When you’re ready for your first tattoo, you’re probably a little freaked about letting your parents know or getting their permission, right? Well it turns out, they may not be the only authority figures you have to deal with. Tattoo laws are getting stricter, and depending on where you live, how old you are when you get your first tattoo may get you–and your artist–in deep doodoo.
For a while, most tattoo laws required anyone getting a tattoo to be 18 or 16, with some requiring parental consent. However, tattoo laws are getting more stringent lately, preventing a lot of body art enthusiasts from getting their first tattoo until they’re 18–or in some cases, even 21.
While it may be super annoying having to wait til you’re that much older to get your first tattoo, experts agree that it’s probably for the best. Psychiatrist Daniel Bober told CNN, “The brain of a young person is still developing and they are less risk averse, more impulsive, and more likely to engage in risky behaviors.” That basically means that what you like right now, you may think is dumb in a few years, so it may not be the best idea. It makes some sense, though–think about your favorite outfit when you were 9 years old. Would you wear it now (imagining that it still fit)?
However, most experts also agree that your maturity level is more important than the numbers on your birth certificate. Some 16-year-olds are more mature than some 22-year-olds! Still, tattoo laws are laws, and there are serious consequences to breaking them. In most cases, the tattoo artist is the one who gets in trouble–they can often lose their licenses–but in some states, the effects of your first tattoo are a lot scarier. In Florida, a boy was taken away from his grandparents who were raising him when it was discovered that he had a tattoo at 10 years old.
In addition to legal ramifications, there are lots of other risks involved with getting your first tattoo. Some people are actually allergic to the ink, which is scary because you won’t really know that until you have it in you–which is only one of the reasons why it’s super important to have your parents know that you’re getting one, because they won’t be able to help in an emergency if they don’t know where you are or what you’re doing.
It’s also super important to remember that a licensed artist, if he or she takes his or her job seriously, will not give you your first tattoo if it risks breaking tattoo laws where you live. If you’re tempted to go to an unlicensed tattoo artist just to get it over with–don’t! While your friend’s older brother may offer to give you your first tattoo for free in his basement, it’s not a good deal. Chances are an unlicensed artist may be using unsanitary needles, which gives you a high risk of diseases like hepatitis–really terrifying stuff. Plus, a licensed artist is less likely to give you scarring and more likely to do an awesome job with the actual artwork of the tattoo, which will make it more than worth the wait if you really want to get something done.
If you’re really into the idea of getting a tattoo, do your research. Look up whatever parlors are around you to make sure they’re licensed and reputable, and don’t get your first tattoo just for the sake of getting a tattoo–because it’s permanent, you want to make sure it’s something that means a lot to you and that you won’t be sick of it in a few months (and we’re sure you already know to never get a guy’s name!). Lasers are expensive–and hurt!
We actually recommend mulling over your ink for a year before going under the needle–if you still want it, then you’ll be more comfortable having it permanently. If you’re going to have that butterfly or star on you forever, 365 days is just a drop in the bucket! And before you get your first tattoo, be sure to check out your local tattoo laws here to stay out of trouble!
Do you have a tattoo? What is it? Did your first tattoo hurt? How old were you when you got your first tattoo? Would you risk breaking tattoo laws just to get your first tattoo over with? Tell us in the comments!