Joining the Military? Know the Current Military Tattoo Regulations

Military Tattoo Regulations are evolving.

If you want to join the military but you have tattoos, you may find that your recruiter tells you that you don’t qualify because you don’t meet the current military tattoo regulations. That can be devastating when you want to serve your country. Not to worry, all is not lost. There are affordable tattoo removal options to help you clear your skin of ink so you can sign your enlistment papers. Recently, most branches of the military have relaxed their regulations on tattoos, making it easier for people with ink to enlist. Depending on the branch of the service that you wish to join, your tattoos may no longer be an obstacle. All branches evaluate tattoos based upon content, body location and quantity.

Military Tattoo Regulations on Offensive Content

What remains in effect across all five military branches are restrictions on tattoo content.  Tattoos deemed offensive based on drugs, gangs, sex, or violence, will not be acceptable in any branch. The same is true for any tattoo that discriminates against race, sex, or religion.  If your tattoo is something that’s going to make people angry, you need to have it removed before you can serve. What’s considered offensive may differ depending on who you ask.  From the military’s perspective, if  a reasonable person would be upset by your tattoo, it will not be allowed. You can have the offensive tattoo removed or covered up,  but you can’t enlist until you do one of those things.

Military Tattoo Regulations on Location and Quantity

Military tattoo regulations on tattoo body location and quantity are different for each branch of the military. The Navy has the most relaxed military tattoo regulations, while the Coast Guard is the most restrictive. When choosing where to serve, it is critical to understand the current military tattoo regulations for that branch. Tattoo regulations are continually evolving. If you’re unsure about any tattoos you have, it’s best to talk to a recruiter for the branch of the military you want to join. Then you’ll know which tattoos  you can keep an which tattoos you will need to remove.


Navy Military Tattoo Regulations Fresh Start Laser Tattoo Removal Clinic Austin TexasThe Navy just overhauled their regulation 2201 for tattoos in March of 2016.  Sailors are now allowed to have multiple visible large tattoos on the arms and legs, they just cant be visible through your dress whites.  Tattoos are now allowed on the hands. You can have one tattoo visible on the neck (above the collar)  no larger than one inch in any direction. Tattoos on the head, face and scalp are prohibited. Navy Tattoo Regulations can be found here.


Army Military Tattoo Regulations Fresh Start Laser Tattoo Removal Clinic Austin TexasArmy tattoo regulations 670-1 for tattoos was last updated in April of 2015. If you have tattoos on your hands, wrist face, neck(above the t-shirt line) or head, you’ll need to have those tattoos removed to join the Army. Additionally,  the Army will not accept you if you have tattoos inside your mouth, ears, or eyelids. Army Tattoo Regulations can be found here.


Marines Military Tattoo Regulations Fresh Start Laser Tattoo Removal Clinic Austin TexasMarine Corps Bulletin 1020 changed tattoo regulations for Marines in June of 2016.  You can’t have tattoos on your face, head, neck, anywhere above the collar bone. Hands must be tattoo free except for a single tattoo on one finger no wider than 3/8  of an inch.  A tattoo can’t be larger than your hand. Tattoos on the arms must be two inches below the elbow or one inch below the elbow. Full or half  sleeves are not acceptable. Tattoos on the legs cannot be placed two inches above or below the knees. Marine Tattoo Regulations can be found here.

Air Force

Air Force Military Tattoo Regulations Fresh Start Laser Tattoo Removal Clinic Austin TexasIn March of 2016 the Air Force Guidance Memorandum  was issued for AFI 36-2903, Dress and Personal Appearance of Air Force Personnel.   The Air Force won’t allow any more than 25% of the exposed skin in any uniform to be covered with tattoos, and they don’t want anything inked on your face, neck, head,or scalp. Air Force Tattoo Regulations can be found here.

Coast Guard

Coast Guard Military Tattoo Regulations Fresh Start Laser Tattoo Removal Clinic Austin TexasCommandant Instruction 1000.1B issued in August of 2009 is the most recent set of Coast Guard Tattoo regulations.  Tattoos are prohibited on the neck, head, face and hands. Tattooing on exposed arms and legs is limited to 25% based upon a visual inspection.Coast Guard Tattoo Regulations can be found here.

What if I am already serving?

Active service members who enlisted before the new regulations are grandfathered in for their existing tattoos.  Service members who add or alter tattoos that are in violation of regulations could face disciplinary action. That could be something as simple as being reprimanded, but it could also go as far as to include an administrative separation, depending on the tattoo and the circumstances surrounding your choice to keep it.  You will be required to have the tattoo removed at their own expense outside of government facilities. You will need to choose a private clinic and pay for the tattoo removal out of pocket.

Can I get a Waiver?

For recruits, you can request a waiver from your recruiter, but there is no guarantee of getting that waiver.  Even if  you a get waiver for your tattoos, you still might want to have them removed to have a better chance advancing in rank. You won’t be ordered to remove a tattoo you enlisted with, but that doesn’t mean you won’t be counseled about the laser tattoo removal to get promoted. If your plan on making the  military your career, it might make sense for you to have tattoos removed that are technically within regulations. You may  not want to limit your duty and promotion options, for a little bit of ink.

What about Cosmetic Tattoos?

All branches of the military allow for cosmetic tattooing, such as eyebrow tattoos to replace natural eyebrows. However, it’s important to note that these have to be natural in shape, size, style, and color. If they aren’t, they’re treated the same way as other prohibited tattoos.

Fresh Start Laser Clinic is to support you!

At Fresh Start Laser Clinic, our mission is to provide laser tattoo removal help to active service members and those who want to enlist in the military. We are a vet owned business that honors active  service members and veterans with a 10% discount off of any laser tattoo removal treatment. Our prices start at just $59. We will work with you to make sure that tattoo from your past doesn’t get in the way of your future. We remove all tattoo ink colors  safely with the most advanced three wavelength laser technology available.

Schedule your free consultation or call us at 512-249-0000.