Ky. proposes ban on tattooing over scars, but won’t say why; public comment on proposal taken through May; hearing May 28

WFPL photo

Kentucky health officials are proposing to ban tattooing over scars, without giving a reason for doing so, drawing criticism from doctors and tattoo artists, Lisa Gillespie reports for Louisville’s WFPL.

The proposal doesn’t offer a reason for the change and simply reads, “Tattooing of scarred skin is prohibited.”

A statement from Doug Hogan, chief spokesman for the Cabinet for Health and Family Services, also didn’t give a reason for the change.

“Regulations in this area have not been updated for about 15 years. Public comments are being accepted through the end of May,” Hogan wrote. He said the Department for Public Health “will review and analyze all comments and then determine what changes, if any, need to be made to the regulations.”

David Levine, a researcher and doctor at the Morehouse School of Medicine in Atlanta, told Gillespie that he doesn’t know of any medical research that would warrant such a ban and that he thinks the proposal is written too broadly.

“It probably should have been more specific to the reason that the skin was scarred in the first place,” Levine said. “There are people that are using cosmetic tattooing to actually reduce the appearance of scars.”

Levine did caution that tattoo artists should avoid one type of scarring: a keloid, a raised scar that spreads across the skin, because the process of tattooing would likely lead to more of them. Gillespie reports that this type of scar is most common in African Americans, Asian Americans and Latinos.

Mike Martin, president of the Alliance of Professional Tattooists, told Gillespie that the industry already has rules in place about tattooing over scars, and there is typically no problem as long as the scar isn’t fresh. He added that he had never heard of such a ban.

Buddy Wheeler, the owner of Tattoo Charlie’s in Louisville and Lexington, listed several reasons why people cover up scars with tattoos, including cancer survivors who want to cover their mastectomy scars.

Public comments on the proposal are being accepted through the end of May. Comments can be emailed to: A public hearing on the measure is scheduled for May 28 in Frankfort.

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