Has getting inked been your dream ever since you were a child? Looking at impressive celeb tattoos makes you crave one even more. Unfortunately, you aren’t sure whether getting a tattoo would be illegal at your age, given that you’re still a minor. So, how old do you have to be to get a tattoo according to the law?
Read on to see what the federal law says and learn about state-specific regulations. If you’re also curious about the tattooing laws outside of America, stick around. And, if you’ve got any other questions, check out our FAQ list below.
How Old Do You Have to Be to Get a Tattoo: What Does the Law Say?
If you’re a minor looking to get a tattoo, we’ve got some bad news for you. In general, you can’t legally do this if you’re under 18, according to the law. But as you’ll see, every cloud has a silver lining. Namely, there are some exceptions to this rule, depending on your exact location.
What are the Reasons Behind the Following Tattoo Age Restrictions?
If you’re bummed about not being able to get a tattoo, learning something about why this law exists might help. These limitations are there for a reason — the sooner you understand this, the sooner you’ll accept that it’s better to wait. Namely, there are two main reasons why getting a tattoo has an age restriction. Let’s dive into each of them separately so that you better understand what’s at play here.
1. Pain-Enduring Reasons for Tattoo Age Restrictions
Let’s face it — getting a tattoo can be unpleasant regardless of your age. For starters, tattoo artists carry out the entire process without anesthetics, so you’d be in for a lot of pain. Tattoo machines that pierce through your skin’s top layer might not be something a minor could handle. It’s only natural that those with the most responsibility wouldn’t allow minors to put themselves through this.
Teenagers might not be aware of how painful the entire tattooing process can get. Especially if you go for bony places low in fat, you’ll realize why this might not be the best idea. Your pain threshold may even be lower than you might have thought. Frail teens will likely leave the tattooing chair before they even finish the procedure.
2. Medical Reasons for Tattoo Age Restrictions
Another reason why tattoos are illegal for minors is that this process can put their health at risk. Because tattooing involves injecting your skin with heavy substances using needles, it isn’t all that safe. Therefore, certain medical complications can likely arise regardless of the tattoo artist’s expertise. Because teens are usually unaware of the medical repercussions, the law makes sure they don’t put their health in danger.
But what kind of health risks are we talking about? Injecting permanent ink into your skin using needles can cause allergic reactions even years after the procedure. It can also lead to skin infections and inflammation. Most importantly, unsanitary tattooing puts you at risk of developing bloodborne diseases like hepatitis B, C, and MRSA.
3. Cultural Reasons for Tattoo Age Restrictions
Up until recently, people frowned upon tattoos almost everywhere. In America, you can see that tattoos were far less popular among boomers than among millennials (with 13% vs. 47% tattooed individuals, respectively). Throughout history, people looked down on tattoos — so, they were hard to get. Even today, there are prejudices against tattoos in more traditional parts of the world.
You can still see employers rejecting to hire candidates with body art for the positions where that’s completely irrelevant. Also, there are still those who believe tattoos are only for troublemakers. Be that as it may, it seems that tattoos still haven’t found their way to escape all the stigma. Legislators likely either share these thoughts or want to save children from similar discrimination.
Lists of Different Countries and Their Tattooing Laws
How Old Do You Have to Be to Get a Tattoo in America?
As you’ve already figured, minors can’t legally get a tattoo anywhere in the US, according to federal law. However, minors in certain states might be able to make their dream come true. Thanks to the local laws, they can get a tattoo even before they turn 18. So, let’s take a look at how different states regulate underage tattooing.
Tattooing Laws for Minors in the US
Certain states have accepted federal law regarding the tattooing performed on minors. They recognize all the negative repercussions tattoos can cause and want to make sure children are safe. Therefore, the following states make no exceptions when it comes to tattooing minors:
• New York
On the other hand, there are some states where minors can get tattoos under certain circumstances. For instance, in most states, it is necessary to have parental consent beforehand. So, unless a minor provides a written document signed by their parents or legal guardians, they can’t get a tattoo. This law applies to the following states:
• New Jersey
• South Dakota
• West Virginia
No one under 14 can get a tattoo in Idaho, while older children between 14 and 18 need parental consent. In South Carolina, you can’t legally get a tattoo if you’re under 21. However, you will be able to get it when you turn 18, provided your parents agree.
Most other states don’t allow tattooing minors unless their parents accompany them. The list of such states includes:
• North Dakota
Some states like Texas and Tennessee allow tattooing minors only to cover an already existing, obscene tattoo. You’ll need parental consent in both states. However, a parent must accompany you if you’re in Tennessee, and you need to be at least 16.
In Iowa, only married minors can get tattoos, while in Massachusetts and Wisconsin, only qualified physicians can tattoo you. In Florida, tattooing minors is illegal unless it’s for medical reasons and with parental consent. Other states have more general laws that apply to everyone.
How Old Do You Have to Be to Get a Tattoo in Canada?
Unlike America, which regulates tattooing on the federal level, Canada doesn’t have such universal laws. In this country, there are no general laws that would prevent a minor from getting a tattoo. However, different Canadian provinces do have local regulations regarding underage tattoos. Depending on your exact location, you might not be able to get body art.
In Alberta, you can legally get a tattoo if you’re over 18 with a valid ID. Here, you need to sign a written document and take full responsibility for undergoing such a procedure. Something similar applies to Ontario, where minors aren’t allowed to have body art. However, the province lets 16-year-olds get inked if they have parental consent.
How Old Do You Have to Be to Get a Tattoo in Australia?
Again, tattooing laws for minors vary across different parts of Australia. Tasmania, South Australia, Queensland, and Victoria strictly prohibit tattooing people under 18. The Australian Capital Territory and New South Wales require minors to have parental consent. Here, your parents also have a say on the design and placing of your tattoo.
The local regulations in Western Australia state that you need to be at least 16 to get inked. You’d also need permission from your parents in written form. In the Northern Territory, there aren’t any specific regulations regarding tattoos. However, tattoo artists often ask teenagers for parental consent.
How Old Do You Have to Be to Get a Tattoo in the UK?
Unlike the previous countries we’ve mentioned, the United Kingdom has a general law that applies everywhere. Thus, the UK doesn’t allow minors to either get or have tattoos under any circumstances. So, you won’t be able to get a tattoo in the UK even if your parents allow it. Remember that going against this law would mean you’re committing a felony.
What Kind of Tattoos Are Minors Not Allowed to Get?
In general, there aren’t laws that regulate which body parts minors can tattoo. However, different tattoo shops make up their specific rules when it comes to children. So, some tattoo artists won’t tattoo a teenager’s face regardless of parental consent. Also, a minor’s neck, ankles, and fingers are usually off-limits.
That’s because these body parts are too sensitive. They’re low in fat and full of nerve endings that tattooing needles can damage. Some states even have local regulations that strictly forbid tattooing such body parts. For example, it is illegal to have a tattoo within an inch of your eye socket in Georgia.
The same law applies to minors as well as adults because the state considers face tattoos too risky. But a tattoo artist can also reject tattooing your sensitive body parts as such pain could be unbearable. As a rule, the places on your body with the thinnest skin and most nerve endings hurt the most. So, consider this tattoo pain chart carefully before you go to get your tattoo.
Can Minors Get Tattoos At Their Home?
If you’ve been looking forward to your tattoo, everything above might have bummed you out. You might even try to find a loophole in both federal and local laws. But as you’ll see, doing that won’t get you anywhere. Instead, your state might prosecute and fine you.
It may have occurred to you to get a tattoo at home. Chances are, you already know someone who happens to be a tattoo artist and would agree to do this. Your tattooist friend might not ask you for parental consent, a valid ID, or anything of the sort. Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean you should go for getting a tattoo at home.
Just like you, tattoo artists can get fined if they don’t abide by the law. So, your tattooist would be committing a felony for tattooing a minor in a state that strictly forbids it. Some local laws, such as that of Maryland, even prohibit cosmetic tattooing in salons. In this state, you can do skin-penetration procedures only in a sterile environment to avoid infection.
Another reason you might not be able to get a tattoo at home lies in the formulation of local laws. As you’ve seen, some states and countries prevent minors from both getting and having tattoos. So, even if you manage to get a tattoo at home, you might not get away with it.