Body Art

Kent County Body Art

Body art is the making of art on the human body. Tattoos, piercings, branding, and other specific body modifications can be unique and personal ways to express individuality. When done in a licensed body art shop under proper conditions, body art can be something a person can enjoy for many years.

Within Michigan, facilities that conduct body art procedures must be licensed by the state, and then are inspected by health departments. Tattooing, piercing, branding or other specific body art procedures done outside of a licensed shop is illegal. This webpage contains information to assist body art shop owners, artists, and their potential clients. Complaints can also be filed against a licensed shop or individuals conducting body art practices outside of a licensed shop.

Be well informed before having body art done. Improper procedures or having body art done outside of a licensed shop puts you at risk of receiving any number of illnesses and/or infections. This can jeopardize your health and be costly to remedy.

Public FAQs

  • 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.

  • 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

Body Art Shop Owner and Artist Information

  • Laws and Regulations

    Body art shops are required to obtain a license from Michigan Department of Human Health and Services (MDHHS) and must receive at least one annual inspection by the local health department. Body art shops are regulated by Michigan Public Act. 375 and Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) “Requirements for Body Art Facilities”. These documents continue to be updated, so be sure you are familiar with the most recent editions. Michigan Public Act. 375 (Body Art Law) gives local health departments the authority to enforce “Requirements for Body Art Facilities”. Health departments use a standardized inspection form created by MDHHS when conducting an inspection. The items listed on the form in red are critical items and will require a follow up visit. The items in black are non-critical and would need to be corrected by the next regular inspection. Below are links for the law, requirements, and inspection form.

  • Client Records and Forms

    Body art facilities are required to provide clients with specific forms prior to and after a procedure. Before a body art procedure, clients must be given a copy of the disclosure statement and asked about certain medical conditions. After a procedure, clients must receive verbal AND written aftercare instructions. The links below are for the minimum requirements for these documents.

    *Rules 10 and 11 of the Requirements for Body Art Facilities is where the details of the required forms are listed. Client records must be retained for a minimum of 3 years.

  • Employee Records

    There are three forms required to be filled out by each body art facility employee. These forms are to be kept for a minimum of three years after the end of employment.

    Each employee in the facility (not just artists) are required to have a current bloodborne pathogen certification. The bloodborne pathogen training must done in person. Online training is not acceptable. The Kent County Health Department is currently developing an in-person bloodborne pathogen training course to help artists fulfill this requirement. Once completed, registration and course dates will be posted on Kent County Health Department Body Art webpage.

  • Required Documents

    Each facility is required to have specific documents on site. A current MIOSHA Bloodborne Infectious Disease Exposure Control Plan is one of them. This must be site specific and will fulfill certain requirements under MIOSHA. Facilities are also required to obtain a three year “Certificate of Registration as a Medical Waste Producing Facility”.

  • Plan Review: New and Existing Facilities

    When a new facility is being constructed or an existing facility is being remodeled, they must go through a process called plan review. Plan review is a combination of document review and an on-site inspection of the body art shop. A plan review checklist is used to evaluate the facility to make sure it meets the requirements of the law. Newly constructed or remodeled facilities must first receive an on-site inspection approving them to operate.

    New facilities have an additional step. They have 30 days after being approved to operate to apply for an inspection. This inspection will count as the annual inspection required by law.


Licensed Body Art Shop Complaints

All licensed body art facilities are required to post the “Notice for Filing Complaints” sign (link below) within the customer area of their shop. To file a complaint with Michigan Department of Health and Human Services for a licensed body art shop, please click the below online complaint form.

Unlicensed Body Art Shop Complaint

If you want to report a complaint about someone conducting body art procedures outside of a licensed body art shop you can call our office at 616-632-6900 to file a complaint or you can 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.