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AF tattoo policy updates take effect Feb. 1

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Alexx Pons
  • Air Force Personnel Center Public Affairs

According to an Air Force Policy Memorandum for Appearance and Accession Standards Review, revisions for tattoo standards applicable to the Total Force take effect Feb. 1.


The guidance, which will be incorporated into Air Force Instruction 36-2903, Dress and Personal Appearance of Air Force Personnel, and several others, applies to all members of the Regular Air Force, as well as Reserve and Guard components.


All changes resulted from a review directed by former Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James last year. Significant highlights include:


  • Authorized tattoos on the chest, back, arms and legs will no longer be restricted by the “25 percent” rule
  • Tattoos, brands or body markings on the head, neck, face, tongue, lips and scalp remain prohibited
  • Hand tattoos are limited to one single-band ring tattoo, on one finger, on one hand
  • Current Airmen with existing hand tattoos that were authorized under the previous policy will be grandfathered in under the old policy standards
  • Grandfathered tattoos on the hand are required to be documented on the member's AF Form 4428, Tattoo/Brand/Body Marking Screening/Verification
  • Hand tattoos that are grandfathered can be exposed and visible while wearing any uniform combination(s). Chest and back tattoos will not be visible through any uniform combination(s) or visible while wearing an open collar uniform
  • Tattoos, brands and body markings anywhere on the body that are obscene, commonly associated with gangs, extremist and/or supremacist organizations or that advocate sexual, racial, ethnic or religious discrimination remain prohibited in and out of uniform
  • Airmen may not cover up tattoos, brands or body markings with bandages or make-up in order to comply with policy
  • Members who have or receive unauthorized content tattoos, brands or body markings are required to initiate removal/alteration

Additionally, per AFI 36-2903, paragraph 2.10, commanders will retain the authority to be more restrictive for covering up tattoos, body ornaments and personal grooming standards based on legal, moral, safety, sanitary and foreign country cultural reasons.


Members are encouraged to review the Tattoo Policy Guidance Addendum for additional clarification as to what constitutes a tattoo, brand or body mark, and for more details on what is unauthorized. Violators of prohibitions outlined in the policy are subject to prosecution under Article 92 of the Uniform Code for Military Justice.


For additional information about dress and appearance, visit the Air Force Personnel Center website.