What You Need To Know About US Army Tattoo Regulations

November 27, 2015

Tattoos have always been a rich part of the United States Army culture – a majority of soldiers have at least one.

Some soldiers wear ink from back home, before they joined the ranks. Others get new tattoos to symbolize their time in the Army, with Americana-themed insignias and memorials of their comrades.

If you have tattoos, and are thinking of joining the Army, you’ll quickly find that most ink is accepted. You’ll see many soldiers sporting half and full sleeves on their legs and arms, and large tattoos on their backs. Even so, not all tattoos comply with US Army uniform regulations.

Current Tattoo Regulations For The US Army

The subject matter of your tattoos will be evaluated before you’re allowed to enlist. Any tattoo that represents hateful, extremist, racist or sexist ideals are not permitted. Normal religious tattoos are fine; tattoos that represent illegal associations are not allowed. While this might seem obvious, some band-related tattoos could easily include insignias that can be easily confused with illegal or immoral associations.

Tattoos that could be considered “indecent” are also prohibited. Prospective soldiers should use their common sense. What might be decent to one person could be indecent to a recruiter.

Leg and arm tattoos are currently permitted, even if they’re visible under some uniforms. Hand tattoos, however, are still not within regulation. There is an exception – you may have just one ring tattoo per hand. Face, neck and head tattoos are also still prohibited. You may not have any tattoos that are visible above your t-shirt neckline, other than permanent makeup.

How Army Tattoo Regulations Have Changed

The most recent change to the United State Army’s tattoo policy was in April 2015. Just prior, the Army had actually tightened its policy, limited arm and leg tattoos to just 4 total below the elbows or knees. Arm and leg tattoos were limited in size, too – they could be no larger than your outstretched hand.

The tightened regulations caused more conflict than expected. The Army’s Sergeant Major, Dan Dailey, was surprised when he visited troops soon after. The troops voiced overwhelming opposition: the strict tattoo regulations introduced in 2014 were much too strict, and would result in the loss of otherwise good, valuable soldiers.

While the tightened regulations were in effect, 100 men and women were turned away from Army recruitment in El Paso, Texas alone. While the Army was still able to reach its recruitment goals, the results of the new regulations proved to be very unpopular. The more Dailey visited troops, the more they expressed their dissatisfaction with the new rules.

Finally, the Army listened, and revised their tattoo regulations to be more lenient. The current tattoo policy was first announced to troops on April 1st – on April Fool’s Day. Many of the soldiers thought the announcement was an April Fool’s Joke, but by April 2nd, they realized that their suggestions had been taken into consideration.

The US Army has always set regulations to keep up the professional, honorable appearance of the American soldier. Even so, tattoos are more popular than ever before, both for civilians and soldiers. The updated regulations allow the Army to keep up with the times, and sustain soldier morale.

"I don't want this to be the deciding factor for a good soldier to get out," said Dailey. Since Army Service uniforms cover all skin, save for the hands and face, the relaxed regulations are consistent with the Army’s standards without being too restrictive.

What To Do If Your Tattoos Don’t Pass US Army Standards

If you’re planning to go into the Army, but have tattoos on your neck, head, face or hands, you’ll need to have them removed before you may enlist. Inappropriate tattoos on your arms or legs can be covered up with another tattoo.

You won’t be able to use makeup to conceal tattoos during recruitment; you will need a more permanent solution. Avoid vanishing creams and harsh methods of removal – skin damage from the wrong treatments resemble branding, and cause you to be turned away, even if your tattoo fades.

A high-quality laser treatment from a facility with a track record of successful removals is your best option for getting rid of tattoos before joining the Army.

Zapatat Offers Steep Military Discounts For US Army Soldiers

Zapatat provides affordable, professional laser tattoo removal treatments for everyone – combined with a military discount of 15% for active duty military members, veterans, and their spouses, you just can’t go wrong. We understand that the Army enlistment process can take some time, so if you have tattoos that need to be removed simply ask your recruiter to give us a call or write you a note, and you’ll receive the 15% discount.  

For speedy tattoo removal, you’ll be very impressed with Zapatat’s ARTTM (R20) Fast Tattoo Removal – the world’s fastest tattoo removal treatment. Just one session removes tattoos by 50-85% with no scarring or side effects. Since each session is like 6-7 standard laser removal sessions, you’ll get your tattoo removed in fewer visits at a very affordable cost.

Learn more about Zapatat’s ART tattoo removal treatment and our generous military discount – or, just call us at 703-248-0909 to schedule your free consultation at our Arlington, Richmond and Newport News locations.