What age can you get a tattoo? Are you considering getting a tattoo but you don’t know the laws about tattoos?

A tattoo is for life, so you shouldn’t rush into getting one done, especially if you are a minor. 

Today I will explain the reasons behind tattoo age restrictions, the risks involved, but also what are the most painful body parts for tattoos.

Tattoo ageHistory of tattoos

The earliest evidence of tattoo art dates from 5000 BCE, however across time and cultures, tattoos had different meanings and forms.

The oldest known human to have tattoos preserved on his mummified body is a Bronze-Age man from 3300 BCE. “Otzi the Iceman” had 57 tattoos, located on or near acupuncture points.

During the eight to sixth centuries BCE, in the early Greek and Roman times, tattooing was associated with barbarians. Learning tattooing from Persians, the Greeks used it to mark slaves and criminals so they can be idetified in case they tried to escape. 

Laws about tattoos

In general, the laws about tattoos have two reasons behind: 

  • Tattooing being considered a medical procedure, minimum standards must be met.
  • Old school mentality, tattooing still being looked down by many.

Risks

“Should I get a tattoo?” It is a question in many people’ minds, including minors. Tattoos breach the skin, therefore there is a high risk for skin infection and other complications such as:

  • Allergic reactions caused by tattoo dyes. This can appear even years after you get the tattoo.
  • Skin infections may occur right after tattooing.
  • Other skin problems may appear around the tattoo ink. Such as granuloma or kelodis.
  • If the equipment used to create your tattoo is contaminated with infected blood, you can contract various blood diseases such as hepatitis B or hepatitis C .
  • Rarely, tattoos cause swelling or burning in the affected areas during MRI exams.

Lists of states and their tattooing laws

The minimum age to get a tattoo is 18 in most of the United States, and also in the United Kingdom, Canada and Australia. In some cases you might be able to get a tattoo even if you are younger than 18 years old, however with a parent consent, and depending on the state.

Generally, tattoo artists will not tattoo anyone under the age of 15 or 16, for safety and liability reasons. The table below outlines the tattooing laws for each state, but also in what states can you get a tattoo at 16.

State  What age can you get a tattoo? Tattoo age notes
Alabama  No minimum tattoo age  Minors need a written parent consent, which needs to be signed by the artist/ service provider too. 
Alaska 18 years old Tattoos are prohibited for minors.
Arizona No minimum tattoo age  Minors can get a tattoo, however a parent has to be present. 
Arkansas No minimum tattoo age A parent’s signature is required for tattooing a minor. 
California 18 years old Tattoos are prohibited for minors
Colorado No minimum tattoo age  Minors need parental consent for a tattoo.
Connecticut No minimum tattoo age  Minors need parental consent and a physician or registered nurse must be present during tattooing. 
District of Columbia  18 years old  Tattoos are prohibited on minors .
Delaware No minimum tattoo age Minors need parental consent for a tattoo.
Florida 16 years old  Minors need parental consent for a tattoo.
Georgia 18 years old Minors can only be tattooed by a licensed physician or under their supervision 
Hawaii No minimum tattoo age Minors need parental consent; consent forms are kept for two years confidentially.
Idaho 14 years old  Minors 14-18 can be tattooed, but it requires consent in the presence of the tattoo artist.
Illinois No minimum tattoo age Minors need parental consent; minors can only be tattooed by a physician.
Indiana No minimum tattoo age Minors need a guardian present and written consent to be tattooed.
Iowa 18 years old Minors are prohibited from being tattooed.
Kansas 16 years old Minors need written parental consent.
Kentucky No minimum tattoo age Minors need parental consent.
Louisiana 16 years old Minors need parental consent.
Maine  18 years old Tattooing a minor is illegal.
Maryland No minimum tattoo age Minors need written parental consent, which must be retained for 3 years.
Massachusetts No minimum tattoo age Minors can only be tattooed by a licensed physician.
Michigan No minimum tattoo age Minors need parental consent.
Minnesota No minimum age Minors need parental consent.
Mississippi 18 years old Tattoos are prohibited on minors.
Missouri No minimum tattoo age Minors need parental consent, and parents must be present.
Montana No minimum tattoo age Minors need parental consent.
Nebraska No minimum tattoo age Minors need written parental consent.
Nevada No minimum tattoo age Tattooing isn’t regulated by the state except in Clark County (Las Vegas).
New Hampshire No minimum tattoo age Minors need a parent present and written consent.
New Jersey 16 years old Minors need parental consent.
New Mexico No minimum tattoo age Minors need written parent consent and presence during the procedure.
New York  18 years old  Tattooing minors is prohibited, punishable with a class B misdemeanor.
North Carolina 18 years old  Tattooing minors is prohibited.
North Dakota  No minimum tattoo age Parental consent and presence required to tattoo a minor.
Ohio No minimum tattoo age Parental consent and presence required to tattoo a minor.
Oklahoma 18 years old  Licensure is required by the State Department of Public Health for tattoo artists.
Oregon  18 years old  Licensing is required.
Pennsylvania No minimum tattoo age Parental consent and presence required to tattoo a minor.
Rhode Island 18 years old  Sterilization and sanitation requirements must be met.
South Carolina 18 years old  Tattoos are prohibited for those under 21. Parental consent required if over 18. 
South Dakota No minimum tattoo age Signed parental consent to tattoo a minor.
Tennessee 16 years old Minors 16 and up can be tattooed with written parental consent.
Texas 18 years old  Tattooing minors is prohibited UNLESS to cover an existing obscene or offensive tattoo. Parental consent is required.
Utah No minimum tattoo age Tattoos on minors require written parental consent.
Vermont No minimum tattoo age Parental consent required to tattoo a minor.
Virginia No minimum tattoo age Tattooing a minor requires consent unless done by a physician.
Washington 18 years old  Tattooing a minor is illegal and prohibited.
West Virginia No minimum tattoo age Minors require written consent.
Wisconsin No minimum tattoo age Only physicians can tattoo minors.
Wyoming No minimum tattoo age Minors need parental consent and to be present at the time of tattooing. Age must be verified with ID.

What states get you get a tattoo at 16 

As we can see from the table above, there are a total of 35 states where you can get a tattoo at 16 years old, however with parental consent for most of them.

At the same time, there are 15 where the laws about tattoos are very strict for people under 18 years old.

Laws about tattoos in Canada, Australia and UK

As a country, Canada does not have a nation-wide minimum age for tattoos, however each individual province has a separate regulation.

In most Australia you must be 18 years old to get a tattoo. Only in Western Australia it is legal to get a tattoo if you are 16 years old, with parental control. 

In the UK, it is prohibited to tattoo a person under 18 years old. Anyone who tattoos a minor can be prosecuted and fined.

Canada provinces Tattooing laws 
Ontario  Minors require parental consent.
Quebec There is no minimum tattoo age, however most shops have a minimum of 17-18 years of age. 
Nova Scotia There is no minimum tattoo age, however there are strict safety and sanitation standards. 
Alberta There is no law, but there is a guideline recommending a minimum age of 18.
British Columbia  There is no law, however the Ministry of Health recommends tattoo shops to obtain parental consent for people under 19 years old. 
Saskatchewan There is no law, but it is recommended for shops not to tattoo anyone under 18.

Should I get a tattoo and what body part?

According to a 2010 study, 38% of people between 18 and 29 years old have been inked at least once in their lives, globally.

While getting a tattoo, your skin is being pierced repeatedly by a sharp needle, covered with pigment. So it is normal for it to be painful, however people may experience different levels of pain. 

Usually the most painful body parts are those with the least fat, most nerve endings, and thinnest skin. The least painful places to get a tattoo are those with the most fat, fewest nerve endings, and thickest skin. 

Most painful body parts for tattoos

These are the most painful tattoos based on the body part:

  • Armpit tattoos 
  • Rib cage tattoos
  • Ankles and shins tattoos
  • Nipples and breasts tattoos
  • Groin tattoos
  • Elbows and knee cap tattoos
  • Tattoos behind the knees 
  • Hips tattoos
  • Neck and spine tattoos
  • Tattoos on: head, face, and ears 
  • Lips tattoos
  • Tattoos on hands, fingers, feet, and toes
  • Stomach tattoos
  • Tattoos on inner biceps

The least painful body parts for tattoos

Below are the least painful tattoos you can get:

  • Tattoos on the upper outer thigh
  • Forearm tattoos
  • Tattoos on outer shoulders and biceps
  • Calves tattoos
  • Tattoos on the upper and lower back 

Factors that affect pain when getting a tattoo

There are several factors that may affect how you feel pain:

  • Gender: research suggest that women experience more pain than men;
  • Experience: those who have had tattoos before, may feel less pain than somebody who gets a tattoo for the first time;
  • Age and weight: it’s not supported by research, however it is considered that age and weight may make tattoos more painful. 

Things to consider before getting a tattoo

Getting a tattoo might take minutes to hours, while removing one is a much more time-consuming and painful process, with mixed results. 

Before getting a tattoo, take into consideration:

  • Risks of infections and allergies;
  • Whether you will regret the design or not;
  • The placement of your tattoo.

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