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Military Tattoo Policies: What Recruits Need to Know

General Military Tattoo Policies

Military tattoo policies vary by branch and can change over time. It is often confusing for recruits to know what is acceptable and what will need to be removed prior to joining the military. To help, we’ve put together this handy guide. Bare Tattoo Removal also offers military recruits, active duty, and veterans Military Tattoo Regulations20% OFF laser tattoo removal.

Should you have any further questions about regulations or the tattoo removal process, feel free to email us at or consult your recruiter with questions regarding specific policies, exceptions, and waivers.

Tattoos that are generally considered sexist, racist, extremist, vulgar, eccentric, or otherwise offensive are prohibited by the U.S. military. Additionally, each branch has it’s own unique military tattoo policies of what amount of ink is acceptable as well as the content and location. The following are general prohibitions.

Navy & Coast Guard

If a tattoo can’t be covered up by standard uniform items, then it is considered excessive. Tattoos on the head, face, neck, and sleeved arms are prohibited. Tattoos on the arm cannot be larger than your open hand. Any tattoos on the hand below the wrist bone are also prohibited.

Army & Marines

Ink is not permitted on the head, neck, hands, fingers, and wrists. Full, half, and quarter-arm sleeves (if visible in issued PT gear) and tattoos on the inside of the mouth are prohibited. Tattoos visible in the PT uniform must be no larger than your hand. Tattoo bands, either partial or full, are authorized for enlisted soldiers, as long as they occupy a maximum of one quarter of the arm or leg.

Air Force

The Air Force has the strictest military tattoo policies, requiring members to pay for tattoo removal out-of-pocket, at a location other than Department of Defense facilities. Any tattoos covering more than 25% of any exposed body parts is considered excessive and is prohibited.