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The Mecklenburg County Health Department locally enforces the North Carolina state rules (15NCAC 18A .3200) for the practice of tattooing.  Tattooing is defined as "the inserting of permanent markings or coloration, or the producing of scars, upon or under human skin through puncturing by use of a needle or any other method." 


The NC tattoo rules require tattoo & permanent makeup artists to meet certain minimum sanitation standards. These standards include: each studio having an autoclave (for the sterilizing of tattoo instruments), a sink(s) for hand washing, proper storage & disposal of solid waste, studio kept clean & in good repair, maintaining records of all autoclave tests & also of each client. In addition, each artist must be able to demonstrate knowledge of proper aseptic techniques.  (There is no testing of artistic ability). Upon meeting these standards the artist is issued a permit.  


Persons who intend to practice as a tattoo or permanent makeup artist must contact the Mecklenburg County Health Department.  Application must be made, fee is $225.00, 30 days prior from work beginning.  Permits must be renewed annually with a fee $125.00. Temporary permits for shows & fairs are available at a cost of $100.00. It is recommended that anyone setting up a new studio contact the Health Department so an Environmental Health Specialist (EHS) can review the requirements with them before work begins. There is no fee for the review and it can prevent delays in obtaining a permit plus prevent the costly replacement of equipment the applicant might purchase that doesn't meet state requirements.

It is important to understand  that the permit is issued to a specific artist at a specific location. That is, the studio & the individual artist must both meet regulations. An artist who practices at more than one studio, or who moves to another studio, must get a new permit at each location. Conversely, at a studio with more than one artist each artist must have a separate permit. Apprentices cannot work under an artist's permit; they must have their own permits.

Permit Application

Fact Sheet

Anyone who has questions about the permitting process or who wishes to obtain a permit may contact either:

  • Joe Rowell, REHS  (704-336-5550) or
  • Tim Dutcher, REHS (704-336-5553)        

Body Piercing  

Body piercing is not regulated under NC Public Health laws or rules or by local ordinance in Mecklenburg County.


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