Who can Remove a Tattoo in Illinois?

Photo of person getting tattoo on body


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Who can Remove a Tattoo in Illinois?

There are times when having a tattoo is no longer desirable. Under Illinois law, the body artist who applied the tattoo cannot remove it.

While some tattoos are removed for cosmetic reasons or personal reasons, tattoo removal can dramatically change lives.  A study conducted at West Virginia University found that ex-offenders without tattoos were able to avoid re-incarceration for an average of almost 3 1/2 years longer than ex-offenders with tattoos.

In Illinois, the only way to have a tattoo removed is by a licensed physician. The Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation (IDFPR) requires that anyone seeking a symbol removed must be examined by a physician who will determine the safest way to proceed.

Generally, tattoo removal lasers work by using high-intensity light. The light breaks down the ink, which is then dissolved and removed through the body’s immune system. Black ink is the easiest to remove since it absorbs more light than lighter color ink which may require other techniques. Light blue ink cannot be removed with a laser, and another treatment will be necessary. Green and yellow ink is also very difficult to remove and may require several procedures.

Tattoo removal, when done incorrectly, can result in chronic pain and scarring. The tattoo can also be hiding skin cancer, and if aggravated but left untreated, the result can be life-threatening.  Any tattoo artist, cosmetologist, or other licensed professional or unlicensed individual who ignores the IDFPR requirement to provide tattoo removal without physician supervision could be found guilty of “practicing medicine without a license.” They could also face up to five years in prison and fines up to $25,000.

Dermatologists are the physician specialty that generally use laser therapy to remove tattoos. Unfortunately, dermatologists are expensive, and there is a market for what might be called “underground” tattoo removal. While these people may feel they are helping lower-income clients who are unable to afford the high price of repeated visits to a dermatologist they are, in fact, breaking the law.

In Illinois, the dermatologist does not have to operate the actual laser. A trained nurse or other assistant in their office can use the laser to remove tattoos, as long as they are working under the supervision of the doctor.



Jordan Matyas

Jordan Matyas

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Jordan Matyas is a lawyer, lobbyist, and Founder of 1818 Legal, an Illinois professional licensing defense law firm he created in 2014. With more than 18 years of experience practicing law, he represents clients in a wide range of legal matters, including professional license defense, administrative law, land use and zoning, and state, local, and municipal law.

Jordan received his Juris Doctor from the University of Illinois — Chicago School of Law and is a member of the Illinois Bar Association.