What tattoo Is and Is Not Allowed in the Army

Ready to join the Army but worried your tattoos could violate Army tattoo regulations? While the Army relaxed its Army officer and recruit tattoo policy in 2015, there are still some rules that govern Army tattoos and outline what is and is not acceptable. 


This is what you need to know about tattoos in the Army

Army Tattoo Policy

The Army tattoo regulations, which can be found in detail here, were updated and relaxed in 2015, though they are still some of the most stringent in all branches of the military. Prior regulations limited the number of visible tattoos to four, and none of those could be any larger than the soldier’s hand.

Tattoo Content 

What’s not allowed 

The content of allowed tattoos has not changed. Any indecent, violent, racist, sexist, or vulgar Army tattoos are prohibited no matter where they are on the body. This includes tattoos with exposed nudity, gang affiliations, anti-government statements, or glorified violence. Determining whether a tattoo violates Army tattoo regulations is up to the soldier’s commanding officer.

Tattoo Location 

Where it’s not allowed 

Army tattoo policy prohibits any tattoos on the head, face, neck above the t-shirt collar, wrists, or hands other than one ring tattoo per hand that must rest where a normal ring would. Army tattoo policy also states that leg tattoos must be two inches below or above the knee. Even small Army tattoos must abide by this Army tattoo policy. The previous policy, which stated that no more than four tattoos could be visible below the knee or the elbow, has been retracted.

Permanent makeup

Army tattoo regulations state that permanent makeup is only allowed on women and must be conservative.

Do you have a tattoo that needs to be removed?


FAQs on Laser Tattoo Removal of Army Tattoos


The Army advises that if you plan to join, you should speak to a branch representative to ensure your tattoos abide by Army tattoo policy and that any tattoos in the military you plan to get will also conform to Army tattoo regulations. If your Army tattoos are in violation, you have options. Laser tattoo removal in a professional setting can effectively remove a tattoo that violates Army tattoo policy, allowing you to join and be promoted in the branch.


What is laser tattoo removal?


Laser tattoo removal uses powerful lasers to break up ink particles under the skin surface. Once the ink is broken up into small enough particles, the skin safely flushes them out of the lymphatic system. Unlike other treatments such as surface abrasion or creams, laser tattoo removal targets the ink in the lower levels of the skin to remove it safely and effectively. If your tattoo cannot be removed completely, it can be faded and covered up.


How long does tattoo removal take?


Getting your Army tattoos removed is not quick. Depending on the location, size, and colors used in your tattoo, it can take anywhere from four to ten sessions spaced six to eight weeks apart. This allows the skin to heal between sessions and prevents excess skin fatigue and scarring. If you have a prohibited tattoo according to Army tattoo regulations and want to join, you should begin your sessions as soon as possible.


How much does tattoo removal cost?


You will spend anywhere from $100 to $500 per treatment to remove a prohibited tattoo. The cost and number of treatments depend on the tattoo’s size, location, and colors as well as how old it is and how deeply the ink penetrated the skin. During your consultation at The Finery, we will give you an estimate of how much your removal will cost, and you will pay this flat fee no matter how many sessions it takes. 

Getting Your Tattoos Removed

Do you want to join the Army but have tattoos that are not in accordance with Army tattoo rules?

We offer 10% off tattoo removal for all active and enlisting Army personnel. 

Get your evaluation today!

History of Army Tattoos

The history of tattoos in the military all started with the Navy who adopted the tradition of sailors getting tattooed to identify where they’d traveled to, for identification purposes, or due to superstition. Sailors in the 1700s were first exposed to tattoos when they encountered indigenous people in the South Pacific and Polynesia, and the art of tattoos was born in a new culture.

Though sailors and Navy men may have been the first to embrace tattoos, the other branches of the military – including the Army – quickly followed. In the 19th century, British army troops were encouraged to get tattooed to increase their patriotism and to help in identifying casualties. During the Civil War, famed tattoo artist Martin Hildebrandt traveled around tattooing soldiers, and this practice has continued throughout the many years of war and peace.


Army troops tend to favor tattoos that show allegiance to certain weapons as well as to their regiments. Patriotic tattoos such as flags and red, white, and blue colors are popular throughout every branch. Here are some of the common tattoos found in the Army:


  •      Roman legion tattoo— Many in the Army get a tattoo that was popular among Roman Legionnaires. This tattoo is on the arm and has the letters SPQR ( Senates’ Populus Quel Romanum) and the number of their legion.


  •      82nd airborne tattoo— An elite division of the Army, the 82nd Airborne specializes in parachuting assault operations into denied areas of the world. Those who are in or who have retired from this division often have the colorful red, white, and blue AA tattoo on their upper arms.


  •      Combat medic tattoo— In World War I, the Army and Navy medical corps adopted the caduceus, a pair of wings, and two snakes wrapped around a staff that comes from Greek mythology as one of their symbols. This remains a common choice for Army tattoos among those in combat medic divisions.


  •      Infantry tattoo— Infantrymen are often on the front lines. This prompts deep camaraderie between troops, and many infantrymen display this by tattooing the infantry symbol and their division on their arms where their shoulder patch is on their uniforms.

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