Health cabinet says it will revise proposed rule that would have banned tattooing over scars, due to ‘unintended consequences’

WFPL photo

After almost two weeks of mystery, speculation and complaints, the state Cabinet for Health and Family Services has explained in a news release why it wants to ban tattoos over scars, saying it wants to address “potential health issues of tattooing over unhealthy skin.”

“The concerns are being heard,” said the cabinet, which had declined to say why it had proposed the regulation. It offered a reason: “to address potential health issues of tattooing over unhealthy skin, including recent or healing scar tissue. Because of such potential risks, some states currently restrict tattooing of skin that has a rash, evidence of an infection, open lesions, or recent scar tissue.”

The proposed regulation simply reads, “Tattooing of scarred skin is prohibited.” That prompted complaints that it was written too broadly.

David Levine, a researcher and doctor at the Morehouse School of Medicine in Atlanta, told Lisa Gillespie of Louisville’s WFPL that he knew of no research that would warrant such a ban. “It probably should have been more specific to the reason that the skin was scarred in the first place,” he said. “There are people that are using cosmetic tattooing to actually reduce the appearance of scars.” Those include mastectomy patients.

Health Commissioner Jeffrey Howard said in the news release, “The specific language in the proposed regulation had some unintended consequences and will be addressed. We believe the final regulation will be improved by the comments we have received.” The release said that would happen after the public comment period ends May 31.

Comments can be emailed to: A public hearing on the regulation is scheduled for May 28 in Frankfort.

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.

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