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Are Do-It-Yourself Tattoo Kits Legal?

When you think of someone giving tattoos, you likely picture a vinyl seat in a tattoo parlor, where a gloved-up tattoo artist is preparing his tattoo machine with a sterilized needle.

However, the popularity of ultra-affordable do-it-yourself tattoo kits is increasing, especially among those in their 20s and 30s, reports the San Francisco Chronicle. These kits allow intrepid artists to tattoo themselves or their friends from the often-unsanitary comfort of their own homes.

Beyond the potential health hazards presented by these DIY tattoo kits, are they legal?

State Tattoo Laws

Laws regulating tattoos and tattooing vary from state to state. In most states, however, in order to legally give a tattoo to another person you have to meet certain requirements, usually including a certain amount of training and registration with state or local agencies.

In California, for example, anyone performing "body art" is required to:

  • Show evidence of Hepatitis B vaccination or immunity;
  • Complete OSHA blood borne pathogen training;
  • Prove they are 18 years old;
  • Demonstrate six months of related experience;
  • Provide the address at which they will be performing body art activities;
  • Pay a registration fee;
  • Register with the local enforcement agency;
  • Display in a place readily visible to the public a certificate confirming registration with the local enforcement agency; and
  • Obtain all necessary permits to conduct business.

Violating these requirements is a misdemeanor in the Golden State and may also result in an administrative fine of up to $1,000. Penalties are likely to be similar in other states.

Tattooing Minors May Be Prohibited

Most states also prohibit the tattooing of children under the age of 18, even if a parent consents.

Looking again to California, the relevant criminal law states that "neither the minor upon whom the body piercing was performed, nor the parent or guardian of that minor, nor any other minor is liable for punishment." This may mean that if a minor performs a tattoo on him or herself, or has a DIY tattoo given to him by another minor, no crime was likely committed.

The same self-tattooing standard also likely applies to adults. Generally speaking, a DIY tattoo that is done by "Y" to "Y" is probably legal, although it still doesn't seem like a very good idea.

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