Getting your first tattoo is a right-of-passage for many teenagers and can be start of a lifelong journey of creative self-expression. It can also be considered one of the big steps to having your own identity.
However, getting a tattoo should be a careful and mature consideration and not something you do impulsively or frivolously.
As tattoo artists, we also have a responsibility to ensure that your first tattoo is one that you really want, and not something you will regret when you get older.
For these reasons, we’d like to talk about what’s the most appropriate age to get one, and more importantly, what’s the legal age for getting one.
What does the law say?
Around the world it’s either 16, 18 or no legal age – and in the USA it can depend on whatever state you are in.
Surprisingly, in Ireland, there is no minimum legal age for getting a tattoo. However, giving someone under the age of consent (17 years old) a body modification without parental consent is considered an act of sexual aggression – (as you have skin contact).
So, if you want to get a body piercing or tattoo and you’re under that age, you’ll need to bring your legal guardian along to give permission for you.
Any other age-related factors?
Yes, particularly as young men have their growth spurt later in puberty, there is a good chance your body may still be growing – and this can affect the look of your tattoo should you get one around this age.
Of course, coupled to that is the emotional maturity of the individual. Getting something rude or rebellious may be funny or cool as a teenager, but when you get older will you live to regret it?
In fact, most of the tattoos done at a young age tend to become covered up or laser-removed, later in life.
So, it’s important to remember that a tattoo is a lifelong commitment and visible tattoos can have a long-term impact on employment possibilities and life opportunities.
So, what do we think?
We consider this a delicate matter. And, for us it’s about what’s the best outcome all round.
When a young person around the age or 18 or below comes to see us, we will always ask for ID and check that it’s valid. We will also have a thorough chat with them around how sure they are that they want one.
We don’t go easy on them here, and it’s important we stress to them how being happy with a tattoo now might not translate into being happy in 10-years’ time.
However, once you can prove you are over 16 years of age and make it to the shop with your legal guardian then there is no legal reason why you cannot have a tattoo.
Our policy on tattoos for young people:
A big part of our policy in this regard is to educate young people about post-tattoo regret but we also know that if someone is determined to get one, then they will find someone who will do it.
In most cases like this, we feel that the best outcome would be for us to do it, so we can ensure that they are getting the best quality tattoo.
For example, there was a recent case where a girl was refused a highly visible tattoo in several parlours around Dublin and was talking about getting it done by a less professional artist, if she was continually refused.
So, we used our discretion here and one of our artists took the responsibility to ink her. His opinion was that if it was his daughter, he would prefer to see her with a great tattoo even if he’d rather she’d wait. The alternative may be a terrible tattoo he could not later fix.
Situations like these are difficult for us as professionals. However, as tattoos have become so mainstream, and many role models for young people are sporting them, we realise that situations like these are here to stay.
So, we try to be as professional as possible to resolve them.
We can answer all your questions in person too.
We’re always delighted to see you in the Black Hat Tattoo Studio. If you’re thinking about getting your first tattoo, or if you have concerns about your child wanting one, we are always happy to help and discuss.
The best we can do is educate everyone about the process, so we can ensure the final decision will be the right one.