Tattoos and body piercings have become mainstream over the past few decades as a significant portion of celebrities and influencers have them, which makes teens excited to follow suit.
However, the state of Oregon has strict laws on tattooing, and minors under 18 years old cannot get tattooed anywhere in the state even if their parents are willing to give their consent.
A tattoo artist can get in real trouble if they illegally tattoo a minor – they may face fines and could even lose their tattoo license. Body and ear piercings can be done on minors if they have a parent or legal guardian’s consent or are an emancipated minor.
Tattoo Laws in Oregon
While tattooing is popular in Oregon, there are laws regulating who can and cannot be tattooed, and licensing requirements for tattoo shops. For example, minors under 18 cannot get a tattoo in Oregon, even if they have consent of their parent or guardian unless it is for medical reasons. In that instance, a physician must authorize or prescribe the procedure.
Other people who cannot get tattoos include individuals who are sunburned or who have diseases or disorders that include open lesions, puncture marks or rashes in the the area where the tattoo would be. Oregon tattoo artists also cannot perform tattoo removal, unless they are authorized to do so.
Regulating the Tattooing Process
How a tattoo artist does their job is also regulated in the Beaver State. For example, the tools they use – dyes, inks and pigments – must come from a commercial manufacturer or supplier and must have an expiration date on the package.
Using dyes, inks and pigments prohibited by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is illegal, as is using banned or restricted products.
Public Health Rules Surrounding Sterilization
A licensed tattoo artist must disinfect their stencils (plastic and acetate) used to transfer the tattoo design to the client's skin, or use disposable stencils. If they reuse stencils, artists must thoroughly clean and rinse them before placing them in a high-level disinfectant according to instructions from the manufacturer.
They must clean the client’s skin thoroughly with an antiseptic solution before beginning the tattoo.
Post-tattoo Infection Control Procedures
After the tattoo is finished, the artist must follow specific health and safety procedures, including:
- Cleansing the client's skin, excluding the eye area, with an an antiseptic solution on a clean, single-use paper wipe.
- Covering the tattoo with a clean, absorbent bandage or other material to stop the spread of blood or other infectious materials from the tattoo area and to prevent cross-contamination. Absorbent materials include bandages for tattoos as well as those that have other medical uses. All coverings must be applied per manufacturer’s instructions.
Penalties for Tattooing a Minor
Only individuals who have a medical license can perform tattooing on an individual younger than 18 years old. A tattoo artist without a medical license who tattoos a minor faces a Class B misdemeanor charge in Oregon. It is also a Class B misdemeanor to allow a minor to be on a tattoo artist’s premises without a parent or legal guardian present.
Penalties for a class B misdemeanor are a jail term of up to six months, a $2,500 fine, or both.
Body Piercings in Oregon
Oregon prohibits body piercings on those under 18 unless their parents or legal guardian give legal consent in writing, which must be submitted to the licensed piercer before the act takes place. The person giving consent must be 18 or older and show a government-issued photo ID.
If an emancipated minor wishes to get pierced, they need to show court documents proving their emancipation and a government-issued photo ID.
Body art practitioners cannot:
- Pierce the genitals or nipples of a minor regardless of parental consent.
- Pierce the corpus cavernosa, eyelids, testes, uvula and sub-clavicle of any individual.
- Make horizontal tongue piercings.
- Pierce an inebriated person or one who shows incapacitation by alcohol or drugs.
- Pierce individuals who are sunburned or who have diseases or disorders that include open lesions, puncture marks, rashes in the the area where the piercing would be.
- Use an earlobe piercing gun unless they have a license to do so.
Earlobe Piercing in Oregon
A licensed earlobe piercer must adhere to slightly different regulations than those who do body piercings. They must:
- Use a piercing system to penetrate the earlobe with an encapsulated, sterile stud with a clasp.
- Use a piercing system of nonporous and nonabsorbent materials that they clean and disinfect with a high-level disinfectant per the manufacturer’s instructions.
- Use single-use ear piercing studs that are prepackaged and sterilized.
- Store new or disinfected piercing systems in a location that’s been clean and disinfected and away from used instruments.
- Ensure piercing equipment is disinfected after each client.
- Cover the piercing system’s handle with a new cover after each client.
- Use an earlobe piercing system, not a needle, manual loaded spring system or any type of system that doesn’t use an encapsulated, sterile, single-use stud.
- Use an earlobe piercing system only on the earlobe, not on other parts of the body or ear.
Oregon prohibits ear piercings on those under 18 unless their parents or legal guardian give legal consent in writing, which must be submitted to the licensed piercer before the act takes place. The person giving consent must be 18 or older and show a government-issued photo ID.
If an emancipated minor wishes to get pierced, they need to show court documents proving their emancipation with a government-issued photo ID.
- Oregon Secretary of State: Oregon Health Authority: 331-915-0065 Tattoo Practice Standards and Prohibitions
- Oregon Secretary of State: Oregon Health Authority: 331-915-0070 General Standards for Tattooing
- Oregon Secretary of State: Oregon Health Authority: 331-950-0070 Schedule of Civil Penalties for Tattoo Practice Standards and Prohibitions
- Oregon Health Authority: Health Licensing Office - Chapter 331 Division 900 BODY PIERCING
- Oregon Revised Statutes: Rule 331-900-0095 Earlobe Piercing Practice Standards and Prohibitions
- Criminal Defense Lawyer/NOLO: Oregon Misdemeanor Crimes by Class and Sentences
Michelle Nati is an associate editor and writer who has reported on legal, criminal and government news for PasadenaNow.com and Complex Media. She holds a B.A. in Communications and English from Niagara University.