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Fact Sheet: Tattoos and Piercings

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Tattoos and Piercings

Anyone who is considering a tattoo or body piercing should seriously consider the health risks and the long-term effects associated with tattoos and piercings. Most importantly, you should get a tattoo or piercing from a reputable facility that is licensed and inspected by the local health district.

Employees at licensed establishments are trained to ensure that procedures are done in a way that minimizes the transmission of communicable diseases and the risk of infection and they are required by the state to be trained in first aid, control of transmission of infectious disease, universal precautions against blood-borne pathogens and appropriate aftercare. Additionally, in Ohio, it is illegal for anyone under the age of 18 to receive a tattoo or piercing except in the presence of a parent or legal guardian.


The following steps should be taken after receiving any tattoo or body piercing; these steps are particularly important if the procedure was performed at an unlicensed facility:

  • If a person appears to be ill as a result of the tattoo or piercing, they should contact their regular health care provider immediately. If they do not have a regular health care provider, they should visit the nearest Urgent Care location or contact the Health District at (513) 946-7800.
  • Whether ill or not, contact the health department in that area to determine if the facility is licensed. If proof of licensure cannot be provided, the person should go to a health care provider to be analyzed for exposure to Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C and HIV.


What to look for when choosing a tattooist and/or body piercer:

  • Request to see a copy of the establishment’s current operating license. The license should be readily available and posted at the facility.
  • Make sure the establishment looks clean and a restroom facility is available to customers.
  • Look for proper lighting within the establishment.
  • Verify that the artist’s first aid and bloodborne pathogen training documents are available and up-to-date. Look for previous work done by the artist. Check for pictures on the wall or a binder/portfolio with photos of work that the artist has done.
  • Prior to beginning any procedure, the artist should wash their hands with soap and water in a nearby sink.
  • Make sure the artist uses brand new, disposable needles and razors, ink caps, and a new, clean pair of sterile gloves for each piercing or tattooing client. All items should be used only once.
  • The artist should clean the skin before tattooing or piercing.
  • Make sure you are given detailed follow-up instructions and follow them exactly as written.


What parents should know

Parents should understand and talk to their children about the consequences of tattoos and body piercings. Not all establishments choose to tattoo those under the age of 18. The State of Ohio requires a parent or legal guardian to be present when anyone under the age of 18 receives a tattoo or body piercing.

The parent or guardian must sign a document, provided by the establishment, which explains the procedure, the specific part of the body on which the procedure is going to be performed and the methods for proper aftercare.

Additionally, Hamilton County Public Health requires a state issued driver’s license or state ID of both individuals. If the individual under the age of 18 does not have a driver’s license or state ID, a valid birth certificate should be provided. Matching last names must be shown on the driver’s license and/or birth certificate and the individual should be of reasonable age to be a parent, guardian or custodian of the individual who is under the age of 18. If the last names or addresses of the individuals do not match on the provided IDs, proper court documents should be provided which demonstrate that the individual is a parent, guardian or custodian of the individual who is under eighteen years of age. Hamilton County Public Health issues licenses within Hamilton County, outside the city limits of Cincinnati, Norwood, and Springdale. Ohio law requires that these facilities be inspected at least once each year. In Hamilton County, the Health District conducts periodic unannounced inspections at each of its licensed facilities.



If you have questions about tattoos or body piercings, or if you would like to report an unlicensed person or facility, contact the Health District at (513) 946-7879 or visit


Download a printable version of this fact sheet here.


250 William Howard Taft Road
2nd Floor, Cincinnati, OH 45219
Phone 513.946.7800 Fax 513.946.7890