coast guard grooming standards
Coast Guard

Coast Guard Grooming Standards

The U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) acts as the defense on the coasts of America.

It’s one of seven uniformed services in the U.S. Military.

The coast guard has grooming standards like every other branch of the Armed Forces.

The military is notorious for having very high expectations when it comes to personal grooming.

It includes basic hygiene as well as haircut regulations, body art, piercings, tattoos, and rules for the uniform.

What are the Coast Guard grooming standards? Read more to get all the details!

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Coast Guard Grooming Standards

Hair Regulations

Hair Regulations For Men

Hair Regulations For Women

Beard And Mustache Regulations

Piercings

Other Regulations (Fingernails, Cosmetics, etc.)

Coast Guard Grooming Standards

New recruits and cadets must have a clean shaved appearance at all times. Image: Coast Guard Compass

The U.S. Coast Guard currently has over 41,000 enlisted men and women on active duty, and another 7,000 that act as reservists.

All members of the Coast Guard are expected to follow the grooming standards outlined in the U.S. Department of Homeland Security – Coast Guard Manual.

The manual notes that “grooming standards are based on several elements including neatness, cleanliness, safety, military image, and appearance”. 

As a result, anything that is used to alter the appearance of an individual that do not keep consistent with the “customs, traditions, and spirit of military appearance” are deemed unacceptable.

It includes items like

  • Radical hair colors or styles
  • Outlandish cosmetics
  • Colored contact lenses
  • Tattoos
  • Body piercings
  • Fingernail colors
  • Intentional scarring

These take away from a consistent military image.

The Coast Guard likes to explain to new enlistees that their image should always resemble the portrait on their official ID military card.

Why?

The photo is taken when the service member first joins the Coast Guard and is current with personal grooming standards and expectations.

If the image does become drastically different he or she needs to collect a new military ID with the updated photo (considering the appearance is still within acceptable standards).

Related ArticleAir Force Grooming Standards: Haircuts, Mustaches, Beards, And More

Coast Guard Hair Regulations

The Coast Guard explains it is “impossible to provide examples of every appropriate or unacceptable hairstyle or conservative or eccentric grooming” standard.

Therefore, it is the responsibility of leaders to exercise good judgement and uphold the Coast Guard grooming standards.

Military leaders are asked to determine the appropriateness of any hairstyle based on its appearance when headgear is dawned.

One common theme you will find with every branch of the military is they make no exceptions if the hairstyle prevents headgear from fitting snugly or correctly.

There is zero tolerance for headgear that is distorted or has excessive gaps because it is a safety hazard.

The Coast Guard states that hair is not allowed to be visible under the front brim (combination or ball cap) of headgear.

It also may not extend beyond the forward point of the garrison cap.

Additionally, designated Coast Guard leaders are allowed to establish more restrictive grooming standards for enlisted recruits, cadets, and officer candidates.

General Coast Guard Hair Guidelines

According to the Coast Guard manual general haircut standards include:

  • Hair that is clean, well groomed, and neat.
  • Hair must not touch the eyebrows when groomed or extend below the front of headgear.
  • No shaved decorative patterns or sections on the scalp.
  • Only natural hair color is approved. Not excessive colors like pink, green, or purple.
  • Highlights need to blend well and not cause a distraction.

Hair Regulations for Men

Male service members are expected to maintain a “clean and neat” appearance. Image: Coast Guard Compass

Men have less guidelines for their hair compared to female personnel:

  • Clean, completely shaved scalps are allowed.
  • Hair must stay above the ears. Around the neck need to get tapered from the lower natural hairline upwards at least 3/4 inch and outward no longer than 3/4 inch.
  • Hair is not allowed to block across the back of the neck. It also cannot touch the collar.
  • Neck hair must remain between 1/2 inch and 1 inch.
  • The bulk of the hair cannot exceed 4 inches. It is not permitted to touch the ears, collar, extend below the eyebrows, or show with headgear.

Hair Regulations for Women

Women have many guidelines to follow for appropriate hairstyles in the Coast Guard. Image: Wikimedia Commons

Women that serve in the U.S. Armed Forces have more guidelines to follow with hairstyles since their hair is normally longer and there are so many different styles.

The official policy notes:

  • Hair that is clean, well groomed, and neat.
  • No ragged or unkempt appearances.
  • Only natural hair coloring.
  • Hair may touch yet not fall below a horizontal level with the bottom edge of the back shirt or jacket collar. The exception is a foul weather parka.
  • Bangs may not extend below the eyebrows.
  • No portion of the hair bulk when measured from the scalp shall exceed two inches. The exception is a bun which is granted a maximum of three inches from the scalp and no wider than the width of the head.
  • Hair accessories may not add more than two inches of bulk or interfere with the proper use of headgear.
  • Hair that traditionally falls below the lower edge of a collar must get tied into a ponytail, regardless of length. It also must be “neatly and inconspicuously fastened, pinned, or secured”. Bottom line the hair can’t swing freely.
  • Commanders may restrict the use of hair accessories when engaged in operation where there is a risk of personal safety or FOD hazard.

There are varying standards for specialized types of female haircuts like cornrows, weaves, multiple braids, hair extensions, and micro-braids.

If you currently have one of those types of hairstyles you should consult the manual for additional details.

Related Article: Coast Guard Age Limit

Unauthorized Female Hairstyles

There are a few hairstyles that are not permitted in the U.S. Coast Guard:

  • Lopsided hairstyles.
  • Pigtails that protrude from the scalp.
  • Extremely asymmetrical hairstyles.
  • Widely spaced individual hanging braids or locks.
  • Single braids that go down only one side of the head.

Additionally, these hair accessories are not allowed in the Coast Guard:

  • Sweatbands
  • Headbands
  • Lacy scrunchies
  • Beads
  • Decorative pins or barrettes
  • Bows
  • Foreign material (i.e. ribbons) that are woven into the hair

The Coast Guard allows wigs and cosmetics with specified criteria. Wigs are authorized if they are of good quality.

The Coast Guard demands a “conservative style” that conforms to the rest of the female hair standards.

NOTE: A single wingless hair claw is allowed in the Coast Guard. The wingless claw must closely match the hair of the service member. It also cannot exceed three inches in length and one inch in width.

Coast Guard Beard and Mustache Regulations

The only permitted facial hair in the Coast Guard are mustaches and sideburns. Image: Coast Guard Compass

The Coast Guard is similar to other branches in the military in how it enforces facial hair.

In general, the only type of facial hair that is permitted are mustaches as well as sideburns:

  • Mustaches must be neatly groomed.
  • The mustache may not extend below the top of the upper lip or beyond the corners of the mouth.
  • Sideburns are allowed if they are even width and end with a horizontal line.
  • The sideburns must get tapered to conform to the rest of the hair.
  • Sideburns may not extend below a point level with the bottom of the ear opening.

Beards are not allowed. The only exception is if you are granted a shaving waiver. The waivers are normally given to personnel with a PFB diagnosis.

NOTE: Coast Guard recruits, cadets, officer candidates, and ceremonial honor Guard members are not allowed to have facial hair of any kind!

Coast Guard Policy on Piercings

The Coast Guard does not have as much information about body art and piercings as other branches of the U.S. Military.

The manual states that “personnel should consult with their chain of command before considering a tattoo, piercing, or body modification”.

Reference (d) in the Coast Guard grooming standards policy has a few more details:

  • Coast Guard personnel are advised to consult about any new piercing or tattoo before getting it done on the body.
  • Existing body piercings and tattoos could get “grandfathered in” depending on the personal circumstances.

The Coast Guard, like other branches of the military, recently loosened some of its standards for body art.

Though the rules on body piercings is still fairly straightforward, some more leeway is being granted.

In general, piercings are only allowed for women, and limited to the ears.

Women may dawn one earring per ear that is centered on the earlobe. Earrings are only allowed to be 1/8 – 1/4 inch ball studs, natural white pearl earrings, white diamond earrings, or plain gold or silver earrings.

Body piercings that are concealed in uniform are still strongly discouraged due to the potential for infection or other medical complications.

Meanwhile, men are not allowed to have earrings while in uniform or during leave or liberty yet still on a military facility.

Related ArticleMarine Corps Grooming Standards: Hair, Beard, And Nail Regulations

Other Regulations – Fingernails, Cosmetics, etc

Fingernails are closely scrutinized by the U.S. Military.

There are standards for men and women:

  • Men: The policy is straightforward. Keep them clean and make sure they do not extend pas the fingertips. No coloring is allowed.
  • Women: The policy is a little more loose to accommodate women. Fingernails must get rounded or straight shaped at the tips. Nail polish is only allowed if clear or matching the skin color. All other colors are not authorized. Additionally, the nails cannot extend more than 1/4 inch beyond the fingertip. Decorative nails are not permitted.

Cosmetics are allowed only if they provide a natural look and are in “good taste”.

The makeup may not contain bright colors like green, yellow, blue, or orange.

The Coast Guard only allows natural color cosmetics for female personnel. Image: PxHere

Conclusion

The Coast Guard enforces strict grooming standards though some more leeway has recently been granted to female service members, as well as regarding body art like tattoos.

When you first join the Coast Guard new recruits and cadets must remain completely clean shaven as well as maintain a clean and neat appearance.

Makes sure you do not fool around with this absolute guideline!

Resources:

  1. https://media.defense.gov/2018/Dec/13/2002072299/-1/-1/0/CIM_1020_6J.PDF
  2. https://www.thebalancecareers.com/tattoo-body-art-and-brands-policy-coast-guard-3356732
  3. http://wow.uscgaux.info/content.php?unit=091-16&category=standards-and-grooming
  4. http://wow.uscgaux.info/content.php?unit=130-07-08&category=changes-to-uniform-regs
Rob V.
Rob V.
Rob V. is the founder of OperationMilitaryKids.org. While he never actually served in the US Military, he has a passion for writing about military related topics. Born and raised in Woodbridge, NJ, he graduated from the New Jersey Institute Of Technology with an MBA in eCommerce. His hobbies include beach volleyball, target shooting, and lifting. Rob is also a commercially rated pilot with over 1,500 hours of flight time.

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