, so if one parent disagrees and the other consents, you can still legally get a tattoo, as long as you’re abiding with the minimum age requirements of your state. 

Are There Any Areas Of The Body Minors Can’t Have Tattooed?

Are There Any Areas Of The Body Minors Can’t Have Tattooed

Technically speaking, there aren’t any specific laws that prevent certain areas of the body from being tattooed. However, some parlors may set their own rules and regulations. 

For example, many establishments will refuse to tattoo the hands, fingers, and necks of minors. This is because tattoos in these areas are extremely visible. If a minor ends up regretting their choice of tattoo, it will be harder to cover up, and it may affect their career and educational prospects in the future. Th

These restrictions are also enforced to protect the tattoo establishment, the artist, the minor, and their parents from any medical consequences resulting from the tattoo. 

In some states, it’s also completely illegal to have your face tattooed. In Georgia, for example, you’re prohibited from getting a tattoo within one inch of your eyes, and offensive tattoos are entirely forbidden. 

Can A 13 Year Old Get Tattooed? 

Although 13 years olds CAN be tattooed in some states (with written consent and/or the presence of a parent or legal guardian), it is incredibly difficult to do. 

Just because it’s legal, it doesn’t mean tattoo artists WANT to do it. Many establishments will refuse 13-year-olds because they consider them too young to be a mature and informed decision.

Many artists and establishments also fear the potential medical and legal consequences that may result from tattooing a child. 

If a 13-year-old does get consent to be tattooed, and the establishment agrees, they may only be able to be tattooed by a licensed physician or at least be in the presence of one. This may depend on the laws of the state you’re getting tattooed in. 

What About Piercings? 

If a minor wants a piercing but not a tattoo, the laws may differ. Like tattooing, each state has its own rules and regulations, specifically minimum age requirements, that you’ll need to follow.

Some establishments may also make their own rules on piercing minors. Let’s take a quick look at the minimum age requirements and the laws on consent. 

How Old Do You Have To Be To Get A Tattoo? (State-By-State Guide)
Credit: needlesmasa

States Where Piercing Minors Is Illegal

  • Mississippi
  • North Carolina

States That Require Written Consent/Presence Of A Parent Or Guardian

  • Alabama
  • Alaska
  • Arizona
  • Arkansas
  • California (ear piercings can be done on minors without written consent)
  • Colorado
  • Connecticut
  • Delaware
  • Florida
  • Georgia
  • Idaho (written consent needed between ages 14-18)
  • Illinois
  • Indiana
  • Kansas
  • Kentucky
  • Louisiana
  • Maine
  • Michigan
  • Minnesota (genital piercings, nipple piercings, suspension, scarification, subdermal implantation, tongue bifurcation, and microdermals are not performed on minors).
  • Missouri 
  • Montana
  • Nebraska
  • Nevada
  • New Hampshire
  • New Jersey
  • New Mexico
  • New York
  • North Dakota
  • Ohio
  • Oklahoma
  • Oregon
  • Pennsylvania
  • Rhode Island
  • South Carolina
  • South Dakota 
  • Tennessee
  • Texas
  • Utah
  • Vermont
  • Virginia (consent not required for ear piercings)
  • Wyoming

States Without Age Limits Or Laws On Body Piercing

  • Hawaii
  • Iowa
  • Maryland
  • Massachusetts
  • Washington
  • West Virginia
  • Wisconsin

What Should You Look For In A Tattoo Parlor?

Although all tattoo and piercing parlors are regulated by the state and the government, this doesn’t mean they’re all good. Some may not follow the right hygiene standards, which could put your health at risk.

Before you get set on going to a particular establishment, it’s always wise to visit first, check out their hygiene practices, and make sure the piercers or tattoo artists are responsible. Here’s a quick list of the things you should look for in a reputable tattoo or piercing parlor: 

  • Well sanitized equipment and surfaces
  • If you’re getting a tattoo, ask where they get their ink from and make sure their supplier is adhering to FDA guidelines.
  • Ensure that needles aren’t being reused 
  • Make sure the piercer or tattoo artist uses clean gloves 
  • Ask what kind of jewelry they use for piercings, and see how it’s stored to check that it’s all sanitary
  • Make sure they use completely sterile needles and dispose of used ones after each piercing

How Do Tattoo And Piercing Laws Vary Around The World?

As the U.S is such a large country, the laws on tattoos and piercings can vary from state to state. However, this isn’t always the case in other parts of the world. Let’s take a closer look at the rules and regulations on tattoos and piercings in other countries. 

The United Kingdom

In the U.K, tattoos are prohibited to anyone under the age of 18. In England, there is no legal age of consent to get a piercing.

However, piercings like genital and nipple piercings tend not to be performed on anyone under the age of 16. If an ‘intimate piercing’ such as those listed above is performed on a minor, it’s considered indecent assault by law. 

New Zealand 

In New Zealand, piercings cannot be performed on anyone under the age of 16 without a parent or legal guardian’s written consent. To have a tattoo, you must be over the age of 18 unless you receive written permission from a parent or legal guardian. 

Canada 

In Canada, you must be over the age of 16 to get a tattoo, and you’re not required to have the consent of a parent or legal guardian. This is also the same for piercings. If you’re under 16, you must have a parent or guardian’s written consent to go ahead with the procedure. 

Saudia Arabia, Yemen, And Afghanistan

In Saudi Arabia, Yemen, and Afghanistan, tattoos are completely illegal due to Sharia law. This is because tattoos are considered forbidden because a ‘dirty body’ can lead to a ‘dirty mind’. 

What Happens If You Get A Tattoo You Regret? 

Some tattoo establishments will outright refuse to tattoo a minor, even with consent, because they feel that a child is too young to make a sensible decision about their tattoo. The implications of a regrettable tattoo can be far-reaching.

However, if you get a tattoo you regret, don’t lose hope. There are a few options to consider, but you should know that most of these are expensive and definitely not pain-free. 

Tattoo Cover Ups

In most cases, your tattoo can be covered up by a new design that sits over your existing tattoo. Generally speaking, cover-ups can be performed on tattoos of any color, size, and design. 

When you get a cover-up, the ink of your new tattoo is deposited in the same dermis as your first tattoo. This means that the new pigments of your cover-up design do not go directly on top of our existing tattoo. Instead, these colors will combine together to create a new color. 

In most cases, tattoo artists will consider black to be the most effective color to cover up a tattoo with. A reputable tattoo artist will see you for a consultation so they can assess the size and color of your tattoo and work to create a design that can cover it adequately. 

Ideally, you will NEVER have to get a cover-up. Remember, although cover-ups can be done, they can be difficult and expensive, and the end result may not be your ideal tattoo. This is why you should ALWAYS make sure you’re confident with your design before you proceed. 

Tattoo Removal

If you don’t want any more ink on your skin and want your tattoo to be gone completely, you could opt for tattoo removal instead. If you go with this option, there are a few options to consider. 

Laser Removal 

With this method, the laser works by shattering the tattoo ink into small pieces so that your body can flush it away. Essentially, this speeds up the immune system’s natural response to remove the ink itself (hence why your tattoos fade over time). 

Laser light is applied to the skin, which heats up the tattoo ink and shatters it beneath the skin. Usually, laser tattoo removal will require multiple treatments to remove the tattoo successfully.

If your tattoo is darker and bolder, it may need even more treatments to shatter the ink. You can expect to have between 5-7 treatments for bolder tattoos, and for lighter and smaller tattoos, it can be as few as 3. 

Laser tattoo removal is painful and expensive. It can cost anywhere between 50 to 100 dollars a session. 

Tattoo Removal Cream

Tattoo removal cream has become a popular option in recent years. These creams can be bought online or in some tattoo shops.

Tattoo removal cream works by progressively fading your tattoo away. These creams usually contain natural ingredients that are 100% safe, tested, and kind on your skin. 

There is some debate about whether or not these creams are effective. You should note that they are not an instant fix, and it will take a lot of time and patience to remove the tattoo from your skin successfully.

If you’re considering tattoo removal, laser removal is usually the best effective treatment. In most cases, laser removal can remove 100% of the tattoo from your skin – these results aren’t guaranteed with removal creams. 

Can Babies Be Tattooed Or Pierced With Parental Consent? 

This may be a horrifying thought to many people. However, the short answer is yes. 

However, babies often only receive tattoos for medical reasons. For example, if a parent has twins and one requires regular medical treatments, they may decide to tattoo one so that they can tell their twins apart.

If this procedure does need to be done, the tattoo will only be performed by a licensed osteopath or physician. 

There is never an instance where a baby should be tattooed for aesthetic purposes. If a baby does need a tattoo for medical reasons, it will be a small tattoo performed solely for identification reasons. In other words, this will not be an elaborate or decorative design. 

The rules around piercings are a bit different. It’s pretty common and socially acceptable for a baby to have their ears pierced. This is by no means a widely accepted practice.

However, many people view piercings as less harmful or painful than tattoos. They are also not permanent, and ear piercings can close with time. For this reason, many parents will choose to get their babies’ ears pierced when they are young for aesthetic reasons. 

Although piercing a child’s ears is considered socially acceptable, it doesn’t always mean it’s safe. In fact, many medical practitioners advise parents to learn the potential risks. The risks of piercing an infant’s ears can include:

  • Infection
  • Embedded jewelry backings
  • Post-traumatic tearing
  • Bleeding 
  • Contact allergies 
  • Allergic reactions
  • Keloid formation

What You Should Consider Before Getting A Tattoo

Whether you’re a minor or an informed adult, there are many things you’ll need to consider before getting a tattoo. 

Remember: although there are options to remove your tattoo, getting one will permanently change the appearance of your body. It’s not a decision to be taken lightly! 

Not only can getting a lousy tattoo impact your self-esteem, but if it’s not done by a professional, you run the risk of allergic reactions, skin bumps, infections, and more. 

To avoid getting a tattoo you’ll regret, here’s a quick list of the most important things you should consider before getting inked. 

  • Meaning
  • Size
  • Placement
  • Colors
  • Cost
  • Your Pain Tolerance
  • The Experience of Your Artist

You’ll also need to consider the healing process and the level of aftercare required to look after your tattoo. If this isn’t something you can commit to, you shouldn’t get a tattoo! Here are some of the most important things you need to know about aftercare and what to expect from a new tattoo. 

  • Your tattoo will itch! This is perfectly normal. Once the skin heals over, this will stop. However, it may last for a few weeks. 
  • You should clean your tattoo 2-3 times a day until it has completely healed. This can take several months, depending on the size and placement of your tattoo. 
  • Once your tattoo is finished, the artist will bandage it, usually with transparent film. Generally, you should expect to keep this film on for between 24-48 hours after the tattoo. 
  • You can expect some general pain, swelling, and ooziness for a few days after the tattoo. This should resolve quickly. 
  • You’ll need to continue looking after your tattoos long after they’re healed. To maintain their appearance, you should moisturize your tattoo at least once a day. Remember that sunlight can also cause tattoos to fade over time, so make sure you wear sunscreen regularly. 

Getting a tattoo is a SERIOUS commitment. Although some states will let you get inked as young as 14, make sure you take the time to consider your decision seriously. From your tattoos design and placement to the reputation of your chosen establishment, it all counts! If in doubt, always talk to a professional, and remember to seek parental consent where necessary. 

Frequently Asked Questions

How Long After Getting A Tattoo Should You Keep It Dry? 

Your artist’s advice may vary depending on the size and placement of your tattoo. Some artists may suggest only keeping it dry and covered for a minimum of two hours. 

How Long Should I Keep Moisturizing My Tattoo? 

You should keep moisturizing your tattoo throughout the healing process (which can be between 2-3 weeks), and ideally, an additional month after healing.

Why Is It Unprofessional To Have tTattoos? 

Although this thought process is outdated, some employers still consider tattoos unprofessional purely because they don’t like them. They may also make unfair assumptions about someone’s character because of their tattoos.

Max Peters