marine tattoo policy for 2020

Marine Corps Tattoo Policy

The Marine Corps is considered the most demanding and challenging branch in the military.

As a result, many of its expectations are set at a higher level compared to the Army, Navy, and Air Force.

Recently, the Marine Corps has loosened and simplified its restrictions on their tattoo policy. 

Here are the key takeaways for the Marine Corps tattoo policy:

  • You CAN have tattoos anywhere on your chest, back, torso, upper arms, upper thighs, and groin 
  • There are no restrictions as to the size, shape, colors, or number of tattoos
  • There ARE restrictions on tattoos that are visible outside of a PT uniform
  • No tattoos beyond the wrist or above the neck
  • Ring tattoos are allowed, provided they’re no more than 3/8″ wide and are only available on one finger
  • Just like the other branches, racist, sexist, obscene, and extremist tattoos are NOT allowed

See a more detailed discussion on the policies below.

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What Tattoos Are Allowed In The Marine Corps?

usmc tattoo policy 2020
The Marine Corps has the most detailed tattoo policy of all the military branches. Image: Defense Logistics Agency

According to Marine Corps General Robert B. Neller, the tattoo policy over the years has:

“Attempted to balance the individual desires of Marines with the need to maintain the disciplined appearance expected of our profession.”

Therefore, the Marine Corps tattoo policy seeks to find a balance between individual representation and old-school values.

Marines are now even allowed to have sleeve tattoos as long as the sleeve doesn’t extend past the wrist.

marine pt uniform tattoos
Marines wearing PT uniforms. Notice the lack of visible tattoos. Image: Flickr

Marines have the opportunity to receive waivers for cosmetic tattoos that cover up scars and other body disfigurements.

A waiver is granted by a commanding officer and offered on a case-by-case basis.

Related Article: Marine Corps Ranks And Pay

Marine Tattoos Outside PT Uniform

marines 4 tattoo rule
Marines are permitted to have four tattoos visible outside a PT uniform. Image: Headquarters Marine Corps

When it comes to any area of the body that is NOT concealed by a PT uniform, the Marine must follow slightly more demanding guidelines.

There are stipulations regarding visible tattoos:

  • A tattoo (or group of tattoos) is not allowed past the wrist, with the exception of a single ring tattoo.
  • Chest and neck tattoos can not be above the collarbone and must be fully covered when wearing the uniformed fitted crewneck T-shirt.  
  • Content of tattoos will be scrutinized to ensure they are suitable for worldwide combat to be sure that they will not be perceived as culturally offensive.
  • Content cannot be sexist, racist, drug-related, gang-related, extremist or obscene. 


marine corps authorized tattoos
An example of a permitted tattoo in the Marine Corps. Image: Tinker AF Base


Additionally, married Marines are permitted to have one single band tattoo (no more than 3/8 inch) on one finger.

Any other body art on the hands is strictly prohibited.

Related ArticleMarine Corps MOS List and ASVAB Scores: Details Of All 123 Jobs

What Tattoos Are NOT Allowed In The Marine Corps?

marine tattoo policy 2020
The Marine Corps is adapting to a revised tattoo policy as generations change and social norms shift. Image: Department of Defense

The Marine Corps tattoo policy breaks down what is not allowed on a Marine in two different ways, just like other military branches.

Recent amendments have created a fairly liberal tattoo policy with the intention to remove barriers for potential recruits.

As previously mentioned, there are places like above the collar bone and below the wrist that are still restricted (aside from one band tattoo).

The Marine Corps has aligned with the other services and now allows sleeve tattoos.


marine tattoo sleeves

The Marine Corps defines tattoo sleeves as “the full coverage of the skin by tattoo ink” which is generally located on the arms or legs.

Related ArticleMarine Corps PFT Standards

Quick List – Non-Authorized Tattoo Locations

Here is a quick breakdown of the places on your body the Marine Corps does not allow tattoos:

  • Head, Neck, or Face (including mouth and eyelids)
  • Above the Collar Bone (before reaching the neck)
  • Wrist, Hands (only exception is a single ring tattoo), and Fingers

The current Marine Corps Tattoo Policy can be found in the MCBUL 1020.

Tattoos NOT Allowed Because of Content

In addition to the location on your body, the Marine Corps will also extensively study the content of the body art.

The Marine Corps has a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to offensive tattoos comparable to the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Coast Guard.

tattoos not allowed in marines
Gang-related tattoos are not allowed in the Marine Corps. Image: Wikimedia Commons

The Marine Corps tattoo policy for 2022 states that ink is never allowed which is “prejudicial to good order and discipline.”

Furthermore, tattoos that are “drug-related, gang-related, extremist, obscene or indecent, sexist, or racist” are not authorized under any circumstances.

Related ArticleNational Guard Tattoo Policy For 2020

In order to remain compliant with the Marine Corps tattoo policy, use common sense.

Ask yourself, ‘Would your mother approve of this type of tattoo?”

If the answer is no, the Marine Corps isn’t going to like obscene or indecent tattoos any more than other professional organizations.

disqualifying usmc tattoos
The USMC does not accept extremist or racist tattoos under any circumstances. Image: Flickr

Recruits that are interested in joining the U.S. Marines and already have tattoos can speak with a recruiting officer to determine if any of the body art is in violation.

There are waivers granted in certain situations, especially for former Marines wishing to join the Reserves, yet the military branch generally bends its rules more for tattoo placement than content.

Marine Corps Tattoo Policy – Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

We get a lot of commonly asked questions regarding the Marine Corps tattoo policy.

Here are some of the most frequently asked questions for quick reference…

Related Article:  Marine Corps Height And Weight Standards

Can you have a full sleeve tattoo in the Marine Corps?


In order to remain in compliance, the sleeve must stop before the wrist.

Can you have neck/face/hand tattoos in the Marine Corps?

No, the Marine Corps tattoo policy makes it clear the locations are not authorized.

The Marine Corps has a similar policy for face, neck, and hand tattoos as other military branches.

The only exception is on the hand where a wedded Marine is authorized one band tattoo on one of the two hands.

Will the Marine Corps pay to remove tattoos?

The Department of Defense recently passed rules that limit military funding for tattoo removal.

If you are ordered to remove a tattoo that the Marine Corps determines is non-compliant you may seek funding through a military clinic for professional removal.

Are Marine Corps officers allowed to have tattoos?

Yes, under the new Marine Corps tattoo policy officers are permitted the same rights for body art as enlisted members.

Commanders are also given permission to make individual determinations for tattoos that are sported by other personnel under their supervision.

Related Article:  How To Join The US Marine Corps

Can you get a waiver for tattoos in the Marine Corps?

It is possible to request a waiver for a tattoo that is located on a body part that is otherwise not authorized in the military branch.

The recruiting officer is given permission to assess each situation on a case-by-case basis.

Former Marines that have “out of regulation tattoos” and wish to join the reserves are often granted a waiver, as one example.

The Marine Corps rarely grants waivers to Marines with obscene or indecent tattoos as the content of the body art is judged more harshly.

What other grooming standards does the Marine Corps have?

The Marine Corps has strict grooming standards compared to its brother branch, the U.S. Navy.

Haircuts are required to remain “neat, clean, and well-groomed” at all times.

There are a number of regulations related to what hairstyles are authorized and not authorized.

Male Marines are permitted a mustache after completing recruit training.

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


The Marine Corps tattoo policy for 2022 is designed to maintain a professional and disciplined organization.

As a result, standards are set in place that determine what types of tattoos and where on the body they are authorized.

Speaking with a Marine Corps recruiter can help clarify if your current body art is compliant or not.

Marine officers are given permission to make the determination for Marines that are already enlisted in the military branch.

Tattoo Policies For Other Military Branches

Army Tattoo Policy

Navy Tattoo Policy

Air Force Tattoo Policy

Coast Guard Tattoo Policy

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Marine Corps Tattoo Policy

Marine Corps Tattoo Policy

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Just like with the Coast Guard, the Marine Corps has a very stringent tattoo policy that is strictly enforced.
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