A tattoo is a permanent marking created by inserting pigment with needles under the skin. A body piercing is the perforation of a body part, other than an ear lobe, for the purpose of inserting jewelry. If performed improperly or in an unsanitary manner, transmission of diseases such as Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C and Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) can occur.

The Tattoo and Body Piercing Program was developed to control the transmission of disease to practitioners and to those receiving tattoos and piercings. Under County Code 114, the Health Department inspects tattoo and body piercing establishments to ensure they are being operated in a safe and sanitary manner.

All tattoo and body piercing practitioners must obtain a permit from the Saint Joseph County Health Department. In addition, the facility where tattoos and body piercings are administered must also be permitted with the Health Department. Permit renewals are due by the last day of February each year. Practitioners must also receive annual training and certification in blood-borne pathogens and the handling of infectious waste.

It is critical that anyone receiving a tattoo or piercing ensures that they are receiving the procedure only from a licensed practitioner at a licensed establishment.

In Indiana, it is a criminal offense for anyone to give a tattoo to a person under eighteen years old without the written permission of a parent or guardian.

What should I look for when selecting a location to get a tattoo or piercing?

  • The tattoo artist, piercer and establishment should be neat and clean in appearance.
  • Patron (client) rights must be displayed.
  • There should be handwashing facilities with running water available.
  • The staff should be willing and able to answer your questions.
  • Tattoo artists and piercers should not work when sick.
  • Tattoo artists and piercers must wear gloves when tattooing.
  • All equipment should be single use. Each needle and tube set should be individually packaged, dated, sealed, sterilized, and opened immediately prior to your tattoo.
  • A new ink supply should be poured into a disposable container.
  • Any razors, needles, ink, plastic trays or containers, gloves, or ointments used in your tattoo application should be discarded after use.
  • Appropriate disinfectants should be used to clean the work area after tattoo application.

For more information on obtaining a practitioner permit or if you have concerns regarding an establishment or practitioner, contact the Health Department at (574) 235-9721.