Kentucky Legislature Moves to Ban Cosmetic Tattoos

Paige Spear is a paramedical tattooist in Bowling Green, Kentucky, where she helps her customers use tattoo art to camouflage scars and vitiligo, and recreate areolas and nipples for customers who have undergone mastectomies. Spear isn’t performing medicine and she and her clients both understand the risks of tattooing on sensitive types of skin. Nevertheless, Spear says a new regulation from the Kentucky Department for Public Health (DPH) would be “devastating” both for her shop, THE STUDIO Tattoo Co., and for her clients.

Zuri Davis at

People get tattoos for all sorts of reasons: for remembrance, for honor, for love, for virtually any reason (or not a reason at all sometimes). One great category of tattooing is what’s referred to as “medical cosmetic.” This is often also known as “scar camouflaging” because it’s done to do precisely that: camouflage scars or in some other fashion replace or reconstruct parts of the body that the person feels are lacking or “need work.”

If we’re evidence-based in our policies, there’s no reason to ban these sorts of procedures if they’re undertaken at the appropriate time. For scar camouflaging, scars should be at least 12 months old before attempting the procedure. But for cosmetic work like evening out lip coloring or filling out eyebrows have no such suggested window.

A ban placed on a harmless (well, you know what I mean) procedure that’s intended to do nothing more than revive some lost self-confidence does more harm than good.