Rules for tattoos in the military vary among individual branches. Here’s a listing of the current tattoo regulations for each sector of the U.S. military.
Army Tattoo Regulations
The Army takes a more forgiving posture than other branches of the military when it comes to tattoos.
Policy has evolved over the years to allow for more tattoos than ever before in the Army. To sum it up, tattoos are allowed from the neck down and from the wrists up. So arms, legs, torso, back, and most other body parts are fair game for tattoos – as many as you want. A great way to test these area permissions is using a simple long-sleeve t-shirt test. If your tattoos are visible while you’re wearing a long-sleeve t-shirt, they probably won’t be allowed in the Army. One ring tattoo per hand is also allowed (see Finger Tattoo Removal) . As far as tattoo content goes, the Army does not allow tattoos that are racist, derogatory, sexist, extremist, or indecent.
Marines Tattoo Regulations
For the Marines, tattoo regulations get a bit more strict.
It boils down to the physical training uniform, which consists of a crew neck t-shirt and shorts. Tattoos are unlimited if they are covered while wearing this uniform. Outside of the area covered by the PT uniform, a Marine is allowed up to four tattoos. A Marine must be able to cover with one hand his or her arm tattoos that fall outside of what the PT uniform covers (see our Face & Neck Tattoo Removal). Arm tattoos must not descend more than two inches above the wrist or fall below the elbow, and leg tattoos must be two inches above or below the knee. With regard to content, the Army rules apply, but the Marines also prohibit drug or gang-related tattoos.
Navy Tattoo Regulations
Navy tattoo regulations aren’t as strict as either the Army or Marines.
Tattoos are permitted from the knees and elbows down, regardless of size. Sailors may also get tattoos on the neck provided the artwork is no larger than 1 inch in diameter. Full sleeves are now allowed as are hand tattoos. Even though the size and location isn’t as strict in the Navy as it is in some other branches, the content is strictly regulated. Not only are racist, sexist, and extremist tattoos forbidden, but also tattoos that discriminate against religion or national origin along with those associated with illegal drug use are not allowed.
Air Force Tattoo Regulations
After redefining their tattoo policies in 2017, the Air Force has emerged as one of the more lenient branches of the military for tattoos.
According to the new policy, Airmen may sport tattoos on their chests, backs, arms, legs, or feet. One big difference between the Air Force and other military branch policies is that airmen may have tattoos anywhere on their feet. Pretty much anything goes in the Air Force, except areas such as the neck, face, head, scalp, tongue, lips, and hands.
Coast Guard Tattoo Regulations
The Coast Guard’s tattoo policy is similar to that of the Army and Marines in that tattoos must be restricted to certain body parts, but the Coast Guard proves a little more forgiving when it comes to having half or full sleeves (see Half & Full Sleeve Tattoo Removal). Basically, Coast Guard personnel can have tattoos anywhere on the body from the neck down. Chest tattoos just cannot be exposed more than one inch above the neck line. Tattoos on the hands are not permitted, other than a ring tattoo. The Coast Guard does not allow tattoos that are racist, indecent, extremist, lawless, violent, or sexually explicit.
We Can Help
Future soldiers, sailors, and Marines whose body art exceeds these regulations can opt for tattoo removal. Let us talk to you about what it would take to eliminate your excess body art and help get you shipped off to serve our country.