What Tattoo Is and Is Not Allowed in the Marines

Ready to join or get promoted to an officer in the U.S. Marine Corps? You need to be familiar with the Marine Corps tattoo policy, which applies to those who are already in the Marines as well as enlistees. The USMC tattoo policy was updated and slightly relaxed in 2016, but this military branch enforces one of the strictest tattoo policies.

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

Marine Tattoo Policy

Each tattoo needs to comply with current Marine Corps Tattoo policy, which can be found in detail here. Here is a summary of the updated Marine tattoo policy.


Number of Tattoos

Under the USMC tattoo policy, Marines can have an unlimited number of tattoos as long as they are completely covered by the standard physical training uniform of green t-shirt and green shorts.


Location of Tattoo

Marine Corps tattoo policy prohibits tattoos on the head, neck, wrists, knees, elbows, hands, and inside of the mouth. The only exception is one ring tattoo no more than 3/8 of an inch wide. This is a change from previous Marine rules that prohibited any tattoos on the hands.

Visible tattoos on the upper arm must end at least two inches above the center of the elbow and must not be larger than the Marine’s hand. Marines are also only allowed one lower arm tattoo that is at least one inch below the center of the elbow and two inches above the wrist bone. This can be a single band tattoo, a single tattoo, or several tattoos that are smaller than the area covered by the Marine’s hand.

USMC tattoo policy also restricts leg tattoos. Visible upper leg tattoos can extend no further than two inches above the center of the knee and cannot be larger than the Marine’s hand. Marines are only allowed one lower leg tattoo, which must be at least two inches below the center of the knee and smaller than the Marine’s hand.

Size of Tattoo

Visible Marine tattoos are restricted in size. Any visible tattoo that exceeds the size of the Marine’s hand is prohibited. For band tattoos or those that fully encircle a body part, the visible portion cannot exceed three inches or the width of the Marine’s four fingers joined. This is a change from previous rules that limited the width to two inches.

Marine Corps Tattoo Policy for Officers

Current officers and those hoping to get promoted must follow officer Marine tattoo policy. This states that officers may have no more than four visible tattoos when in their standard PT uniform. All other Marine Corps tattoo policy also applies.

Do you have a tattoo that needs to be removed?


FAQs on Laser Tattoo Removal of USMC Tattoos


If you are already in the Marines, planning to join, or reenlisting but have a tattoo that may violate USMC tattoo policy, speak with a branch representative. If your USMC tattoos are in violation, look into Marine recruit tattoo removal. Laser tattoo removal done by trained, experienced professionals can remove or fade your tattoos to help them comply with USMC tattoo policy.


What is laser tattoo removal?


Tattoo removal using lasers effectively targets ink in the lower layers of skin, breaking up the particles so they are small enough to be removed through the body’s lymphatic system. Laser tattoo removal is not like abrasives or creams that simply bleach or fade the skin. It breaks up and removes the ink, and most tattoos can be completely removed using this method.


How long does tattoo removal take?


Getting your marine tattoos will help you comply with Marine Corps tattoo policy, but it takes time. Depending on the tattoo’s location, size, and the amount of ink used, it can take anywhere from four to ten sessions. These sessions are scheduled six to eight weeks apart to minimize skin fatigue and prevent excess scarring or damage.

If you want to join or be promoted in the Marines but have a tattoo that violates Marine tattoo regulations, you should begin your sessions immediately.

How much does laser tattoo removal normally cost?

Laser tattoo removal costs anywhere from $100 to $500 per treatment and depends on factors such as the tattoo’s size, age, and ink depth. At The Finery, we give you a guaranteed price upfront.


Getting Your Marine Tattoos Removed

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.

Get your online evaluation today!


History of Marine Tattoos


The tradition of getting tattooed in the military dates back to the 1700s when sailors began encountering tattooed natives in the South Pacific and Polynesia. The sailors adopted this tradition, choosing tattoos that told their adventures, identified them to others, or represented superstitions. As many with sailor backgrounds joined the armed forces, the tattooing tradition expanded.


While Navy men typically chose anchors or nautical stars, Marine tattoos often incorporated bullets or guns as well as symbols designated which platoons or special forces they belonged to. Some of the most common tattoos for Marines are the Devil Dog tattoo, the USMC initials, and the eagle, globe, and anchor tattoo – the emblem of the U.S. Marine Corps.

Find Tattoo Removal Near You