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Kentucky proposes law to ban tattoos on scarred skin

The Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services filed a proposed law to ban tattoos on scars.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Tattoos have been helping breast cancer survivors cope with mastectomies and burn victims cover up scars, but a new proposal in Kentucky could change that.

The Cabinet for Health and Family Services filed a proposed law to ban tattoos on scarred skin. The proposal comes after health officials say the state's tattoo regulations have not been updated for 15 years.

“My body is considered my canvas,” Jennifer Wood of Louisville said. 

Wood approached tattoo artist and owner of The Hornet’s Nest Elite Art Studio, Billy Noel, who covered her stretch marks with an image of Medusa.

“He put medusa all over down my side,” Wood said. “I never wanted to get rid of my stretch marks, but I wanted to incorporate them into my body in a way that I would enjoy looking at them.”

The department of public health [DPH] would not give a reason for the ban.

“Who is someone else to tell us what we can do with our scars?" Wood said.

Noel has covered scars with tattoos for 15 to 20 years. He gets calls from people across the state, with most of his clients sent to him and recommended by medical doctors.

“We turn [scars] into butterflies or dragonflies so that we can mask, hide, cover or create something beautiful for you to wear for the rest of your life," Noel said, who ensured the procedure is performed in a careful way.

“I think [all tattoo artists] take enough time to sit back and kind of evaluate the situation to see if that level of tissue is ready to be worked on or not," Noel said. "if it's not, we then ask them to wait and give it a proper time for that skin or tissue to rejuvenate itself,” Noel said.

Heather Zeckner of Louisville is a breast cancer survivor.

"I had to have a left mastectomy,” Zeckner said who approached Noel to tattoo an image of her favorite childhood movie over her scar. “When I look in the mirror in the morning, I don't see this huge scar, I see a beautiful picture that makes me feel pretty and I won't remember the cancer.”

Noel said making that possible for survivors, burn victims and others with scarred skin is a duty no one should take away.

“You can either wear the ugliness or you can have a new beginning and we're trying to give everybody that new beginning,” Noel said.

DPH is accepting public comments through the end of May. A public hearing is 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. The preferred way to submit public comments is to email them to: CHFSregs@ky.gov.

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