Licensing Requirements - Tattoo and Body Piercing Studios

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We require any business in the practice of producing an indelible mark or figure on the human body by scarring or inserting pigments under the skin using needles, scalpels or other related equipment to license with the Department of State Health Services. This includes studios that perform traditional tattooing, permanent cosmetics and scarification. An artist may not tattoo a person younger than 18 without meeting the requirements of 25 Texas Administrative Code, §229.406(c), whose parent or guardian determines it to be in the best interest of the minor child to cover an existing tattoo.

Tattoos are applied using a small electric device that operates similar to a sewing machine. One to fourteen needles are grouped together and attached to the end of a rod called a needle bar. The other end of the needle bar is attached to the tattoo machine. The needle bar moves up and down through a tube or barrel, which serves two purposes — to keep the needle bar from moving side to side and as a handle for the tattooist to grip. The needles stick out only a few millimeters from the end of the tube, so they don't go deep into the skin.

After preparing the skin with a germicidal soap, the artist dips the needles into a small amount of pigment or ink. As the machine is guided over the skin, the needle bar moves up and down allowing the needles to puncture the skin, depositing the ink. A tattoo machine can puncture the skin 50-3,000 times per minute. Once the tattoo is completed, the tattooist usually applies an antibiotic cream or ointment and covers the area with a sterile bandage. The artist is required to provide the customer with oral and written instructions on how to care for a newly applied tattoo.

Intradermal Cosmetics

Intradermal cosmetic studios (sometimes referred to as permanent makeup studios) are becoming more and more common in Texas. The permanent makeup is generally applied to the eyebrows, eyelids and lips. Some studios use traditional tattoo equipment, while others use devices that work on the same principle, but are smaller and look like pens. Generally the components of the pen-type machine come pre-sterilized from the manufacturer and are disposable (one-time use) items.

Body Piercing

We require any business in the practice of creating an opening in a person's body, other than the earlobe, to insert jewelry or another decoration to license with the Department of State Health Services. This also includes studios that perform implants. An artist may not perform body piercing on a person younger than 18 without the consent of a parent, managing conservator, or guardian and meeting the requirements of 25 Texas Administrative Code, §229.406(d). This can be done by one of two methods:

  • The minor brings a notarized consent to the studio that contains the name, address and phone number of the minor and parent, managing conservator or guardian; the location of the body that may be pierced; and signatures of the minor and the parent, managing conservator or guardian.
  • The adult is present at the studio during the piercing and signs statements swearing they are the parent, managing conservator or guardian; the adult has the authority to consent to the procedure; the adult has provided valid government issued identification of the minor and of themselves to the studio; and the adult will remain at the studio while the procedure is performed. In this case, the adult must also present identification and evidence to the studio they are the parent, managing conservator or guardian. 

Before a body piercing is performed, the skin is cleaned with a germicidal soap. The artist pierces the skin with a needle. In a single motion, the artist places the jewelry to be inserted behind the needle and as the needle passes through the skin, the jewelry follows. The needle is then disposed of in a sharps container and the artist adjusts the jewelry to the piercing. Only approved materials can be used for new piercings. These include surgical implant-grade stainless steel (minimum of 316L or 316LVM), solid 14k or 18k gold, niobium, titanium (minimum of 6AL4V), or platinum, which is free of nicks, scratches or irregular surfaces and has been properly sterilized before use.

With implants, the skin is prepared with a germicidal skin preparation before an opening is made. The skin is cut with a scalpel and the layers of skin near the opening are separated to accommodate the implant. The implant is inserted under the skin and the opening is held closed to heal. Implants must also be made of an approved material. The artist is required to provide the customer with verbal and written instructions on caring for their new body piercing.

General Tattoo and Body Piercing Studio Requirements

The Drugs and Medical Devices Group is responsible for conducting on-site inspections of tattoo and body piercing studios. During these inspections, we ensure the studios comply with state and local laws and regulations. Some cities in Texas have local ordinances that are more stringent or ban tattooing and body piercing altogether.

We ensure:

  • The building is well maintained and clean.
  • The artist practices universal precautions to prevent the spread of infection, such as:
    • Washes hands with a germicidal soap.
    • Wears clean clothing and single-use gloves.
    • Uses personal protective equipment.
    • Uses instruments that are either disposable or are routinely sterilized.
    • Follows proper handling and disposal of waste.
  • There are sterilization records showing routine sterilization practices.
  • The artist prohibits the tattooing or body piercing of minors (unless above mentioned conditions are met).
  • The artist prohibits the tattooing or body piercing of people under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
  • The tattooist maintains records for each person receiving a tattoo or body piercing.
  • The tattooist reports any infection or adverse reaction to the Texas Department of State Health Services.