Air Force Eases Restrictions on Tattoos for New Recruits, Current Airmen


The Air Force will no longer enforce its 25 percent tattoo rule, starting February 1, the service announced Tuesday.

Airmen were previously not allowed to have tattoos that covered more than 25 percent of the chest, back, arms, or legs, but new guidelines allow airmen to have full tattoo sleeves on their arms or large back tattoos, the Air Force Times reported.

Tattoos, body markings, or brands on the head, neck, face, tongue, lips and/or scalp are still prohibited, according to an Air Force news release.

Hand tattoos will be limited to one single-band ring tattoo on one finger, but airmen who had hand tattoos already approved will be grandfathered in, according to the release.

The Air Force decided on this change in policy after a study discovered that nearly half of contacts, applicants, and recruits had tattoos, and nearly one out of every five people who wanted to join the Air Force had tattoos that required a review or were disqualifying.

“In this instance, we identified specific changes we can make to allow more members of our nation to serve without compromising quality,” Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James said in a statement.

The Air Force still prohibits obscene or discriminatory tattoos.

In 2016, the Navy and Marine Corps updated their policies so service members could have bigger tattoos, and the Army eased its restrictions on tattoos in 2015, the New York Daily News reported.