Are you considering joining the vibrant world of the tattoo industry, or are you already a seasoned veteran? Either way, understanding tattoo laws is crucial to operating your business within legal boundaries. 

There are many laws and regulations for tattoo shops. While they may appear daunting initially, it’s pretty easy to navigate if you have the right idea. The licensing process might seem daunting if you’re new to the biz. But don’t worry; our guide on How to Get a Tattoo Business License in the USA has step-by-step instructions to simplify your process. We’ve been in the game for a while now, so we’ve assembled the essentials you need to know! 

Let’s dive right in with our tattoo studio management software in hand!


Federal Laws

While no specific federal laws govern tattooing, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does have some rules regarding the safety of the inks used in the process. The FDA can take action if tattoo inks cause adverse reactions. Though not common, using inks from reputable manufacturers to protect your clients and your business is essential.


State Laws

Tattoo regulations vary widely from state to state, and staying updated with your state’s specific rules is paramount.

Age Restrictions: Nearly all states require clients to be at least 18 years old to get a tattoo, even with parental consent. This is federally backed by the body modification clause in child endangerment laws. However, some states do allow tattooing minors with parental consent. Always check your ID and get written consent if required, using reliable tattoo consent forms.

Licensing: Most states require tattoo artists and the shops they operate to be licensed. This often involves completing a certain number of training hours, passing a test, and maintaining strict hygiene standards. 

Health and Safety Regulations: Many states mandate the use of sterile needles, single-use ink dispensers, regular shop inspections, and proper disposal of used needles. Additionally, artists may be required to undergo bloodborne pathogen training, akin to the Red Cross’s universal precautions for preventing the transmission of diseases like Hepatitis B and HIV.

Zoning Restrictions: In some places, zoning laws might prohibit tattoo shops from operating in certain areas. Always make sure to check local zoning laws before choosing your shop’s location.


Common City and County Laws

Cities and counties might have additional laws and regulations. They may include the following:

Operating Hours: Some places might restrict the hours when a tattoo shop can operate, typically to avoid noise and disruptions during late-night hours. But worry not; this can be easily managed with good tattoo scheduling software to help keep appointments on track.

Signage and Visibility: There may be rules about the size, type, and location of signage for your shop. Some areas may also require shops to block the view of tattoo procedures from outside. Be sure to check with your local authorities to get the details and make sure you’re not crossing any lines!

Aftercare Regulations: Many cities and counties in the US require tattoo shops to provide aftercare instructions to their clients. How to care for the new tattoo and warning signs of potential problems. Make sure to keep clients informed of any health risks, too. Check out our article on Tattoo Health Risks – It’s important to make this information easily accessible to all your customers.


Tattoo Laws and Changing Trends

With society becoming more accepting of tattoos, laws are continually changing and usually becoming less restrictive. However, being complacent about these laws can lead to hefty fines or even the closure of your business. Staying updated with the current regulations in your area is critical. Try using our modern POS system to make your work easier!

If you’re thinking about growing your tattoo business, one effective strategy is to leverage email marketing. Our blog on Email Marketing for Tattoo Shops is a great resource that’ll help you get started on attracting and retaining customers through email marketing. 

In the current digital era, it’s also worth exploring the future of tattoo art in the form of Non-Fungible Tokens (NFTs). Our take on Tattoo NFTs discusses the potential benefits and challenges of these digital art pieces.

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Final Thoughts

Running a tattoo business requires a deep understanding of the craft, creativity, business acumen, and a thorough understanding of local, state, and federal laws. It can seem daunting, but don’t let this deter you! Once you familiarize yourself with the rules and put the necessary procedures in place to ensure compliance, you’ll be well on your way to operating a successful and, most importantly, lawful tattoo business.

Remember, this guide is just a starting point. It’s crucial to consult with a legal professional in your area to get precise information about the laws applicable to your tattoo business. In the end, following the law isn’t just about avoiding legal trouble; it’s about showing respect for the industry, your craft, your business, and your clients.


Ink on, friends, and stay compliant!


FAQ 1: Are there any specific federal laws governing tattooing in the US?

Answer: While there are no specific federal laws for tattooing, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has rules regarding the safety of the inks used in the tattooing process. They can intervene if tattoo inks cause adverse reactions. It is crucial to use inks from reliable manufacturers to protect your clients and your business.


FAQ 2: What are some common state laws that tattoo businesses need to abide by?

Answer: State laws for tattoo businesses often include age restrictions (typically 18 years old, even with parental consent), licensing requirements for artists and shops, health and safety regulations like the use of sterile needles and regular shop inspections, and zoning restrictions. The specifics can vary widely from state to state, so it’s important to stay updated with your particular state’s rules.


FAQ 3: Can local city or county laws also affect my tattoo business?

Answer: Yes! Local cities and counties may have additional laws and regulations regarding operating hours, signage visibility, and aftercare instructions. They might restrict the hours of operation, regulate the type and location of signage for your shop, and mandate the provision of aftercare instructions to clients. Make sure you check with your local authorities for exact details and requirements.