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Marine Corps tattoo policy: Everything you need to know

If you’re thinking about joining the Marine Corps and already have some tattoos, you’ll want to familiarize yourself with the latest Marine tattoo policy. If...

If you’re thinking about joining the Marine Corps and already have some tattoos, you’ll want to familiarize yourself with the latest Marine tattoo policy. If you have tattoos that violate the policy as it stands, you may not be eligible to join, or you may have to secure a waiver.

If you are already in the Marine Corps and are thinking about getting a new tattoo, it’s also really important that you read through the latest info on the Marine Corps’ tattoo policy. If you get a new tattoo that violates the policy, you may be subject to some sort of administrative punishment, and in some cases, you may even face being processed out of the service.

This article will break down what you can and can’t do when it comes to keeping your Moto-ink within tattoo regs.

This article includes new changes made to the Marine Corps tattoo policy in October of 2021.

Marine Corps tattoo policy basics

marine corps tattoo policy

What kinds of tattoos are outright banned?

Per Marine Corps bulletin 1020 dates 29 October 2021:

“Tattoos that are prejudicial to good order and discipline, or that are of a nature to bring discredit upon the naval service, are prohibited. Examples include, but are not limited to, tattoos that are drug-related, gang-related, extremist, obscene or indecent, sexist, or racist.”

You can read longer descriptions about type of banned content in MCBUL 1020.

Marines are also not authorized to sport any tattoos on their head, neck, hands (other than band tattoos of no more than 3/8 of an inch on one finger).

Rules about tattoo locations

Head: Tattoos on the head or neck, including in or around the mouth area, are prohibited.

Chest and Back: Tattoos on the chest or back must be below the collarbone and seventh cervical vertebrae (C7). Tattoos on the chest or back must be covered by wearing a properly fitting crewneck t-shirt with no portion of the tattoo showing.

Lower Arms: Lower arm tattoos may extend down no further than a line around the circumference of the wrist measured at the wrist bone.

Hands/Fingers/Wrists: Tattoos are prohibited on the hands and fingers with the exception of a single
band tattoo of no more than 3/8 of an inch in width on one finger of each hand.

What should Marines who have tattoos banned by policy changes do?

If you are already have a tattoo that is in violation of the new Marine Corps tattoo policy and you’re an active duty or reserve Marine, you should contact you chain of command to request an Exception to Policy (ETP).

If you’re planning to join the Marine Corps and have a tattoo that violates these policies, you may also request an ETP, though the Marine Corps points out that they are rarely approved.

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