The Bulletin

Virginia increases training requirements for students in tattoo schools

By: - August 18, 2023 12:03 am

A tattooist in Park City, Utah. (Photo by Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for Best Events)

Starting Sept. 1, Virginia students seeking a tattooing license through a school will have to undergo more hours of training following regulatory changes. 

Those changes increase the hours students must spend in training from 750 to 1000 hours, with the additional 250 hours to be used solely for hands-on training. Requirements for a permanent cosmetic tattoo license will increase from 90 hours to 200 hours.

State regulations define permanent cosmetic tattooers as people who tattoo marks that resemble permanent makeup on a client, including “the permanent coloration of … eyebrows, eyeliners, lip coloring, lip liners” and other parts of the face. 

The Board for Barbers and Cosmetology said it initially adopted the increased training requirements during a Sept. 20, 2021 meeting. However, the board said it took almost two more years of work on the regulations to ensure there was proper input and guidance.

“The process included a re-proposed phase of review as well as working with a stakeholder group of tattooers and forming a Tattoo Subcommittee to do line by line review of the regulations,” a spokesperson for the board said in an email. 

The board said the increase in required permanent cosmetic tattoo program hours was due to a recommendation by the board’s tattoo subcommittee after it “repeatedly heard from a number of industry experts that 90 hours simply was not enough training to reach minimum competency.”

The decision to add 250 hours of practical training for a general tattoo license obtained through a school, the board said, came from concerns “that tattoo school candidates were not receiving enough hands-on experience to gain minimal competency.”

One public comment from Stitch Martinez, who identified himself as being associated with tattoo shop Primal Tattoo, said it was a “scary reality” that tattoo schools aren’t giving students sufficient training.

“We’ve all seen tattoo school graduates, who are fully licensed and are incapable of tattooing,” he wrote.

A new 200-hour training requirement for master permanent cosmetic tattoo licenses will also go into effect this September. 

Master permanent cosmetic tattooers provide more advanced services like breast and scar repigmentation. 

“Because the nature of the [master] services is so intimate (eyeshadow, cheek blush, and scar and areola repigmentation, generally for breast cancer survivors), the board believed a formal training program was necessary to ensure licensees were properly performing services,” the board said. 

According to letters sent from Board for Barbers and Cosmetology Executive Director Kelley Smith to tattoo schools in Virginia, students can still get a license under the current, shorter requirements if they start their training before Sept. 1. 

Schools also have until the start of September to update their curricula to reflect the new requirements. 

The regulations will not impact those obtaining tattoo licenses through apprenticeship programs, which require 1,500 hours of training. 


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Meghan McIntyre

Meghan McIntyre is a graduate of Virginia Commonwealth University with a degree in print and online journalism, where she received a faculty award for her work. She has stories covering Virginia government and politics published in various outlets across the state through Capital News Service, a course in the Richard T. Robertson School of Media and Culture at VCU. She was also a previous news intern at VPM and briefly freelanced for The Farmville Herald and The Suffolk News-Herald.