Proposed ban of tattooing over scars draws backlash from tattoo artists

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LEXINGTON, Ky. (WKYT) - The Kentucky Department for Public Health is considering a rule change that would ban artists from tattooing on scarred skin.

Cover-up tattoo by Devyn Farley.

State health officials said the ban is intended to address potential health issues that could come with tattooing unhealthy skin, including recent or healing scar tissue.

RELATED STORY: Public meeting set for proposed ban of tattooing over scars

The proposal is getting a lot of pushback, including from tattoo artists themselves.

"The way they have it worded now is that if anyone has any type of scar, we wouldn't be allowed to tattoo over that," said Devyn Farley, a tattoo artist of six years who works at Tattoo Charlie's in Lexington.

She explains the way it's written, the ban would extend to cover-ups of old, unwanted tattoos as well.

"We wouldn't be able to go over old tattoos or maybe even touch up old tattoos, because those are considered scars as well," she said.

Farley said up to 25 percent of her clients come to her for a cover-up tattoo, many of them wanting to hide traumatic scars.

"[We've had] people who had had previous self-harm situations or accidents or surgeries," she said. "In some cases, botched laser removal will leave scars in the shape of the tattoo that was once there."

Farley said she believes the ban is meant to apply only to fresh scars, but she thinks the language of the regulation needs to be changed so that she can continue to help clients conceal painful reminders of the past.

"I've had people cry in the studio because they don't see their scars anymore because it's really embarrassing and they really want to be able to fit in normally and not have that weight around with them all the time," Farley said.

On Friday, officials with the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services said concerns about the rule change are being heard.

“The specific language in the proposed regulation had some unintended consequences and will be addressed," said Department for Public Health Commissioner Dr. Jeffery Howard. "The process requires the Cabinet to propose a regulation and then take comments from the public to make sure that the final product does what is best for everyone. We are glad to have the public’s input and we believe the final regulation will be improved by the comments we have received.”

A public meeting on the matter is scheduled for this Tuesday in Frankfort. The Department for Public Health is accepting comments until the end of the month.

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