Naperville eases tattoo regulations, so doctor no longer required
A Naperville city code so stringent it effectively prevented any tattoo studios from operating in town has been lifted.
Now tattoo businesses and salons offering a similar cosmetic service called microblading can open in Naperville as long as they follow state health and sanitation codes and city zoning regulations.
The old requirement that dissuaded tattoo businesses said that in order to give a tattoo, a person must be a physician or doctor of osteopathy. The city council voted to remove that requirement Tuesday.
"Society has changed with respect to tattooing, and they're far more mainstream," council member Kevin Coyne said. "I don't have any reservations about this."
The city previously required all tattoos to be given by physicians or doctors of osteopathy "to prevent the spread of communicable diseases," according to a memo from the legal department. But now, officials decided they're comfortable with a state registration process for tattooing businesses that imposes rules about disinfection, sterilization and sanitation.
"I don't think we need to regulate what kind of businesses come in here when they are not a threat to public safety or public health in some way," council member Theresa Sullivan said.
The city was prompted to reconsider its code on tattooing because of a request to allow microblading. Because it is defined as "new form of permanent cosmetic that uses the principles of tattooing to place permanent ink under the skin to create the likeness of hair," microblading was not allowed unless conducted by a physician or doctor of osteopathy.
In 2016, the city received a similar request to allow microblading, but it took no action.
This time, however, even the two council members who voted against the change to more easily allow tattooing said they support the availability of microblading. The service often is used by people with hair loss because of medications or medical conditions.
"I do believe there is a place for microblading," council member Patty Gustin said, "particularly in the way in which it helps people that are going through cancer treatments."
Council member Benny White joined Gustin in voting against the code update but said he also favored allowing microblading. His opposition to the change had more to do with where tattoo businesses are likely to open based on zoning regulations: Ogden Avenue. Through sign code updates, streetscape improvements and other measures, the city has been working to enliven the East Ogden corridor for years.
"It doesn't send the right message to put tattoo parlors on Ogden if we're trying to clean the place up," White said.
But Sullivan said thinking of tattoo studios on Ogden as the "boogeyman" is beside the point of whether the businesses should be allowed. And Coyne said he'd rather see new tattoo businesses on Ogden than vacancies.
City Attorney Mike DiSanto warned council members it's difficult legally to distinguish between tattooing and microblading. So if the city wanted to allow one and not the other, it could be open to lawsuits.
"We'd have to probably do more research to find a rational basis to distinguish between them," DiSanto said.
The council's 6-2 vote to allow both microblading and tattooing without the doctor requirement, however, made that research unnecessary.
The vote came with council member John Krummen absent.