An official website of the United States government
Here's how you know
A .mil website belongs to an official U.S. Department of Defense organization in the United States.
A lock (lock ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .mil website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

My Coast Guard
Commentary | May 14, 2024

Coast Guard updates tattoo policy

By Kathy Murray, MyCG Senior Writer

The Coast Guard’s tattoo policy now allows more visible tattoos.  

You can now have larger hand tattoos, as well as one tattoo behind each ear. 

Of course, all tattoos — anywhere — must still meet content restrictions. Tattoos must not represent racism, discrimination, indecency, extremist or supremacist philosophies, lawlessness, violence, or have sexually explicit content. 

The bottom line: The Coast Guard understands that visible tattoos have become mainstream. These updates to our tattoo policy ensure the uniformed workforce presents a sharp and professional military appearance to the public while allowing for individual creativity and expression through authorized body art that is consistent with the Coast Guard’s core values.  

Here’s a breakdown of the updates and what they mean: 


This policy has not changed.  

  • No tattoo will be visible above the uppermost edge of the standard crew neck t-shirt when viewed from the front.  
  • The reference point for tattoos on the back of the neck is the top collar edge of the tropical blue shirt. 
  • Excluding permitted behind the ear tattoos, no tattoo will be visible above the top collar edge of the standard tropical blue shirt.   


Old policy: One 1-inch tattoo was authorized behind one ear. 
New policy: One 1-inch tattoo in now authorized behind each ear. No tattoos can extend into the hairline or below the earlobe, and no tattoo can be visible from the front. 


Old policy: One 1-inch tattoo was authorized on each hand. 
New policy: You can now have a 2 ½ inch tattoo on each hand between the knuckle closest to the wrist, and the wrist bones. Tattoos are not authorized on the palm of the hand.   


This policy has not changed.  

  • You can have one finger tattoo per hand between the knuckle closest to the wrist and fingertip.  
  • No finger tattoo is authorized on the palm, fingernail, or nail bed.  
  • Members who wish to have a ring tattoo may do so. A ring tattoo is the only tattoo authorized to encircle the finger. 
Tattoo Hand

Broadening the tattoo policy is in line with the Coast Guard’s goal to be an employer of choice and reduce barriers to accession. 

For exact descriptions of location areas for tattoos, see details in COMDTINST 1000.1F Tattoo, Branding, Body Piercing, and Mutilation Standards. 

Questions? Contact the Office of Military Personnel Policy and Standards COMDT (CG-1M11) at: 


In the News: