What To Know About Military Tattoo Regulations


Are you considering joining the military, but have been told your visible tattoos are hindering you from enlisting? Don’t let your future vanish, let your ink vanish! We offer affordable Tattoo removal options to allow you to start the next chapter of your life. In addition to our already affordable prices, Wisconsin Laser Center is proud to offer a Military Discount for those who want to enlist but are being held back by their ink.

Military regulations are ever changing, as the popularity of tattoos becomes more widespread. Some branches have relaxed their regulations recently, for those who wish to join. Tattoos may be less of an obstacle, but many of the popular areas and trending themes for body art remain prohibited.

Offensive Content

Tattoos depicting sex, gangs, drugs, or violence are not accepted in any of the five branches of the military. Ink that represents discrimination based on race, sex, or religion is similarly deemed offensive and against regulations. If you have anything that can be taken in this negative context, and cause others offense- you may need to get it removed or covered up before you are allowed to serve. Often with cover up art, you are limited in what will effectively hide the old ink and it requires a larger and darker Tattoo to do so.

Your best option is usually to look at removal, and we are here to help you with affordable and effective treatments. A consultation with us will allow you to understand what your best options are, and how long before your Tattoo is no longer holding you back.

Body Art Placement

The other important element to consider for unaccepted ink, is where your Tattoo is placed. It has become much more accepted within our society to have visible Tattoos on hands, knuckles, neck, and arms. Restrictions have not relaxed enough for these areas to be considered acceptable in the eyes of the armed forces. Each branch of the military has their own regulations pertaining to acceptable placement on the body. Unsurprisingly, the Navy is most relaxed in this area, as sailors have a long standing reputation for having tattoos! The Coast Guard is considered most conservative and restrictive, so knowing the regulations is key when deciding which branch to join. Speak to a recruiter from the branch you are interested in, to get an accurate idea of which tattoos will have to go and which you can keep.


One in Three potential recruits have at least one Tattoo. In order to attract more recruits, they have updated their regulation 2201 in March 2016. Sailors may have multiple large tattoos on arms and legs, as long as they do not show through your dress whites. If yours are especially dark and heavily lined, a few sessions of Laser Removal can lighten them enough to stay hidden. In the Navy, you can even have tattoos on your hands. A single Tattoo no larger than one inch length or width, is allowed above the collar. Scalp or face must be ink free, and any other tattoos in addition to the single small neck tattoo is prohibited.

More Info on Navy Policies here


Last updated in 2015, any ink on your hands or wrists will have to be removed. Tattoos above a T-shirt collar line, on the head and neck are also unacceptable. If you have something that just peaks over, a good option is to remove the ink from the areas close to the collar or wrist until fully hidden beneath your uniform. In addition, the Army also restricts any tattoos inside the mouth, in the ears or on the eyelids.

More Info on Army Policies here


Marine Corps regulations for Tattoos have changed as of June 2016. Prohibited areas for tattoos include; head, neck, face and in particular anything above the collarbone. A single tattoo on one finger is allowed, if it is no wider than 3/8ths of an inch. Tattoos may not be larger than your hand, and tattoos on the arms will have to be 2 inches above or 1 inch below the elbow. This means that full or half sleeves are not accepted for the Marine Corps. On the legs, tattoos cannot be placed two inches above or below your knees.

More Info on Marine Policies here


The Air Force guidance on Tattoos was last updated in March 2016, and takes a slightly different approach. Any of the exposed skin, while in uniform must not exceed 25% coverage in ink. However, anything on your neck, face, head or scalp is prohibited.

More Info on Air Force Polices here


The most recent set of Coast Guard Regulations on Tattoos, was issued in 2009. No ink is allowed on neck, face, head, scalp, or hands. Any Tattoos on exposed arms or legs must be found to be equal to or less than 25% coverage of skin based on visual inspection.

More Info on Coast Guards here


Cosmetic Tattoos are not treated in the same way as other ink in the eyes of the Military. Tattooing of the eyebrows or other areas of the face for permanent make-up- are accepted in every branch. However, this is only true if they are natural in shape, size, and color. Anything not meant to mimic a natural look, will be treated as any other form of Tattoo.

After speaking with your recruiter, schedule your consultation with us!

We are honored to help you begin your service in the US Military. We are happy to work with you in order to achieve the best results at an affordable discounted rate for those who intend to serve.

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