Can My Teen Get a Body Piercing or Tattoo Without Me?

State Laws Vary and Most Protect Teens from Making Bad Decisions

Many parents—as well as teens—are curious about the age in which teens can get tattoos or body piercings. 

Depending on where you live, a minor—an individual under the age of 18—may be able to get a tattoo or a body piercing without your consent. Each state establishes it's own rules about body art so you'll need to know the law in your area. 

Some states won't allow a teen to get a tattoo or a tongue piercing regardless of parental consent, other states don't have any rules. That means your teen may be able to walk into a salon and get a tattoo or piercing without your knowledge.

What You Need to Know About the Law

Some states have specific rules about types of piercings. So while ear piercing may be legal for a minor, a tongue piercing may require parental consent. 

Unfortunately, not all tattoo artists or body follow the law. Some of them may be willing to tattoo your teen or give her a nose ring without your consent. Anyone who breaks the law will likely face a fine and may lose their license to practice. 

State Laws Regarding Tattoos and Piercings for Minors

Laws change often so it's important to educate yourself about the latest regulations in your state. Here are the current state laws:

Alabama

  • Minors need the written consent of a parent or legal guardian to receive a piercing or tattoo.

Alaska

  • Minors may not receive tattoos.
  • Written parental permission is required for body piercing and a parent or legal guardian must be present during the procedure.

Arizona

  • A minor needs the presence of the parent or legal guardian to receive a piercing or tattoo.

Arkansas

  • Minors need the written consent of a parent or legal guardian to receive a piercing or tattoo and one of the parent or guardian must be present.

California

  • It is illegal to tattoo a minor.
  • The presence or notarized consent of a parent or legal guardian is required to receive a piercing other than an ear piercing.

Colorado

  • Minors need the written consent of a parent or legal guardian to receive a piercing or tattoo.

Connecticut

  • Minors need the written consent of a parent or legal guardian to receive a tattoo.

Delaware

  • Minors need the written consent from a parent or legal guardian to receive a piercing or tattoo.

Florida

  • Minors need the written, notarized consent of a parent or legal guardian to receive a piercing or tattoo.

Georgia

  • Tattooing of a minor must be done by a licensed osteopath or technician acting under the direct supervision of a licensed physician or osteopath.
  • Piercing needs the written informed consent from a parent or legal guardian.

Hawaii

  • Minors need the written consent of a parent or legal guardian to receive a tattoo.
  • No current age limits on piercings.

Idaho

  • No tattooing, branding or body piercing of minors under the age of 14.
  • Minors aged 14-18 need the written consent and the presence of the parent or legal guardian to receive a piercing or tattoo.

Illinois

  • Minors may not be at a tattoo shop without a parent or legal guardian. Minors may not receive a tattoo.

Indiana

  • Minors need the written consent and the presence of the parent or legal guardian to receive a piercing or tattoo.

Iowa

  • It is illegal to tattoo a minor.
  • No laws on body piercing.

Kansas

  • Minors need written, notarized consent and presence of a parent or legal guardian to receive a piercing or tattoo.

Kentucky

  • Minors need the written, notarized consent from parent or legal guardian to receive a piercing or tattoo.

Louisiana

  • Minors need the presence of the parent or legal guardian to receive a piercing or tattoo.

Maine

  • It is illegal to tattoo a minor.
  • Minors need the written consent of a parent or legal guardian to receive a piercing.

Maryland

  • No laws currently on age limits for tattoos or body piercing.

Massachusetts

  • No laws currently on age limits for tattoos or body piercing.

Michigan

  • Minors need the written informed consent from parent or legal guardian to receive a piercing.
  • Consent must be given in person.

Minnesota

  • It is illegal to tattoo a minor.
  • A minor needs witnessed written consent from parent or legal guardian to receive a piercing. No genital or nipple piercings, branding, scarification, suspension, subdermal implantation, microdermal, or tongue bifurcation is allowed on minors.

Mississippi

  • It is illegal to tattoo or body pierce a minor.

Missouri

  • Minors need the written consent of a parent or legal guardian to receive a piercing or tattoo.
  • The consent must be given in person.

Montana

  • Minors need the written consent of a parent or legal guardian to receive a piercing or tattoo.
  • The consent must be given in person.

Nebraska

  • A minor needs written consent and the presence of the parent or legal guardian to receive a piercing or tattoo.

Nevada

  • No laws currently on age limits for tattoos or body piercing.
  • The state does not regulate tattoo or piercing shops.

New Hampshire

  • Minors need the written consent and presence of a parent or legal guardian to receive a piercing.

New Jersey

  • Tattoos require written permission from a minor's parent or legal guardian.

New Mexico

  • Minors need written consent and a guardian's present during a tattoo or piercing.

New York

  • It is illegal to tattoo a minor.
  • Written parental consent is needed for piercings.

North Carolina

  • It is illegal to tattoo a minor.
  • Minors need the expressed consent of the parent or legal guardian to receive a body piercing other than the ears.

North Dakota

  • Minors need the written consent and presence of a parent or legal guardian to receive a piercing or tattoo.

Ohio

  • The parent or guardian must sign a consent form and appear in person at the time a procedure is performed.

Oklahoma

  • It is illegal to tattoo a minor.
  • A minor needs the presence and written consent of the parent or legal guardian to receive a body piercing.

Oregon

  • A parent or guardian must give written consent and present proof of identity.
  • Minors can only be tattooed with the authorization of a physician.

Pennsylvania

  • Minors need the written consent and presence of a parent or legal guardian to receive a piercing or tattoo.

Rhode Island

  • Minors need the presence of the parent or legal guardian to receive a piercing.
  • Minors cannot be tattooed.

South Carolina

  • Minors under the age of 18 may not get a tattoo.
  • A parent or guardian must either give written, notarized consent for a body piercing or be present during the procedure.

South Dakota

  • Minors need the written consent from a parent or legal guardian to receive a piercing or tattoo.

Tennessee

  • A minor older than 16-years-old may get a tattoo to cover an existing tattoo, requires their parent to be present and have ID.
  • Minors need the written consent and the presence of the parent or legal guardian to receive a piercing.

Texas

  • Minors need the written consent and the presence of the parent or legal guardian to receive a tattoo.
  • Only permissible if it is to cover 'an obscene or offensive' tattoo and the parent believes it 'in the best interest.'
  • An adult needs proof of parentage or guardianship.

Utah

  • Minors need the written consent of a parent or legal guardian to receive a piercing or tattoo.

Vermont

  • Minors need the written consent of a parent or legal guardian to receive a piercing or tattoo.

Virginia

  • Minors need the presence of the parent or legal guardian to receive a piercing or tattoo - excludes ear piercing.

Washington

  • It is illegal to tattoo a minor.
  • No laws currently on age limits for body piercing.

West Virginia

  • Minors need the written consent of a parent or legal guardian to receive a tattoo.
  • No laws currently on age limits for body piercing.

Wisconsin

  • Minors may not be at a tattoo shop without a parent or legal guardian.
  • No current laws on age limits for body piercing.

Wyoming

  • Minors need verbal consent from a parent or legal guardian to receive a piercing or tattoo.

How to Give Consent for a Minor

States that require written consent for body art have safeguards in place to prevent forgeries. After all, you don't want your teen writing his own note (or having a friend write it for him) and walking into a shop saying his parents gave him permission.

Some states require consent forms be notarized to ensure that the legal guardians are the ones actually completing the paperwork. 

If you are giving written consent, you may need to document exactly what you are consenting to. For example, you may need to say what tattoo you consent your teen to get and where you are allowing your teen to get it. For piercings, you may need to document the type and location of the piercing.

Contact the establishment ahead of time to discuss what your teen will need to get a tattoo or piercing if you are not going to be present. 

How to Find a Safe Tattoo Shop

Tattoo and body piercing shops are regulated by the government. That doesn't mean all shops are created the same, however. It's important to do a little investigating to make sure that an establishment is following proper procedures.

Check to see if the shop looks clean. Ask about the professional's license, training, and experience. Don't be shy about asking questions before making any decisions. You also might ask to observe what goes on in the shop when someone else gets a piercing or tattoo.

At a tattoo parlor:

  • Check if the tattoo artist wears clean gloves
  • Ask how equipment and surfaces are sanitized
  • Make sure clean needles are being used
  • Ask where they get their ink to ensure that their supplier follows FDA guidelines

At a piercing shop:

  • Make sure sterile needles are used and disposed of after each piercing
  • Find out how equipment is sterilized
  • Ask about the type of jewelry used for piercings and how you can trust that it's sanitary


Talk to Your Teen

If you think your teen may be tempted to get some body art or body modification, talk about it. Rather than simply forbid it, learn why your teen is so interested in a tattoo or specific piercing.

Be willing to listen to your teen's opinions and ideas, even if you don't agree with them. After she's stated her case, then you can make your stance known. 

Educate yourself about the potential risks and talk to your teen about the dangers, such as infection. Talk about the social consequences as well. A facial piercing may affect his ability to get a job or a tattoo may limit his employment opportunities.

You might discover you and your teen can settle on an alternative option, like a henna tattoo or an extra ear piercing. But if you can't find a compromise, and you're not willing to give in, make sure your teen is informed.

The last thing you want her to do is ask a friend to pierce her nose with a dirty needle or ask an unlicensed tattoo artist to give her some ink.

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