Texas Tattoo Laws

We require any business which is in the practice of producing an indelible mark or figure on the human body by scarring or inserting pigments under the skin using needles, scalpels, or other related equipment to license with the Texas Department of Health. This includes studios who perform traditional tattooing, permanent cosmetics, scarification, and branding. An artist may not tattoo a person younger than 18 years of age without meeting the requirements of 25 Texas Administrative Code, 229.406(c), whose parent or guardian determines it to be in the best interest of the minor child to cover an existing tattoo.

Tattoos are applied using a small electric device which operates similar to a sewing machine. One to fourteen needles are grouped together and attached to the end of a rod called a needle bar. The other end of the needle bar is attached to the tattoo machine. The needle bar moves up and down through a tube or barrel which serves two purposes--to keep the needle bar from moving side to side and as a handle for the tattooist to grip the machine. The needles stick out only a few millimeters from the end of the tube, so they don't go very deep into the skin.

After preparing the skin with a germicidal soap, the artist dips the needles into a small amount of pigment or ink. As the machine is guided over the skin, the needle bar moves up and down allowing the needles to puncture the skin, depositing the ink. A tattoo machine can puncture the skin 50 to 3,000 times per minute. Once the tattoo is completed, the tattooist usually applies an antibiotic cream or ointment and covers the area with a sterile bandage. The artist is required to provide you with oral and written instructions on how to care for your newly applied tattoo.

Intradermal Cosmetics
Intradermal cosmetic studios (sometimes referred to as permanent makeup studios) are becoming more and more common in Texas. The permanent makeup is generally applied to the eyebrows, eyelids, and lips. Some studios use traditional tattoo equipment, while others use devices which work on the same principle, but are smaller and look like pens. Generally, the components of the pen-type machine come pre-sterilized from the manufacturer and are disposable (one time use) items.

Body Piercing
We require any business which is in the practice of creating an opening in a person's body, other than the individual's earlobe, to insert jewelry or another decoration to license with the Texas Department of Health. This also includes studios who perform implants. An artist may not perform body piercing on a person younger than 18 years of age without the consent of a parent, managing conservator, or guardian and meeting the requirements of 25 Texas Administrative Code, 229.406(d). This can be done by one of two methods:

The minor brings a notarized consent to the studio which contains the name, address, and telphone number of both the minor and parent, managing conservator, or guardian; the location of the body that may be pierced; and signatures of both the minor and the parent, managing conservator, or guardian; or The adult is present at the studio during the piercing and signs statements swearing that they are the parent, managing conservator, or guardian; the adult has the authority to consent to the procedure; the adult has provided valid government issued identification of the minor and of themselves to the studio; and that the adult will remain at the studio while the procedure is performed. In this case, the adult must also present identification and evidence to the studio that they are the parent, managing conservator, or guardian. In both cases, the minor must provide a valid, government issued, positive identification card that contains a photograph and a date of birth.

Before a body piercing is performed, the skin is cleaned with a germicidal soap. The artist pierces the skin with a very sharp needle. In a single motion, the artist places the jewelry to be inserted behind the needle and as the needle passes through the skin, the jewelry follows. The needle is then disposed of in a sharps container and the artist adjusts the jewelry to the piercing. Only approved materials may be used for new piercings. These include surgical implant grade stainless steel (minimum of 316L or 316LVM), solid 14k or 18k gold, niobium, titanium (minimum of 6AL4V), or platinum, which is free of nicks, scratches, or irregular surfaces and has been properly sterilized before use.

With implants, the skin is prepared with a germicidal skin preparation before an opening is made. The skin is cut with a scalpel and the layers of skin near the opening are separated to accommodate the implant. The implant is inserted under the skin and the opening is held closed to heal. Implants must also be made of an approved material. The artist is required to provide you with verbal and written instructions on caring for your new body piercing.

General Tattoo and Body Piercing Studio Requirements

The DMDD is responsible for conducting on-site inspections of tattoo and body piercing studios. During these inspections, we ensure that the studios comply with state and local laws and regulations. Some cities in Texas have local ordinances that are more stringent or ban tattooing and body piercing altogether.

We ensure:

  • the building is well maintained and clean
  • the artist practices universal precautions to prevent the spread of infection, such as
  • washes hands with a germicidal soap
  • wears clean clothing and single use gloves
  • uses personal protective equipment
  • uses instruments which are either disposable or that are routinely sterilized follows proper handling and disposal of waste
  • sterilization records showing routine sterilization practices
  • the artist prohibits the tattooing or body piercing of minors (unless above mentioned conditions are met)
  • the artist prohibits the tattooing or body piercing of persons under the influence of drugs or alcohol
  • the tattooist maintains records for each person receiving a tattoo or body piercing
  • the tattooist reports any infection or adverse reaction to TDH

Another function of this program is to investigate complaints regarding significant health concerns, i.e. where personal injury has occurred or when personal injury could occur. Each complaint or concern that is forwarded to us is handled to ensure the artist and/or studio complies with state and local regulations.