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If you’re excited about getting your first tattoo, you need to know how old you have to be to get a tattoo in the US. There are many reasons why there’s an age limit on getting tattoos. The fact that it’s a commitment you make for life, is one reason why you shouldn’t rush into getting inked. 

The law doesn’t classify you as an adult until your 18th birthday. This means there are restrictions on the decisions you’re allowed to make before you turn 18. It may not seem like a positive thing, especially when you desperately want to get a tattoo. However, getting a tattoo isn’t something you should do on a whim, so the age requirement can save you from future regret. 

That being said, if you’ve done all your research, thought it through exhaustively, saved up enough cash, and you’re aware of what getting a tattoo entails and you still want to get one, some states allow you to get a tattoo when you’re 14—with parental consent, of course. 

What is the Youngest Age You Can Get a Tattoo

In the US, most states have laws that address body modification, including tattoos and piercings. There are at least 45 states that ban minors from getting inked and 38 states require anyone under 18 to get permission from their parents before getting a tattoo (and even a body piercing of any sort.)

Before you feel discouraged because you have a few years to wait still, don’t worry, in Idaho, you can get a tattoo at 14. You’ll need to take a parent or legal guardian with you to sign a consent form, but other than that, you’re good to go. 

Although that is the youngest age mentioned legally, some states have little to no laws overseeing tattooing. For example, Kentucky doesn’t specify the minimum age you have to be to get inked but does require written parental consent. This means if you can sway your parents into agreeing, you can get a tattoo at a younger age. 

Here’s a handy breakdown of how old you have to be to get a tattoo in various US states:

Under 18 with parental consentAge in () where specifiedStates where minors can’t get tattooed even with parental consent18 and over
AlabamaArkansasColorado(You still need written consent even though you’re 18)
Florida (16)MississippiMississippi
HawaiiNew HampshireNew Hampshire
Idaho (14)New YorkNew York
IndianaNorth CarolinaNorth Carolina
Kansas (16)OklahomaOklahoma
KentuckyOregon (Only a physician can authorize tattoo)Oregon
Louisiana (16)Rhode IslandRhode Island
MarylandSouth CarolinaSouth Carolina
Missouri Texas
Montana Washington
Nebraska Wisconsin
New Jersey (16)  
New Mexico  
North Dakota  
South Dakota  
Tennessee (For tattoos covering tattoos)  
Texas (For tattoos covering tattoos)  
West Virginia  

Note: Vermont doesn’t specify an age or that parental consent is needed. The only provision is that tattoo artists and body piercers be registered. Washington doesn’t stipulate if minors can get tattoos even if they have their parents’ blessing. 

Your Tattoo Artist has the Final Say 

You may think getting a tattoo isn’t a big deal but it is considered a medical procedure that comes with certain risks, especially if you’re a minor. Be sure to be upfront with your chosen tattoo artist about your age and find out all the information you need to avoid disappointment.

Tattoo artists who are serious about their craft will always ensure that minimum standards are met to reduce the risk of transmitting viruses, infections, or bacteria, and they always have the safety of their customers in mind. 

There’s also the psychological aspect to consider and this is often one of the reasons why some tattoo artists refuse to tattoo minors. The question is can a child be considered mature enough to make such an important and life-long decision?

You may be more impulsive and prone to risky behavior since your brain is still developing. Unfortunately, the part of the brain that tells you to put on the breaks only develops later in life. This makes getting a tattoo a commitment some tattoo artists may feel you’re most likely not ready to make. 

You have to remember that people with tattoos used to be stereotyped as criminals or degenerates. Luckily it’s happening less and less but having a tattoo can affect your future job prospects. Some companies have strict rules when it comes to tattoos and you may be giving up your dream job without knowing it. 

how old do you have to be to get a tattoo in the United States

What Happens If You Break the Law?

Don’t even think about lying to get a tattoo—you can get fined or be sentenced to serving community service for a while. Tattoo artists who get caught tattooing a minor can face a penalty ranging up to $5,000. Worse yet, they can be sentenced to prison for up to a year. 

It’s just not worth it! Imagine how upset your parents are likely to be if you break the law. 

In Summary: How Old Do You Have to Be to Get A Tattoo In The US?

Although technically speaking no age is considered too young to get a tattoo—believe it or not—you can legally only get a tattoo in the US once you’re 18. Before then, you’ll need to get your parent’s permission, possibly have to sign extra consent forms, and may even be asked to verify your age. 

Here are of the most common FAQ related to tattoos & age in the US:

What states can you get a tattoo at 14?

The state law of Idaho explicitly mentions that 14-year-olds may get tattoos with the permission of their parents. Of course, there are 23 other states where no age is specified so you can technically get a tattoo there at 14 or younger—if you can get your parents to agree! These include Alabama, Connecticut, Indiana, and Michigan. 

How old do you have to be to get a tattoo in Florida?

You have to be 16 and a parent or legal guardian has to go with you. 

How old do you have to be to get a tattoo in California?

You have to be 18. 

How old do you have to be to get a tattoo in Texas?

You have to be 18 to get a tattoo in Texas. Here’s an interesting fact, if you’re 16 and want to cover up an existing tattoo, say for example one that is gang-related or offensive, you won’t be breaking the law but your parents have to be present during the tattoo. 

How old do you have to be to get a tattoo in Nevada?

This state does not regulate body modification. That being said, regional health districts can. For example, the Southern Nevada Health District doesn’t allow the tattooing of a person under the age of 14. 

How old do you have to be to get a tattoo with parental consent?

When you’re a minor (under 18), you will need your parents’ permission. That being said, states like Arkansas, Iowa, New York, North Carolina, South Carolina, Oklahoma, Oregon, Rhode Island, and Wisconsin don’t allow the tattooing of minors even with parental consent. 

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