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The Navy tattoo policy: Everything you need to know

If you’re interested in joining the Navy and already have some permanent ink, you’ll want to familiarize yourself with the Navy tattoo policy, to make...

If you’re interested in joining the Navy and already have some permanent ink, you’ll want to familiarize yourself with the Navy tattoo policy, to make sure your skin art doesn’t bar you from service.

Few military branches have such deep cultural ties to tattooing as the U.S. Navy, but that doesn’t they don’t have some strict guidelines when it comes to what’s considered acceptable and professional for America’s seaward fighting force. If you want to learn more about joining the Navy, make sure to read this article explaining the Sailor’s Creed and more essential Navy knowledge.

The Navy utilizes four pieces of criteria when assessing whether or not your tattoos are permitted: Content, Location, Size, and Cosmetic. You’ll have to go over these with your recruiter prior to shipping to Recruit Training if you’re concerned about any of your tattoos.

Here’s a basic rundown of the Navy tattoo policy:

Content: Put simply, the Navy does no permit tattoos that could be seen as obscene, sexually explicit, or in any way discriminatory. Likewise, you can’t have any tattoos or brands that indicate membership in a gang or extremist groups, or that encourages the use of drugs.

Location: Tattoos are not permitted on the head, face, or scalp, though one small tattoo (not to exceed one inch) is permitted on the neck or behind the ear. Tattoos on the torso of the body should not be visible in uniform.

Size: Size restrictions are only in place on tattoos placed on the neck or behind the ear, which are not to exceed one inch in any direction. There is no limit to the size of tattoos on limbs or your torso.

Cosmetic: Cosmetic tattoos meant to correct medical conditions are subject to different rules, as dictated by the medical staff.

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