Christians and Tattoos?

March 19, 2014
by Associate Editor

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[Editor’s Note: For us, the terms “Christian” and “tattoos” are a non sequitur. Or, stating it another way, the issue of Christians having tattoos is a no-brainer because Scripture is unequivocal, unambivalent, and crystal clear regarding the matter. In other words, there is absolutely no gray area regarding this matter in the Word of God, but rather is entirely black and white: God condemns it and states categorically that it’s a practice of pagans, not bona fide Christians! Period! Case closed! But some people, including purporting Christians, vociferously and adamantly claim and contend otherwise, albeit without a scintilla of Scriptural support. Again, for us, there is no argument; none at all. Nevertheless we proffer the following two articles for those (if there are any) who are on the fence concerning the issue, and really would like to consider the unimpeachable and irrefutable Biblical evidence. The first article, speaks for itself. The second article is offered to provide some fairly recent data regarding tattoo-mania, which, of course, we have no way of independently verifying. But, this data, or any data, has absolutely no bearing on what any Christian should believe regarding this or any other matter. Genuine Christianity does not base doctrine on demographic data and the ever-changing mores of human cultures, but on the unchanging Word of God! For those who are not caught up in defending to the death either themselves or a loved one who has defiled their body with tattoos, and are willing to listen to the reasoning of the Spirit and God’s Word, I have three questions and a Scripture: QUESTION #1: If God wanted tattoos on your body why weren’t you born with them? QUESTION #2: Who does tattoos glorify–God or man? QUESTION #3: Jesus is the Heavenly Model (prototype; first-born; Greek means “prototype”), who commanded all disciples, “Come and follow Me!” Did He defile His natural body with tattoos? NO! NO! NO! The only marks on His Body, which are still there, are the nail prints in His hands and feet and the whole in His side, that OUR SIN put there! Those are the only markings that will ever glorify God in a human (now glorified) BODY! SCRIPTURE: “Or do you not know that your BODY is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your BODY” (1 Cor. 6:19-20). “Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 8:1). Be it known, however, that the purpose of all articles appearing on this site is to convey the Truth of the Word of God (per the calling and commandment of God), but NEVER to condemn anyone. End Editor’s Note]

Tattoos And The Bible: A Christian Response To Tattoo-Mania (Part One)
By Terry Watkins, ThD

Within the last decade the tattoo has virtually conquered the cultural world.

The taboo tattoo was, until recently, the menacing fashion of heavy-metal rockers, bikers, criminals and the social outcast. But today the tattoo glamorously appears everywhere and anywhere. It’s the latest fashion craze. The tattoo has found a canvas on celebrities such as Britney Spears, Julia Roberts, Jessica Simpson, Bruce Willis, Geraldo Rivera, Halle Berry, the Dixie Chicks, and thousands of others.

The sports world has also received the “baptism of tattoos.” A 1997 AP Poll discovered over 35% of all NBA players sported at least one tattoo, including such mega stars as Michael Jordon, and Shaquille O’ Neal. Sports reporters claim similar tattoo percentages are decorating the professional football, baseball and hockey world. Holding their own, the tattoo adorns the “conservative” golf world on such notables as Lee Trevino and Tiger Woods.

The National Geographic News stated that 15% of all Americans are tattooed. The Alliance of Professional Tattooists (APT) estimates over 39 million Americans have a tattoo. Details Magazine published a poll that stated 22% of 18-25-year-olds have at least one tattoo. It’s also estimated 60% of the tattooed are women.

And many more are waiting in line. . .

Even the toy world has it’s very own Tattoodles doll. And it’s rumored sweet little Barbie has recently been seen flaunting a “cool” tattoo. Not to be outdone by the tattooing zealous adults, the younger generation has joined the tattoo party. A Texas Tech University School of Nursing study consisting of over 2,100 adolescents from eight states reveal that 1 in 10 adolescents were tattooed and over half were planning on getting tattooed. Another study estimated 25% of all 15 to 25-year-olds are tattooed. By the way, the average age of getting tattooed is 16 years old. While some receive their first tattoo as young as eight-years-old.

According to US News and World Report, (November 3, 1997) tattooing is the country’s sixth-fastest-growing retail business. And growing at the amazing rate of more than one new tattoo studio every day.

And get this. . . Lycos, who ranks the Top 50 search words every week, found “tattoos” was the fourth most searched word for the year 2001! For the week of October 15, 2002 (when this was written) “tattoos” was number six. And among the highly-prized Lycos 50 Elite, which is the 50 most popular topics in the history of the Lycos – “tattoos” comes in at a solid number seven. (search results at [Note: Jesus or Christ did not even make the Lycos Top 100, “the Bible” ranked number 18.]

In other words. . . the world has gone “tattoo crazy”.

Even among many Christians the once-forbidden tattoo is welcomed with open arms (and legs, and necks, and backs, et al). Not surprising the major perpetrator of the Christian tattoo is the Christian rock music community. And fast following their Christian rock idols, thousands of Christian young people are getting “marked for Jesus” with the tattoo. Among the fastest growing trend in the tattoo industry is the Christian tattoo shops.

We’ve received scores of emails from concerned Christian parents, young people, youth pastors, and pastors requesting information on the tattoo. Many parents have written pleading for help with their teenagers and tattoos.

This article is an examination of tattoos in the light of the Word of God and history.



Leviticus 19:28 is the Christian (or so-called Christian?) tattooist and tattoo-bearer’s worst nightmare. The Lord plainly, clearly, strongly, and without a doubt – condemns the tattoo.

Ye shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead, nor print any marks upon you: I am the LORD.
Leviticus 19:28

Could that be any more clear?

“Ye shall not. . .print any marks upon you. . .”

Simple. . . Straightforward. . .Settled. . .

God Said It. . . I Believe It. . . That Settles It. . .

Right. . .?

Not hardly. . .

The clear statement from the word of God does not settle anything for this generation of disobedient, carnal, worldly, tolerant, non-judgmental, Christians. Rather than obey God, they run miles and miles and miles to “justify” their open disobedience to the Word of God.

How do they get around Leviticus 19:28?

Clearly, there it is. “Ye shall not. . .print any marks upon you. . .”

A lot of Christians when confronted with Leviticus 19:28, scream, “Hey dude, that’s not for today. Man, that’s the Old Testament. I’m under the New Testament.”

Did you know that “bestiality” (sicko, perverted, sex with an animal) was ONLY forbidden in the Old Testament Levitical Law? Only in Leviticus 18:23 and Leviticus 20:15-16. Dude, only in the Old Testament Law. Does that mean a Holy God NOW – under the New Testament, approves of bestiality?

By the way, have you ever read Leviticus 19:29? The verse immediately AFTER the “it’s not for me” Leviticus 19:28?

Do not prostitute thy daughter, to cause her to be a whore; lest the land fall to whoredom, and the land become full of wickedness. Leviticus 19:29

This is the only place in the Bible that God directly forbids someone to prostitute their daughter. And since, it’s ONLY in the Old Testament Levitical Law (and “hey, dude, we’re NOT under the law”) – it MUST be ok by the Lord for a parent to cause their daughter to prostitute.

Same sick, perverted, wicked, line of reasoning as the “it’s ONLY in the Old Testament-tattoo-bearer-wearer”. Same reasoning. . . Same disobedience. . . Same perversion of the Word of God.

There are many other “moral laws’ that are ONLY forbidden in the Old Testament, such as the human sacrifice of children. No where in the New Testament is this forbidden. Does that mean that NOW under the New Testament, God Almighty endorses throwing babies into the fire as a human sacrifice?

And thou shalt not let any of thy seed pass through the fire to Molech, neither shalt thou profane the name of thy God: I am the LORD. Leviticus 18:21

Matthew Henry’s Commentary at the beginning of Leviticus 19 explains that most of Leviticus 19 (such as verse 19:28) are moral commandments that applies not only for Israel but for the New Testament Christian today.

“Some ceremonial precepts there are in this chapter, but most of them are moral. . . Most of these precepts are binding on us, for they are expositions of most of the ten commandments.”
(Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible, Leviticus 19:28)


But by far the Christian tattooers favorite excuse for disobeying Leviticus 19:28 is the “that means nor print any marks upon you – for the DEAD”. It’s ok, as long it’s not for the dead”. See the “for the dead!!! . .for the dead!!!!”.

Is it ok to practice satanic bloodletting, self-mutilation or cutting of the flesh as long as it’s not for the dead? It’s in the same verse. . . Hmmm. . .?

Ye shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead, nor print any marks upon you: I am the LORD.
Leviticus 19:28

Notice also, the phrase “for the dead” is ONLY referencing the “cuttings in your flesh.” The condemnation of “nor print ANY marks upon you” is not qualified by the phrase “for the dead.” Also, if you’ll notice the verse clearly says “ANY marks” period.

Merrill F. Unger’s, very popular and authoritative, Unger’s Bible Dictionary under the definition for “Mark” includes the following reference for Leviticus 19:28:

“In Lev. 19:28 we find two prohibitions of an unnatural disfigurement of the body: ‘Ye shall not make any cutting in your flesh for the dead, nor any print any marks upon you.’ The latter (Heb. qa aqa, incision) refers to tattooing, and has no reference to idolatrous usages, but was intended to inculcate upon the Israelietes a proper reverence for God’s creation.”
(Merrill F. Unger, Unger’s Bible Dictionary, 1974 ed., p. 696)

Notice that Unger teaches that tattoos were forbidden without any reference to pagan, heathen, or idolatrous usages. In other words, the tattoo itself, regardless the reason, was forbidden. Amen, Brother Unger.

Wycliffe’s Bible Encyclopedia under the definition for TATTOOING distinctly says:

“While ‘cuttings in the flesh’ have reference here to mourning customs [for the dead], the tattooing does not appear to pertain to such practice.”
(Wycliffe Bible Encyclopedia, 1975 ed., p. 1664)

The New American Commentary on Leviticus 19:28 writes the condemnation was for, “cutting the body either for the dead or with tattoo marks.” (Mark F. Rooker, The New American Commentary on Leviticus, 2000 ed., p. 262) Explicitly recognizing the tattoo was not “for the dead.”

Do you see how dishonest and disobedient this “it doesn’t apply to my New-Testament-Christian-marked-for-Jesus-tattoo” is? Find what you don’t like in the Word of God, cut it out (doesn’t apply to New Testament Christians) or misapply (it’s just for the DEAD, when it’s clearly NOT). Same tactics used by the satanic cults and heretics for years. You can prove anything and everything with such deceitful methods.


One of the silliest and childish arguments to justify the Christian tattoo is the: “Hey man, do you get a haircut or trim your beard? God condemned getting a haircut or trimming your beard in the verse before forbidding the tattoo. Dude, the tattoo is the same as getting a haircut.”

Believe it or not . . . this is a widely used argument.

Leviticus 19:26-28 is a clear condemnation of pagan, witchcraft and heathen practices. Look at the context. Verse 26 is plainly referring to “enchantment [spells or witchcraft] nor observe times [astrology]. . . Verse 28 is the pagan, demonic practice of bloodletting [cuttings in your flesh] and tattooing. Why would the Lord stick in the middle a verse that “condemns simply getting a haircut”? Of course, He wouldn’t. . . And He didn’t. . .

Leviticus 19:26-28 reads:
26 Ye shall not eat any thing with the blood: neither shall ye use enchantment, nor observe times.
27 Ye shall not round the corners of your heads, neither shalt thou mar the corners of thy beard.
28 Ye shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead, nor print any marks upon you: I am the LORD.

The condemnation found in verse 27 of “rounding the corners of your head” or “mar the corners of thy beard” was the forbidding of a common pagan practice that cut the hair as worship and honor of the hosts of heaven.

Here’s how Matthew Henry’s and Coffman’s Commentaries reflect on the “forbidden haircut” of Leviticus 19:27:

“Those that worshipped the hosts of heaven, in honour of them, cut their hair so as that their heads might resemble the celestial globe; but, as the custom was foolish itself, so, being done with respect to their false gods, it was idolatrous.” (Matthew Henry, Commentary on the Whole Bible, Leviticus 19:27)

“Herodotus tells of the use of this type of haircut, forming what is called a tonsure, as the practice of pagan religious cults of ancient times who did so honoring one of their gods.”
(Coffman Commentaries on the Old and New Testament, Leviticus 19:27)

The fact is. . . Up until a few years ago, virtually everyone, including the most liberal Christian, KNEW the tattoo was clearly forbidden by the Word of God. And throughout history, the tattoo has ALWAYS been condemned by Bible Believing Christians. Always. Every historical resource ever written on tattoos clearly confirms this fact.

“Just as occurred in other cultures with tattoo traditions, when these pagan tribes were ‘converted’ to the Christian religion, their spiritual and cultural rites (which included tattooing, piercing and scarification) were outlawed. . .”
(Jean-Chris Miller, The Body Art Book : A Complete, Illustrated Guide to Tattoos, Piercings, and Other Body Modifications, p.9)

“Whenever missionaries encountered tattooing they eradicated it.”
(Gilbert, Steve, Tattoo History: A Source Book, p. 101)

“While these and other body modifications continued to be practiced underground as a way for non-Christian people to identify each other, God forbid you got caught and your mark was revealed.”
(Jean-Chris Miller, The Body Art Book : A Complete, Illustrated Guide to Tattoos, Piercings, and Other Body Modifications, p.11)

Up until a few years, virtually every commentary written understood Leviticus 19:28 as an open condemnation of the tattoo. The Christian acceptance of a tattoo was not even considered for serious discussion.

Jameison-Faussett-Brown Commentary and Explanatory on the Whole Bible writes under Leviticus 19:28:

“nor print any marks upon you–by tattooing, imprinting figures of flowers, leaves, stars, and other fanciful devices on various parts of their person. The impression was made sometimes by means of a hot iron, sometimes by ink or paint, as is done by the Arab females of the present day and the different castes of the Hindus. It it probable that a strong propensity to adopt such marks in honor of some idol gave occasion to the prohibition in this verse; and they were wisely forbidden, for they were signs of apostasy; and, when once made, they were insuperable obstacles to a return.”
(Jameison-Faussett-Brown Commentary and Explanatory on the Whole Bible, Leviticus 19:28)

James M. Freeman in his excellent book, The New Manners & Customs of the Bible, says of Leviticus 19:28:

“Tattooing Forbidden
Both cutting and tattooing were done by the heathens, and so God forbade His people from doing so in imitation of them.”
(James M. Freeman, The New Manners & Customs of the Bible, 1998 edition, p. 157)

Coffman’s Commentary on the Old and New Testament under Leviticus 19:18 says:

“The cutting of one’s flesh also characterized pagan worship as attested by the priests of Baal on Mount Carmel in the contest with Elijah. Tattooing was also a device of paganism. . . Christians generally disapprove of tattooing, despite the fact of the widespread use of it by many even today. In the light of what God says here, and in view of the history of it, it seems strange that anyone would pay someone else to tattoo him.”
(Coffman’s Commentaries on the Old and New Testament, Leviticus 19:28)

Charles R. Erdman in his commentary on Leviticus 19:28 writes:

“The custom of tattooing was forbidden, while among all the nations of antiquity it was common.” (Charles R. Erdman, The Book of Leviticus, 1951 ed., p.93)

But Naves famous Topical Bible puts it best. Under the topic “Tattooing”, Nave’s simply and bluntly writes: “TATTOOING, forbidden, Lev. 19;28” (Nave’s Topical Bible, p. 1312)


I’ve seen several references by Christian tattooers who claim Isaiah 44 and Ezekiel 9 are examples of God-ordained tattoos in the Bible.

And the LORD said unto him, Go through the midst of the city, through the midst of Jerusalem, and set a mark upon the foreheads of the men that sigh and that cry for all the abominations that be done in the midst thereof.
Ezekiel 9:4

One shall say, I am the Lord’s; and another shall call himself by the name of Jacob; and another shall subscribe with his hand unto the LORD, and surname himself by the name of Israel.
Isaiah 44:5

The following excellent explanation of Isaiah 44:5 and Ezekiel 9:4 came from a Jewish web site:

1) In Leviticus 19:28 the term used is “k’thoveth qa’aqa.” “K’thoveth” means “writing or inscription.” “Qa’aqa” comes from a root whose meaning is “to insert or to stick in.” Together, “writing that is stuck in”(see Rashi’s commentary on the verse). Jewish oral tradition explains that the verse is talking about what we refer to today as tattoos, i.e. scratching or piercing the skin and filling it in with pigment.(see the tractate “Makoth” 21a).

2) Isaiah 44:5 uses the word “yichtov” which means “will write” without the word “qa’a’qa” “to insert or to stick in.” Isaiah is not talking about tattoos. What he is saying is “…and he will write with his hand to the L-rd…” like someone who signs a contract to express his utmost commitment and obligation(see Metzudath David’s commentary on the verse).

3) Ezekiel 9:4 uses the word “tav” which means “a mark or a sign.” The man clothed with linen is going to mark the foreheads of the righteous with ink, not tattoo them!

Someone who read the verses (Isaiah 44:5 and Ezekiel 9:4) in the Hebrew original would never dream that they are referring to tattoos.
(, used with permission)


Some Christian tattooers go so far as claim that the Lord Jesus Christ has a tattoo!

Many Christian tattooers claim that when the Lord Jesus Christ returns in Revelation chapter 19 on a horse – He has a tattoo on his thigh!

Revelation 19:11-16 says:
11 And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and he that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he doth judge and make war.
12 His eyes were as a flame of fire, and on his head were many crowns; and he had a name written, that no man knew, but he himself.
13 And he was clothed with a vesture dipped in blood: and his name is called The Word of God.
14 And the armies which were in heaven followed him upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean.
15 And out of his mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it he should smite the nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of iron: and he treadeth the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God.
16 And he hath on his vesture and on his thigh a name written, KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS.

I know you don’t believe Christians can be that deceived so here’s the proof:

“And what of Christ Himself? Twice in chapter 19, our Lord is depicted as having a name written on Him (verses 12 and 16). As unthinkable as it may be for some to picture our Lord Jesus as having a tattoo, the author of the Apocalypse had no problem with it.”

Revelation 19:16 clearly is referring to the “vesture his thigh” – “. . .he hath on his vesture and on his thigh. . .”

Can anyone with any spiritual discernment (and a brain) really believe the Lord Jesus Christ has a tattoo? Isn’t it amazing how spiritually blind someone becomes when they began to justify their disobedience to the Word of God?

But what really is frightening about this gross, perverted, wicked interpretation of a “tattooed” Jesus Christ in Revelation 19:16 – it makes the Lord Jesus Christ a SINNER!

It means the Lord Jesus CLEARLY disobeyed Leviticus 19:28! It means the Lord Jesus Christ was not Holy! He was not the sinless, spotless Lamb of God. He clearly was disobedient and broke the Leviticual Law of Leviticus 19:28!

And if the Lord Jesus Christ committed sin – everyone is either in hell or on the way to hell. There is no salvation without a sinless, spotless Lamb of God. It took a sinless, perfect, Saviour to pay for your sins.

And thank God – despite what these spiritually sicko, perverted, Christian tattooers “preach” – The Lord Jesus Christ was without sin – and without “tattoo”!

18 Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers;
19 But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot:
1 Peter 1:18-19
For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.
Hebrews 4:15

For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.
2 Corinthians 5:21

21 For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps:
22 Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth:
1 Peter 2:21-22

4 Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law.
5 And ye know that he was manifested to take away our sins; and in him is no sin.
1 John 3:4-5


Most Christians, even the most carnal and backslidden, would never desecrate or defile the local church building. Even among most lost people there is a reverence and sacredness to the church building.

But. . . Did you know?

If you are truly born again the Holy Spirit of God dwells within in (John 14:17, Romans 8:9, 11) and your body is the temple of God. 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 makes this very clear.

19 What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?
20 For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.
1 Corinthians 6:19-20

And . . . Did you know?

The Lord warns several times of the seriousness of defiling the temple of God – your body! In 1 Corinthians 3, the Lord clearly and sternly warns against defiling your body – the temple of God. If any man defiles the temple of God – HIM SHALL GOD DESTROY!

16 Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?
17 If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are.
1 Corinthians 3:16-17

My Christian friend, you’d better watch what you do with your body. It is the temple of a Holy God. You’d better not defile it with pagan, devil-worshipping tattoos!

“. . . If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy. . .”

What God said – He meant!

God is not a man, that he should lie; neither the son of man, that he should repent: hath he said, and shall he not do it? or hath he spoken, and shall he not make it good?
Numbers 23:19

7 Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.
8 For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting.
Galatians 6:7-8

Do you really believe the Lord Jesus Christ is pleased with a Christian wearing a pagan tattoo? Do you honestly believe God’s perfect will is for a Christian, any Christian, to be “marked” with a demonic tattoo?

With the unbiased documentation and Bible we’ve given (and we could supply much, much more) there is no question to the pagan and devil-worshipping source of the tattoo. Every tattoo historian I’ve read, traces the root of the tattoo to religious paganism. Every one.

2 Corinthians 6:14-17 is another warning against the tattoo. Notice the warning against the “fellowshipping” and concord with Christ and Belial (the devil). Verse 16 is very interesting. . . As it relates the “fellowshipping” with your body – the temple of the living God.

2 Corinthians 6:14-17 reads:
14 Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?
15 And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel?
16 And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.
17 Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you,

I realize in writing this, a lot of Christians (or so-called Christians?) could care less what God says. They’re gonna do what they want to do – despite heaven or hell. But there are many Christians who want to serve God more than anything – with ever fiber of their soul. I’ve talked to many, many Christians who were thinking about getting a tattoo. But after showing them the satanic origin of the tattoo they realized a tattoo was not the will of God. And it was for those “good and faithful servants” of the Lord Jesus Christ that this was written for.

His lord said unto him, Well done, good and faithful servant; thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord.
Matthew 25:23

Friend, God loves you and desires more than anything you love and obey Him. He desires first of all obedience unto salvation by receiving the Lord Jesus Christ (John 1:12). And after salvation, His will for you is to serve and love Him with all you heart, body, mind and soul.

You won’t regret it!

It’ll be worth it one day!

If you are truly a Christian and still have doubts about whether the tattoo is the perfect will of God, go back through this article with an open Bible and an open hear. Prayerfully, look up the verses. And before you start, pray and ask the Holy Spirit to “guide you into all truth” (John 16:13).

17 Ye therefore, beloved, seeing ye know these things before, beware lest ye also, being led away with the error of the wicked, fall from your own stedfastness.
18 But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and for ever. Amen.
2 Peter 3:17-18###

Dr. Terry Watkins, ThD is the president of the online ministry website: Dial-the-Truth Ministries, based in Pinson, Alabama. Dial-the-Truth Ministries consist of a Phone Ministry, Printing Ministry, Witness Buttons, Internet Ministry and Evangelistic/Preaching ministry. Original Source of article can be found here For more information on Dial-the-Truth Ministries visit

One in Five U.S. Adults Now Has a Tattoo

Yet over two in five without a tattoo say adults with tattoos are less attractive

NEW YORK, N.Y. — Feb. 23, 2012 — There is a lot of culture and lore associated with tattoos from ancient art to modern expressionism and there are many reasons people choose to get, or not get, permanent body ink. A recent Harris Poll looks at the number of Americans who currently have tattoos, and what those tattoos may say about them.

These are some of the results of The Harris Poll of 2,016 adults surveyed online between January 16 and 23, 2012 by Harris Interactive ®

Currently one in five U.S. adults has at least one tattoo (21%) which is up from the 16% and 14% who reported having a tattoo when this question was asked in 2003 and 2008, respectively. Tattoos seem to be most prevalent in the West — 26% of adults in that region report having at least one — compared to fewer in the East (21%), Midwest (21%) and South (18%). Adults aged 30-39 are most likely to have a tattoo (38%) compared to both those younger (30% of those 25-29 and 22% of those 18-24) and older (27% of those 40-49, 11% of those 50-64 and just 5% of those 65 and older). Women are slightly more likely than men, for the first time since this question was first asked, to have a tattoo (now 23% versus 19%).

Among those with a tattoo, most have never regretted getting a tattoo (86%) and three in ten say it makes them feel more sexy (30%). One-quarter say having a tattoo makes them feel rebellious (25%), 21% say both it makes them feel attractive or strong, 16% say it makes them feel spiritual and fewer say it makes them feel more healthy (9%), intelligent (8%) or athletic (5%).

However, among those without tattoos the opinions differ:

At least two in five say that people with tattoos are less attractive (45%) or sexy (39%);
One-quarter say that people with tattoos are less intelligent (27%), healthy (25%) or spiritual (25%);
However, having a tattoo seems to make little difference in non-tattooed people’s perceptions regarding strength and athleticism (82% say it makes no difference); yet,
Half of those without a tattoo say people with tattoos are more rebellious (50%).
This idea connecting tattoos with rebelliousness is not new, however, it may be waning. In 2008 among all adults (whether or not they had a tattoo) almost three in ten said that people with tattoos are more likely to do something most people consider deviant (29%) while 2% said people with tattoos were less likely to do something deviant and 69% said it made no difference. Today, the number of people who say adults with tattoos are more likely to do something most people consider deviant has dropped to 24%, and the number of people who say it makes no difference has gone up, to 74%.

Looking at some other forms of body art or expression, currently 49% of U.S. adults have pierced ears, which is consistent with the 50% who reported having pierced ears in 2008. Although ear piercing is fairly common, other piercings are not: only 7% say they have a piercing elsewhere on their body and 4% report having a facial piercing not on the ear. Only 1% of U.S. adults say that they currently have a henna, or non-permanent, tattoo.

Although tattoos may be gaining popularity (or at least frequency) among U.S. adults, the majority think that one should be an adult before being able to get a tattoo — 84% of U.S. adults say that young people should be between 18 and 21 years of age before they are able to get a tattoo without parental permission. 8% think those 16 or 17 should be allowed to get tattoos and 6% say that the age limit should be 22 years or older.

So What?

Tattoos have long been a hobby for some, and with the recent proliferation of tattoo-related television shows, it seems interest in them may be broadening. Today 21% of U.S. adults report having a tattoo which is up from previous years. It seems that with the increasing number of adults with tattoos this permanent body art is becoming more accepted — fewer people think it is related to deviant behavior than before — yet among those without tattoos there are still several negative stigmas associated with having tattoos. It will be interesting to see how these trends evolve in the future — if more people continue to get tattoos will the negative connotations decline, or will the percentage of Americans with tattoos begin to stagnate or wane and the stigmas hold?

The Harris Poll® #22, February 23, 2012
By Samantha Braverman, Sr. Project Researcher, Harris Interactive

“How many tattoos do you currently have on your body?”
(People saying “one or more”)

Base:  All Adults

2003 2008 2012
% % %
All Adults 16 14 21
                East 14 12 21
                Midwest 14 10 21
                South 15 13 18
                West 20 20 26
                18 – 24 13 9 22
                25 – 29 36 32 30
                30 – 39 28 25 38
                40 – 49 14 12 27
                50 – 64 10 8 11
                65 + 7 9 5
                Male 16 15 19
                Female 15 13 23
                White 16 15 20
                Black 14 7 21
                Hispanic 18 15 30
Party I.D.
                Republican 14 13 17
                Democratic 18 15 22
                Independent 12 13 21

“Do you ever regret getting a tattoo?”

Base:  Currently Have a Tattoo

2003 2008 2012
% % %
Yes 17 16 14
No 83 84 86

Note: Percentages may not add to 100 due to rounding.

“Do you think people with tattoos are more or less likely to do something most people would consider deviant?”

Base:  All adults

2003 2008 2012
% % %
More likely 27 29 24
Less likely 2 2 2
No difference 71 69 74

Note: Percentages may not add to 100 due to rounding.

“Please complete the following sentence: ‘Compared to not having a tattoo…having a tattoo has made me feel…?'”

Base:  Currently Have a Tattoo

More Less No Difference
Sexy % 30 3 68
Rebellious % 25 3 72
Attractive % 21 5 74
Strong % 21 3 76
Spiritual % 16 3 82
Healthy % 9 3 88
Intelligent % 8 5 87
Athletic % 5 6 89

Note: Percentages may not add to 100 due to rounding.

“Please complete the following sentence: ‘Compared to not having a tattoo…having a tattoo has made me feel…?'”
Those saying more

Base:  Currently Have a Tattoo

2003 2008 2012
Sexy % 34 31 30
Rebellious % 29 36 25
Attractive % 26 19 21
Strong % 16 19 21
Spiritual % 20 13 16
Healthy % 4 4 9
Intelligent % 5 5 8
Athletic % 3 5 5

Note: Percentages may not add to 100 due to rounding.

“Please complete the following sentence: ‘Compared to people without tattoos, I think people with tattoos are…?'”

Base:  All Without Tattoos

More Less No Difference
Rebellious % 50 4 46
Strong % 8 10 82
Sexy % 5 39 56
Athletic % 5 13 82
Spiritual % 4 25 71
Attractive % 4 45 51
Intelligent % 2 27 71
Healthy % 1 25 74

Note: Percentages may not add to 100 due to rounding.

“Please complete the following sentence: ‘Compared to people without tattoos, I think people with tattoos are…?'”

Base:  All Without Tattoos

More Less
2003 2008 2012 2003 2008 2012
Rebellious % 57 54 50 2 3 4
Strong % 8 8 8 8 10 10
Sexy % 8 6 5 36 39 39
Athletic % 4 5 5 14 13 13
Spiritual % 3 5 4 29 25 25
Attractive % 4 4 4 42 47 45
Intelligent % * 1 2 31 27 27
Healthy % 1 2 1 21 25 25

Note: Percentages may not add to 100 due to rounding; * indicates less than .05%

“Do you have any of the following?”

Base:  All Adults

Have Do not have Decline to answer
Pierced ears % 49 49 2
A piercing on your body, but not on your face % 7 91 2
A piercing on your face, but not on your ears % 4 94 2
Henna tattoos, that is tattoos that are not permanent % 1 97 2

Note: Percentages may not add to 100 due to rounding.

“Do you have any of the following?”
Summary of those saying “have”

Base:  All Adults

2008 2012
Pierced ears % 50 49
A piercing on your body, but not on your face % 5 7
A piercing on your face, but not on your ears % 2 4
Henna tattoos, that is tattoos that are not permanent % 2 1

“At what age do you think young people should legally be allowed to get a tattoo without parental permission?”

Base:  All Adults

Age Total
1-10 % *
11-13 % *
14-15 % *
16-17 % 8
18-21 % 84
22+ % 6

Note: Percentages may not add to 100 due to rounding; * indicates less than .05%


This Harris Poll® was conducted online within the United States between January 16 and 23, 2012 among 2,016 adults (aged 18 and over). Figures for age, sex, race/ethnicity, education, region and household income were weighted where necessary to bring them into line with their actual proportions in the population. Propensity score weighting was also used to adjust for respondents’ propensity to be online.

All sample surveys and polls, whether or not they use probability sampling, are subject to multiple sources of error which are most often not possible to quantify or estimate, including sampling error, coverage error, error associated with nonresponse, error associated with question wording and response options, and post-survey weighting and adjustments. Therefore, Harris Interactive avoids the words “margin of error” as they are misleading. All that can be calculated are different possible sampling errors with different probabilities for pure, unweighted, random samples with 100% response rates. These are only theoretical because no published polls come close to this ideal.

Respondents for this survey were selected from among those who have agreed to participate in Harris Interactive surveys. The data have been weighted to reflect the composition of the adult population. Because the sample is based on those who agreed to participate in the Harris Interactive panel, no estimates of theoretical sampling error can be calculated.

These statements conform to the principles of disclosure of the National Council on Public Polls.

About Harris Interactive

Harris Interactive is one of the world’s leading custom market research firms, leveraging research, technology, and business acumen to transform relevant insight into actionable foresight. Known widely for the Harris Poll and for pioneering innovative research methodologies, Harris offers expertise in a wide range of industries including healthcare, technology, public affairs, energy, telecommunications, financial services, insurance, media, retail, restaurant, and consumer package goods. Serving clients in over 215 countries and territories through our North American and European offices and a network of independent market research firms, Harris specializes in delivering research solutions that help us — and our clients — stay ahead of what’s next. For more information, please visit

Press Contact:
Corporate Communications
Harris Interactive

The Harris Poll® #22, February 23, 2012
By Samantha Braverman, Sr. Project Researcher, Harris Interactive


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