Let me begin with an anecdotal omission of potential bias. I am a heavily-tattooed professional who wore long sleeve button-ups and full-length pants to work for many years to hide my tattoos.

It was only recently in my career that I had a job with relaxed enough appearance standards that I was able to show my tattoos. It made me realize just how exhausting it was to have no autonomy in my appearance at work, where I spent most of my time. This prompted me to wonder why many, myself included, gave into this outdated idea of professionalism without question.

Tattoos are nothing new to humanity. According to researchers at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, some of the earliest tattoos can be traced back 4,000 years ago on female Egyptian mummies. However, an undeniable shift in how the Western world perceives tattoos and many other visible body modifications is only recent.

Whether the motivation is an adornment or deeply personal, tattoos have become an important component of self-expression in our culture. What we choose to wear, how we style our hair and how we alter our bodies is a way to communicate our identities with the outside world. Although tattoos are often met with celebration and acceptance in our peer groups, others may perceive them as anti-normative.

Interestingly, many tattooed individuals understand that they are likely to experience discrimination and misunderstanding by displaying visible tattoos. Yet, researchers have found that going against typical beauty standards and social norms about appearance strengthened one’s sense of self-identity. In glorious irony, this means that the many times my parents warned me of the social dangers of being tattooed only drove me to desire more tattoos, much like the rebellious act of men’s long hair in the 1960s.

Research completed last year by Micheal Tews, Kathryn Stafford and Ethan Kudler found that despite the waning social taboo of tattoos, employers still favored candidates with less or no visible tattoos. Some hiring managers seemed not to be conscious of this bias yet assigned perceptions of incompetence or unprofessionalism to tattooed candidates versus those without ink. Millennial hiring managers tended to be more receptive to tattoos than their older counterparts, likely due to the increased probability of having tattoos themselves.

In most studies conducted on tattoos in the workplace, it is essential to note that a tattoo’s effect may depend on contextual factors. The content and placement of the tattoo play a significant role in how it was perceived. For example, a swastika tattoo on the neck versus a rose on the inner wrist might tell a very different tale to an outside observer.

However, customers still tend to have a more adverse reaction to visible tattoos on employees no matter the placement or content, according to results of one 2016 study published in the “Journal of Retailing and Consumer Services.” Other than consumers favoring staff without tattoos, Tews, Stafford and Kudler also noted that other employees preferred coworkers without tattoos.

While it is not necessarily illegal to ban visible tattoos in the workplace, employers prohibiting them in their dress codes may limit their applicant pool. Pew Research Center reported that 38% of millennials have tattoos, and it is estimated that 45 million people in the U.S. workforce have at least one. By alienating nearly a quarter of the workforce, employers risk missing out on a wealth of untapped potential.

For the tattooed career seeker, it is difficult to predict the attitude or biases of an interviewer or hiring manager. They may judge tattoos, blondes or even the brand of shoes you are wearing. It is time to let go of antiquated social guidelines about tattoos in interviews and in the workplace in general.

If a potential employer cannot see past your tattoos or other body modifications, it is likely a good indicator that you might not find satisfaction working in that particular environment. In my experience, companies that over-focus on a dress code lose sight of genuine professionalism, talent and skill. Tattoos alone do not determine the attributes of a person; people do. Let’s work to embrace a more encompassing definition of professionalism that is more than skin deep.

CHELSEA SCHLARBAUM is an armature alienist extraordinaire with a bachelor’s degree in psychology with an emphasis on human motivation from the University of Arizona and is currently studying Industrial/Organizational Psychology at Grand Canyon University.