Think before you ink: Career impact of tattoos and body piercings

Tattoos and body piercings are popular today and normal with entertainers and professional athletes. They are all too familiar in the millennial generation, and more and more, we see parents getting tattoos and body piercings.

Some figures show roughly 14 percent of the population, or 45 million people in America, have at least one tattoo.

Many view a tattoos and body piercing as a form of art and expression of their creativity. But visible tattoos and body piercings can negatively impact employment opportunities.

For decades people have had negative perceptions of people with tattoos. This may not be fair, but perceptions can affect reality.

According to a 2011 study of hiring managers, “employers still view visible tattoos negatively with respect to employment in the food service industry.” One study claimed that 73 percent of people they spoke with would hire staff that had visible tattoos, but opinions are real and cannot be overlooked.

Khrysi Linville understands the impact of perceptions all too well. A graduate of Lexington Healing Arts Academy and a board certified personal trainer at the Paris-Bourbon County YMCA, she has had visible tattoos for more than four years.

She said, “I have come to find that people sometimes assume I am a wild and irresponsible person.”

Her tattoos were inspired by her son, one was done for family, and two others were just things she liked.

Linville said while working in an earlier job as a nurse assistant at Johnson Mathers Nursing Home, “their policy was no tattoos, so I had to wear long sleeves all the time.”

If you decide to get a tattoo removed, it’s possible, but not easy.

“Laser tattoo removal implies bandages, oozing of the skin, hiding from sun exposure, and refraining from certain sports and activities,” according to Tania Barbe, founder of Bad Ink Be Gone, and author of “Zap Me Up! – Your Guide to Laser Tattoo Removal.” I’m sure that these factors could actually deter someone from wanting to remove a visible tattoo. If not, consider that the average laser tattoo removal procedures can range from $200 to $500 per treatment session according to, which provides a network of healthcare professionals to clients. Since this procedure can take several treatments to complete, the total cost could be as little as $1,000 or as high as $10,000.

“It’s about three times more painful as getting the tattoo originally,” said Barbe, who has had the procedure.

Another factor is the employment cost that comes with a choice to tattoo. Wilhemina Y. Boyd, retired executive director of civic facilities for the convention center, exhibit halls, arena, and performing arts center in Roanoke, Va., has had to convey company policy on tattoos and piercings to staff and potential hires.

“Prospective hires were given the option of removing nose, tongue, or lip piercings and covering tattoos or risk not being hired or retained,” she said. She said tattoos and piercings can be a liability for both the employee and company.

“We were a revenue-generating operation that depended on events from major business groups, religious organizations, as well as entertainment artists,” Boyd said.

“The good news is that more and more employers are becoming tolerant to visible tattoos, especially in customer-facing jobs where tattoos fit right into the ‘trendy’ environment — coffee barista, online marketers, bartenders, etc.,” Barbe said.

If you decide to get a tattoo or piercing, educate yourself on the health pros and cons by checking with your local health department. Also, take time to check the career drawbacks of having a tattoo or body piercings should you later choose a profession that frowns on them. Remember tattoos are meant to be permanent.

Lenroy Jones has dedicated his life to coaching and supporting career seekers. Join him CareerDude, Linkedin or Twitter @CareerDudeTweet.