Amherst Board of Health mulls update to body art regulations

file photo

file photo


Staff Writer

Published: 11-19-2023 2:40 PM

AMHERST — Tattoo and body art regulations, first adopted by the Board of Health in 2004 and last amended more than a decade ago, could be in for a series of revisions aimed at keeping them up to date and providing more flexibility for guest artists and apprentices.

The health board held a public hearing last week on changes it is considering, followed by a discussion by members. A vote on the revised regulations may take place in December.

Public Health Director Kiko Malin wrote in an email that the changes proposed are minor, coming about as a result of the Board of Health’s interest in reviewing all of the health regulations periodically to make sure they are up to date and relevant. The rules cover body piercing, tattooing, branding and scarification.

The proposed changes to the regulations would allow piercing of the genitalia and other sites, specifically restricting types of piercings that are considered to be of higher risk, add a temporary license to allow qualified guest artists to practice body art in Amherst for up to 30 days, and add apprentice licenses and define the prerequisites and apprenticeship training requirements.

Malin said that there was an inquiry from a local body art business about the licensing of guest artist and apprentices.

“The changes include allowing for an increased variety of piercing sites, to bring them into alignment with other municipalities across the state, the existing regulations were a bit conservative; adding a provision for guest artists and codification of apprentice programs; and updating the standards for autoclave use,” Malin wrote.

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Amherst first adopted regulations on Nov. 18, 2004, which have been amended by the health board in July 2006, May 2007 and, most recently, August 2012.

Stephen Lambert, owner of Wanderlust Tattoo, told the Board of Health that he is concerned about some of the prohibitions, including on tongue splitting, three-dimensional body art and cartilage modifications, all of which are legal in other cities and towns.

“We may have guest piercers that specialize in those things that would like to do them,” Lambert said.

Another concern for Lambert is the requirement in the regulations that multiple body art stations be separated by a divider or partition, as some tattoo and body art shops operate on an open-floor plan.

Amherst’s stringent regulations can make it harder to recruit new personnel to work at his shop, he said.

“I would like to set a precedent so that it’s easier for others to come into this town, and for businesses to flourish,” Lambert said.

Scott Merzbach can be reached at