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Kentucky Officials Proposing Bizarre Ban On Tattooing Over Scars

Iuliia Isaieva/Getty Images

Body artists are baffled by a new law in Kentucky that seeks to make it illegal to use tattoos to hide scars.

The unusual provision is part of a broader effort to update the state's aging regulations on the tattoo industry, which have remained stagnant for more than a decade.

The state's Cabinet of Health & Family Services said in a statement last week that they are "open to hearing the public's thoughts on the proposed ban."

Regulations in this area have not been updated for about 15 years. The Department for Public Health (DPH) filed the proposed new regs this month. Public comments are being accepted through the end of May. A public hearing is also scheduled for May 28 at the Cabinet.

DPH will review and analyze all comments and then determine what changes, if any, need to be made to the regulations.

Tattoo artists are not happy, particularly because the law does not clearly define "scarred skin."

One tattoo artist, Draven Gayheart, told Mountain News that scores of clients over the years have depended upon tattoos to hide wounds from injury or surgery."

This is the only way for these people to move forward with their lives," said Draven Gayheart, who works at Lost Gypsy Tattoo. "Camouflage that constant reminder of what they've gone through."

One of the people Gayheart has helped was his own wife:

"My wife had a large portion of her bicep removed. She had a large scar in that area. She hid this scar for half of her life," he said. "It's been turned into something of beauty now."

Tommy Partin, an artist in Covington, is also baffled by ban.

He told Local 12 News:

"I'm not sure why they would even put that in there. It just, I can't think of any reason they would do that, not a legitimate one anyway. I've been doing this for 21 years, and I've been covering scars for a long time, and there's no problem with them whatsoever."
"Surgery scars. Scars from car wrecks. Self-harm scars where people severely hate on their body. Lots of things like that. You have to give a scar time to heal before you can go over it, but it will definitely cover it up pretty well."Similar stories emerged from Zoe's Tattoos and Piercings in Louisville. The owner, Alonzo Chappell, also lamented the ban as harmful to people seeking emotional closure."

Zoe's Tattoos and Piercings owner Alonzo Chappell said:

"It's really a healing process. I mean, a lot of people come to have closure on maybe a scar or some kind of burn."

On social media, complaints of government overreach are rumbling.

Why the state cares about the reasons people get tattoos is pretty perplexing:

And the government is not really providing an explanation, either.

Doug Hogan, a spokesperson with the Kentucky Department of Public Health, could not say why this proposal is even on the docket, as there is no medical evidence that tattoos are harmful to scarred skin.

Partin said that even though tattoos are not a perfect remedy for toning the areas around scars, clients nonetheless find the process to be soothing:

"It doesn't always get rid of it. You can always see the texture to it and stuff, but it helps them forget it's there or to at least take away from it. A lot of people have problems with scars to where they're just not happy with their lives and they're sick of looking at it, and it helps them move past all that."

Partin admits that some people's scars are so severe that tattoos cannot be drawn over them at all:

"If a scar is too bad to cover, we won't do it. We'll be like, 'We can't do that.' Or it will create more scar tissue.

However, if tattoos can start the healing process for some, why ban them?

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