What Tattoo Is and Is Not Allowed


Are you joining the Air Force or want to be promoted within its ranks?


You need to know their policy regarding tattoos. Recently relaxed in 2017, the Air Force wanted to be adaptive to the changing culture and welcome those who expressed themselves through body art. Their policy is now one of the most lenient in all the armed forces. However, the Air Force tattoo policy in 2019 still has some restrictions. 

This is what you need to know about tattoos in the Air Force

Air Force Tattoo Policy

In the past, Air Force officer tattoo policy, as well as general enlisted tattoo policy, enforced the 25 percent rule – tattoos on the chest, back, arms, and legs could be no larger than 25 percent of the exposed body part. New Air Force tattoo regulations, however, allow for full sleeves and large pieces on the back or legs.

Tattoo content

What your tattoo means 

The content is still regulated, and no tattoos or brands that are racist, vulgar, anti-government, graphically violent, or affiliated with any gangs or outlaw organizations are allowed. If there is a question of whether a tattoo violates Air Force policy, the final decision is made by the soldier’s commanding officer.

Unauthorized tattoos and brands

Tattoos or brands on the head, neck, face, scalp, and inside of the mouth are still prohibited under the new Air Force tattoo regulations for enlisted servicemen and officers.

Those in the Air Force are also not allowed to have any visible piercing while in uniform. This includes piercings of the ears, nose, tongue or any other body part that is not covered by or can be seen through clothing. The only exception is one small conservative earring per earlobe of gold, white pearl, or silver for women. The earring must fit tightly and not extend below the earlobe.

Hand Tattoos

Air Force tattoo regulations do specify that one band ring tattoo is permitted on the hand. If an airman already has a hand tattoo that was previously authorized by a commanding officer, they will be allowed to keep that tattoo under the new policy. The Air Force tattoo policy can be read in full here.

Air Force Tattoo Policies FAQ

Why does the Air Force need a tattoo and piercing policy?

The policies were created and put in place because commanders and first sergeants wanted clear standards their soldiers could abide by as the tattoo and piercing trends evolved.


Who has the final authority when it comes to Air Force tattoos, piercings, and brands?

Most of the Air Force tattoo policy regulations are straightforward. However, if there is any dispute, the commanders and first sergeants will have the final say for what is or is not acceptable.


Does the body piercing policy apply to every military area including living areas and recreation facilities?

Yes, but it does not apply to any off-base installations.


What is the policy for those who had prohibited tattoos or brands before the policy came into effect?

These will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis. If the tattoo has unacceptable content, it will need to be removed. If its content or location is questionable, other means such as covering it may be acceptable.  


What is the timeline for having a prohibited tattoo removed?

There is no set timeline and the commanding officer will determine a deadline based on the nature of the tattoo. The Finery is happy to offer provide your CO an enrolment letter when you sign up for a tattoo removal package.  

Do you have a tattoo that needs to be removed?


Laser Tattoo Removal of Air Force Tattoos


If you are in the Air Force or want to join and be promoted but have a tattoo that might violate Air Force officer tattoo policy, you have options. Speak with an Air Force representative to make sure your tattoo does not abide by Air Force tattoo regulations.

If you are advised to remove the tattoo before you enlist, you can start undergoing laser tattoo removal treatments to fully eliminate your tattoo or fade it so it can be covered with one that fits Air Force tattoo policy.


What is laser tattoo removal?

Laser tattoo removal targets the ink deep within the skin where it resides without damaging the top layers of skin. The powerful lasers break up the ink into tiny particles that are then passed out of the body through the lymphatic system. As opposed to abrasives or creams that are used on the surface of the skin, laser tattoo removal reaches the ink at a level where it can effectively remove it instead of just fading or bleaching the skin.


How long does tattoo removal take?

Getting your tattoo removed so you can comply with Air Force tattoo policy is not a quick process. Depending on the tattoo’s size, location, and colors, laser tattoo removal can take from four to ten sessions spaced six to eight weeks apart. This keeps skin fatigue and scarring to a minimum and gives the skin time to heal between sessions.


How much does tattoo removal cost?

Laser tattoo removal costs anywhere from $100 to $500 per treatment. The cost depends on the tattoo’s age and size, how deep the ink penetrated the skin, and more. At The Finery, we give you a guaranteed price upfront.

Getting Your Tattoos Removed for The Air Force 

At The Finery, we offer 10% off tattoo removal for all active and enlisting military personnel, and we always guarantee the cost of your tattoo removal during your consultation.

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