Air Force Loosens Restrictions on Tattoos, Changes Medical Standards

The Air Force on Tuesday announced it is removing regulations on tattoos on airmen, and allowing tattoo sleeves and other large body markings. The new policy removes the “25 percent” rule, which prohibited tattoos that covered about one quarter of an exposed body part. However, tattoos on the head, neck, face, tongue, lips, and scalp are still prohibited. “We are opening up the aperture on certain medical accession criteria and tattoos while taking into account our needs for worldwide deployability and our commitment to the profession of arms,” Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James said in a news release. The new policy goes into effect on Feb. 1. In addition to the tattoo changes, the Air Force has updated medical accession standards to reflect higher requests for waivers for eczema, asthma, and ADHD. The changes streamline and loosen the waiver requirements for these conditions, including new tests for the history of asthma, loosened standards for ADHD, and more waivers for those with a “mild” form of eczema. The Air Force also changed regulations governing pre-accession marijuana use. The policy removes the service-prescribed numerical limitations on prior use of marijuana, while a medical diagnosis of substance-related disorders or addiction remains medically disqualifying. (Read the new policy.)