Inked: Tattoos in the Workplace

Are tattoos more accepted in today’s workplace? As members of the beauty industry, do you think it’s more accepted than in corporate America? We asked nail techs what they thought about visible tattoos at work and most of you told us it should be no big deal, but there seems to still be some stereotyping that comes along with that skin ink.

According to U.S. News & World Report, tattooing has become one of America’s fastest-growing categories of retail business over the last 10 years. There are now an estimated 15,000 tattoo studios in operation. And by best estimates of what I could find online, approximately 15% of Americans have at least one tattoo. In 2010, according to the Pew Research Center, it was noted that 39% of millennials (those born after 1980) have at least one tattoo. (At NAILS, four out of 12 of us have tattoos. I have several visible tattoos myself.)

We wanted to see what nail techs thought of tattoos in the workplace. We asked our Facebook and Twitter followers to chime in. Also check out our nail-related tattoo gallery here.

“I have a lot of tattoos and have never had a problem with clients and how they feel about them. As a matter of fact the first thing they usually do is compliment my tattoos and get on the subject of getting one or showing me their own. It’s definitely a good ice breaker. I think being in the beauty industry, keeping up with the trends, and being expected to be creative helps people not judge us as much as they would on the street. I think tattoos are more accepted these days than before. All in all, I think people are looking at the whole package, for instance the way you carry yourself, your clothes, makeup, hair, and most importantly your attitude. If you can pass that personal test with clients, the tattoos are just an added bonus and conversation piece.”

— Dianna Medeiros, Woodbury Heights, N.J.

“I know firsthand how it is to be turned away for having tattoos and piercings. It had to come down to me coming up with the money to booth rent at a salon studio in order to do nails. There are so many people who are close-minded about the whole thing. I have to cover up what I can in order to get new clients, then slowly start to show my tattoos so they don’t judge me right of the bat. I have a noticeable chest tattoo and almost a complete arm covered in tattoos. All of my tattoos are non-offensive and are (in my opinion) tasteful. I feel like cosmetologists can get away with tattoos more than nail techs or estheticians. I have never gone into a salon where the nail tech or esthetician had tattoos like the cosmetologists do.

A lot of people, especially the older generation, do not accept them. My generation has a lot more people getting tattooed than ever before. I try to market to that generation. But I hate that salons won’t even give me a chance to show what I know and the talent I can offer. I am always smiling, in a good mood, always dressing appropriately, and I’m very reliable. But I still get judged and turned down for the job due to my tattoos. I actually had one salon tell me that if I ever decide to get them removed they would be glad to hire me. Yet they had a cosmetologist with full-sleeve tattoos. I think people need to stop judging a book by its cover and start looking at the credentials and how the person is in their heart. But we live in a society that is constantly judging others by the way they look.”

— Kendra Budjenska, Nailz by Kendra, Tempe, Ariz.

“This story is particularly interesting to me. In the spring of 2010, I got my first two tattoos at the age of 35. I got mine after coming out of an abusive marriage. One larger one on my shoulder is my reminder of the strength I had to get out with the unspoken encouragement of my teenage daughter. The second is my maiden name on my neck — Love — as a reminder of the good wholesome home I came from.

I am re-entering the beauty industry after about six years of being out of it. My larger shoulder tattoo can be covered for the most part and the smaller one on my neck is sometimes covered depending on what shirt I wear. When I first got my tattoos I was concerned about the stigma that would go along with having them. However I have found tattoos are far more accepted today.

I still do not believe that having your entire body marked up in the workplace is acceptable (my opinion only) but I do believe that tasteful tattoos that can be covered if needed are completely acceptable. We live in a world where stereotypes are becoming a thing of the past and acceptance is encouraged. We are all individuals with a very personal right to express ourselves. I feel that tattoos are simply a permanent expression of one’s individuality. I personally don’t try to cover my tattoos. I’ve had older women comment on how pretty they are. I am a professional woman and I conduct myself in a professional manner. My tattoos do not affect how I interact with people, my clients, my family, or my friends.”

— Tara Love, La Sage, Battle Mountain, Nev.

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