Body Art

Information for Consumers

Frequently Asked Questions Kent County Body Art

How do I know if the body art facility I’m visiting is licensed?

Licensed body art facilities are required to display their state issued license in their customer area. Michigan also maintains a list of all of the licensed body art facilities in the link below.

How risky is it to get a body art procedure done in an unlicensed facility?

Having a body art procedure done in your friend’s basement or kitchen may seem harmless. You are putting yourself at risk of contracting a myriad of diseases and infections that can jeopardize your health and can be costly to treat. Licensed body art facilities are inspected annually to verify that they are using proper sterilized equipment and disinfection procedures as required by Michigan Body Art Requirements. Body artists working in licensed shops in the State of Michigan are required to take a blood borne pathogens training annually to ensure they are aware of the risks to the client as well as themselves when body art procedures are done incorrectly. The annual health department inspections of these licensed facilities help ensure these shops are clean and organized.

Tattoos, piercings and other body art procedures done in unlicensed facilities, such as someone’s home, are not anywhere near to the standards of a licensed facility. Most people doing body art procedures out of an unlicensed location are inexperienced and don’t understand, or are unaware of, the importance of proper procedures, disinfection, sterilization, and appropriate equipment. The bottom line is, getting a body art procedure done in an unlicensed facility is unsafe and puts you at risk.

Below is a professionally done tattoo by Dave Tevenal shown in all 3 stages of completion. This tattoo was done at the Chicago Tattoo Convention in 2012. Things to notice: Disposable tube on the tattoo machine, one time use marker for drawing on the skin, barrier paper and barrier film for the tattoo machine and ink caps to sit on, clip cord cover, individual one time use ink caps.

Things to notice in a facility

What diseases and infections can be transmitted if a body art procedure is done incorrectly or in an unsafe environment?

Exposure to blood or other potentially infectious materials may occur during a body art procedure. You could be exposed to tuberculosis, Hepatitis B or C, HIV, and a variety of other viruses and bacteria. Improperly done body art procedures increases your risk for infections which can cause serious illness, permanent scars and could be fatal in sever situations. For more information on health and safety for body art procedures visit the below link.

Below is an example of some lettering done in a non-licensed setting in Grand Rapids, Michigan. To the right of that is some lettering done by Norm MSK AWR at his professionally licensed tattoo shop in Los Angeles, California in 2010. Not only are unlicensed body artists putting your health at risk, but the quality of body art produced by unlicensed individuals/shops is much lower. Which of the two tattoos pictured below would you rather have permanently mark you?

Things to notice in a facility

Below is a tattoo done by an unlicensed individual in a home in Grand Rapids, Michigan. To the right is a tattoo done by Professional tattoo artist Kelly Doty at the Detroit Tattoo Convention in 2014. The final products are significantly different, but what you can’t see in this photo is that the person on the right was tattooed in a significantly safer manner than the person on the left.

Things to notice in a facility

What are some things I should ask my body artist to ensure my safety?

Ask your artist if they use an autoclave or if they use all disposable equipment. If they use an autoclave, you can ask to see the spore testing results to ensure the autoclave is tested monthly and is working properly. If the autoclave is working properly, the spore test result should be NEGATIVE. If the body artist says they use all disposable equipment, make sure they open new disposable body art equipment for your procedure. You can also view the Requirements for Body Art Facilities prior to having work done. If you ask your body artist questions about safety procedures and they seem unsure, or are unable to explain to you how they keep you and them safe during a procedure, you may want to think about having a different artist do your procedure.

If I have a complaint regarding my body art experience who should I notify?

All licensed body art facilities are required to post the Notice for Filing Complaints in the customer area of their shop. Complaints against a body art facility related to the Requirements for Body Art Facilities may be filed with the Michigan Department of Community Health using their online complaint form.

If you have a complaint about someone conducting body art procedures without a license, print and complete the Unlicensed Body Art Complaint Form and send to:

Kent County Health Department
ATTN: Environmental Health
700 Fuller Ave NE
Grand Rapids, MI 49503

This completed form can also be sent to: or faxed to 616-632-6892.

My tattoo/piercing doesn't look like it is healing correctly, what should I do?

If you have serious concerns regarding how your body art is healing, seek appropriate medical attention. If you have simple questions regarding aftercare or the healing process, you can always contact your body artist and they should be able to answer your questions. You also can visit Michigan Department of Community Health for aftercare instructions.

For more information visit: Michigan Body Art