Tattooing Minors

Q.   As a minor, will you tattoo me with parental consent?

Here’s Michigan’s state law as it pertains to tattooing minors.

Essentially, Michigan law only prohibits The Shop from tattooing a minor without the prior written, informed consent of the minor’s parent or legal guardian. Also, the parent or guardian has to be there to sign the waiver. This law does not include emancipated minors.

So legally, I can tattoo any minor of any age as long as a parent or guardian gives informed consent in person.

A.   No. You will not be tattooed at The Shop, even with your parent’s consent.

Q.   WTF? R U Serious?

A.   Yes. I’m completely serious. I don’t care if you have the coolest design in mind. There is a 99% likelihood that I’m not going to tattoo you if you are under 18.

Q.   It’s my body. Who are you to tell me what I can and can’t do to my body if my parent is willing to sign a permission slip?

A.  I’m not telling you what you can and can’t do with your body. I’m telling you what I won’t do with mine. I won’t tattoo minors, even with parental consent. Even if you pay me a thousand dollars.  Even if you promise me that you’re real mature.

Permission slips are for field trips.

Me… Almost an adult.

Tattoos are permanent.  I was pretty mature as a teenager. My parental unit moved and I lived on my own as an adult before I was an adult. Even though I was living as an adult, I still made a shit ton of stupid decisions that seemed like decisions I thought I wouldn’t regret.

I don’t have to be a part of your high school tattoo regrets. And I won’t be. I’d rather have you pissed off at me for a couple years than pissed off at me for just taking your money without giving a shit about your future for the rest of your adulthood.

I have never had a client tell me they were tattooed in high school and they are so glad they did. It’s always the opposite. Clients regularly show me their first tattoos and lament on how stupid they were to think they’d want that tattoo forever.

Sometimes it’s not even the design people regret. Sometimes they regret the placement or the size.   The thing is though, the regret is almost always there.

Whose Consent?

Furthermore, given that it IS your body and your body is not the property of your parent, I can’t make peace with why a parent should even be able to consent to a cosmetic, permanent altering of your body. I think you are the only one who should be able to give that consent. And if you are not an adult, under most circumstances, I don’t feel that you’re old enough to give me that informed consent.

I’m not insulting you.

When adolescents’ brains are studied using MRIs, it’s obvious that they actually work differently than adult brains. There was a study that compared the differences. In situations where adults would rely on their frontal cortex which is an area of the brain that governs reason and planning, teens mostly use the amygdala, the region of the brain that guides instinctual or “gut” reaction.

Teenagers do not have a fully developed frontal cortex. Teenagers are not working with their full adult reasoning faculties.

I understand that you can just go somewhere else to get your tattoo, but controlling you is not my goal. I simply refuse to take advantage of your amygdala. I hope someday you’ll respect me more for it.

-Darl Papple, Owner/Artist

Read also: “Teens and Tattoos”  in The Livingston Parent Journal


14 thoughts on “Tattooing Minors

  1. That is the best response I have ever seen to that question. I read it to my son Noah, due to the fact that he doesn’t understand why I won’t let him get one until he is 18.


  2. I’m completely aware of a tattoo, it’s on my body for the rest of my life and I understand that, I also understand where he’s coming from but I personally think it’s up to me. A tattoo is a work of art and I don’t think it should be a problem at all unless the minor is younger than 15


    1. That’s totally cool, but like I said above, I’m not telling you what you can do with your body. I’m only saying what I won’t do with mine. I am unwilling to tattoo minors. I have really good reasons. You can always get one somewhere else. There are tattoo shops every twenty miles in Michigan that will tattoo you. I will not take advantage of a teenager’s maturing amygdala though. Maybe you won’t like me for it now. Maybe not ever, but I also have choices. Who I tattoo or don’t tattoo should be up to me. I put a lot of thought into and a lot of work into explaining why, the science behind it, etc. I’m not saying a minor can’t comprehend that a tattoo is forever. I’m saying the person you are at 16 is not the same and will not think the same as the person you will be in just a few short years. I genuinely hope that someday, you will respect me more for not just taking your money, even if it frustrates you at 16, 17 years old.


      1. I understand and respect your opinion but I have a question for you. I’m 17 going to be 18 in June I have two tattoos already (professionally done) my brother is a tattoo artist and has given me the two tattoos I have after long discussions and talking it through with him. Now I want to get another to cover up some self harm scars from years ago, but I don’t want my brother to see them. It’s the start of a new year and I want a fresh start without having to look at them everyday. My questions are would you tattoo me or could you recommend me to a shop that would do it? I’m not in a rush though right now I’m just trying to find a artist that would do best with my ideas/design and accommodate to my scars. (My mother would be able to be present as well)


  3. I completely understand where you’re coming from. but, what if it’s a loved one and or someone who you were really close to and wanted something more than just a picture to remember them by. Take myself for example. I’m 17 years old and I lost my mom when I was 11 years old due to cancer. I really want to get something meadium size to remember her by. Something that will be with me forever. Not just a single picture that could accidentally get lost, ripped, burned, or whatever the situation is. Now, I don’t think that people under at least 16 should be able to get a tattoo because that’s just too young. But, 17 is closer to 18 and some 17 year olds have already graduated high school. I’m not trying to headbutt your explanation on why you don’t feel right to tattoo someone under 18, which is completely fine. but, you should always look at what type of situation it is. Thank you.


    1. The science says that that part of the brain isn’t fully developed for even longer. If I could wait until the person was 22-23, that would be ideal, but I can’t at that point. After the magic 18, it’d be age discrimination.
      The very emotional pieces are even more important to wait on in my opinion, simply because you change so much during the teen years. There’s no doubt that a person would ever stop missing their mother or grieving for their mother, but they might have different ways to express it. At 17, a person might choose to get a cross and some dates, while at 24, that same person might want a beautiful graphic depiction of several important items or a portrait.
      There are exceptions, of course, but those exceptions aren’t ever done spontaneously. The teen would have to wait while our office manager calls in a change to the insurance, we rewrite paperwork and you can get all people with legal custody of the child together.


  4. What if it is a medical alert tattoo? (Not now as he is 5) if my son who is a type one diabetic and could become extremely disoriented or even pass out for his blood sugar being to high or to low and EMTS and emergency personal are being trained to look for medical alerts as someone who is disoriented can remove a tag/bracelet/necklace


    1. If you came with a doctor’s note, I would be willing to ask the health department if I could amend our policy for that situation depending on your reasoning. There would be additional forms to sign. Does a medical alert bracelet not work in your specific situation? A doctor might feel that a young person with Type 1 diabetes would be more prone to infection from the tattoo than it would be worth, for example. That would be something I would have to put a lot of thought into. Let’s hope that there is a cure by the time your son is old enough to ask for one.


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