Tattoos/Brands anywhere on the body that are obscene, advocate sexual, racial, ethnic, or religious discrimination are prohibited in and out of uniform. Tattoos/brands that are prejudicial to good order and discipline, or of a nature that tends to bring discredit upon the Air Force are prohibited in and out of uniform.
Any member obtaining unauthorized tattoos will be required to remove them at their own expense. Using uniform items to cover unauthorized tattoos is not an option. Members failing to remove unauthorized tattoos in a timely manner will be subject to involuntary separation, or punishment under the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ).
Inappropriate (military image)
Excessive tattoos/brands will not be exposed or visible (includes visible through the uniform) while in uniform. Excessive is defined as any tattoo/brands that exceed ¼ of the exposed body part and those above the collarbone and readily visible when wearing an open collar uniform.
Members will not be allowed to display excessive tattoos that would detract from an appropriate professional image while in uniform. Commanders will use the above guidelines in determining appropriate military image and acceptability of tattoos displayed by members in uniform. Air Force members with existing tattoos not meeting an acceptable military image should be required to:
- maintain complete coverage of the tattoos using current uniforms items (e.g. long-sleeved shirt/blouse, pants/slacks, dark hosiery, etc.) or
- volunteer to remove tattoos(s).
Members who receive tattoos/brands not meeting the standards after the effective date of this policy (1998) are required to initiate tattoos/brands removal upon notification by their Commander at their own expense (may not use Air Force Medical Centers for removal). Members not complying with these requirements will be subject to disciplinary action for failure to comply with Air Force Standards and may be involuntarily separated.
- 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.