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The Law Relating to Body Piercing and Tattoos

By: Sarah Clark (ILEX) - Updated: 27 Nov 2017 | comments*Discuss
 
Law Enforcement Health Safety Local

Having a tattoo or a body piercing is a big decision, and in a lot of cases, a permanent one. Until recently, the laws applying to tattoos and body piercing were sketchy to say the least, and it could be hard to tell who was reputable and who to avoid.

What Laws Apply to Body Art?

The main areas of law that relate to body piercing and tattoos cover the health, safety and licensing of any premises that carries out 'cosmetic' skin piercing and permanent tattooing. These laws are:

  • The Health and Safety at Work etc Act (HSWA,1974)
  • The Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1982 ( recently amended by the Local Government Act 2003)
  • Laws relating to Age and consent
  • The Tattooing of Minors Act 1969
  • Assault implications
  • The Prohibition of Female Circumcision Act (1985)
  • Anaesthetics - The Medicines Act (1968
  • Legal exemptions affecting some special treatments.

Who has to be Registered?

All businesses that carry out ear piercing and permanent tattooing must be registered under the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, and since 2004, local authorities also regulate salons and other businesses that carry out body piercing, and semi-permanent skin-colouring techniques such as micropigmentation, semi-permanent make-up or temporary tattoo services.Local authorities have the powers to inspect any premises that carry out piercing or tattooing, and make sure that they are observing local byelaws that relate to the hygiene of their premises, staff and equipment.

How Old Do I Have to Be for Piercing?

There is no legal age of consent for body piercing, and so it's legal for someone under the age of 18 to have a piercing as long as they have consented to it. Children under the age of 16 can't legally consent to a genital (or in the case of girls, nipple) piercing, as it's considered to be indecent assault. There are no plans to introduce an age of consent for body piercing in any areas other than the genitals, although some local authorities have introduced recommendations about the ages at which a person can have specific body piercings.

How Old Do I Have to be for a Tattoo?

The Tattooing of Minors Act 1969 makes it illegal for anyone to tattoo you if you are under the age of 18 - although the offence is with the person who carries out the procedure, rather than the person who asks for the tattoo. New guidelines suggest that a tattoo artist should ask to see proof of age and record this before agreeing to tattoo you.

What Must I be Asked?

Before a piercing or tattoo is carried out, the studio should, by law, ask some important health questions, as well as making sure you have all the appropriate aftercare advice.

They should ask you about any allergies or health problems that may affect your tattoo or piercing, and they are also obliged to keep detailed records of this consultation for up to two years. This protects you as a client, as it makes sure that the piercer or tattoo artist knows in advance whether there are any issues that could lead to complications - or even be dangerous for you.

Aftercare Advice?

After you've been pierced, or your tattoo is complete, you should be given specific advice about what to expect, and how to look after your new artwork.

Local authorities will expect businesses to give out basic advice, mostly relating to hygiene, for example the time you can expect to wait before the wound is fully healed, how to keep the piercing or tattoo clean and dry and avoiding infection.

The laws have been tightened up considerably in recent years, following horror stories about underage tattoos and body piercing that has led to septicaemia. At least with the stricter regulations, you should be assured that anywhere you visit has been registered with and inspected by health and safety officers. If they aren't registered - leave well alone.

If you do decide to have a piercing or tattoo make sure you find a Reputable Tattoo Parlour.

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[Add a Comment]
Where im from, you have to have parental consent to get a piercing if you are under 16, but I was wondering, if you have a letter with your parents signature that your parents have signed, does that count as parental consent, or does a parent actually need to be present?
Wondering? - 27-Nov-17 @ 5:32 PM
Not happy!! - Your Question:
My daughter has got a tattoo at the age of 17. I found out that the tattooist did not ask for ID. Is there anything I can do about this??

Our Response:
Bring it to the attention of your local council. This should at least ensure the tattoo artist, asks for ID in the future.
BeautyTreatmentExpert - 14-Nov-17 @ 12:07 PM
My daughter has got a tattoo at the age of 17. I found out that the tattooist did not ask for ID. Is there anything I can do about this??
Not happy!! - 12-Nov-17 @ 2:09 PM
George - Your Question:
Is it legal for a person to do mobile body piercing? I thought you'd only be allowed to do so in a shop or parlour. And if not can it be reported?

Our Response:
One would still need a licence from the council in the area in which one was operating.
BeautyTreatmentExpert - 6-Nov-17 @ 2:27 PM
Is it legal for a person to do mobile body piercing? I thought you'd only be allowed to do so in a shop or parlour. And if not can it be reported?
George - 5-Nov-17 @ 5:03 PM
joe - Your Question:
Can a 11 year old get there bellybutton peirced?

Our Response:
BeautyTreatmentExpert - 3-Nov-17 @ 3:44 PM
can a 11 year old get there bellybutton peirced?
joe - 3-Nov-17 @ 3:37 PM
Nay- Your Question:
I’m 16 I was wondering if I could get my nipples pierced without my plarenits concent?

Our Response:
Many local authorities specify an age of 18 as a minimum age for nipple piercing and even where local authorities don't specify, at 16it's unlikely you will find a reputable piercing salon who will do this without your parent's consent.
BeautyTreatmentExpert - 23-Oct-17 @ 3:02 PM
Hannah_smith11 - Your Question:
Hi, I am 12 years old, is it legal for me to get a tounge and nose piercing with a parents pressence and consent?

Our Response:
As the article says: There is no legal age of consent for body piercing, and so it's legal for someone under the age of 18 to have a piercing as long as they have consented to it. Children under the age of 16 can't legally consent to a genital (or in the case of girls, nipple) piercing, as it's considered to be indecent assault. Some local councils have their own rules, so you should check with salons in your area. Note that most schools do not accept pupils with these kinds of piercings.
BeautyTreatmentExpert - 20-Oct-17 @ 3:19 PM
I’m 16 I was wondering if I could get my nipples pierced without my plarenits concent?
Nay - 20-Oct-17 @ 2:33 AM
Hi, I am 12 years old, is it legal for me to get a tounge and nose piercing with a parents pressence and consent?
Hannah_smith11 - 18-Oct-17 @ 3:20 PM
Annabelle- Your Question:
Hi I'm 15 and I was wondering if I could get a belly button piercing without parental consent?

Our Response:
"There is no legal age of consent for body piercing, and so it's legal for someone under the age of 18 to have a piercing as long as they have consented to it. Children under the age of 16 can't legally consent to a genital (or in the case of girls, nipple) piercing, as it's considered to be indecent assault...some local authorities have introduced recommendations about the ages at which a person can have specific body piercings."
BeautyTreatmentExpert - 11-Oct-17 @ 10:29 AM
Hi I'm 15 and i was wondering if I could get a belly button piercing without parental consent?
Annabelle - 9-Oct-17 @ 6:07 PM
Ruben - Your Question:
Hi im 16 and I want to get a tattoo is it illigal to get a tatto under the age of 18 even with the consent of a parent?

Our Response:
"The Tattooing of Minors Act 1969 makes it illegal for anyone to tattoo you if you are under the age of 18"
BeautyTreatmentExpert - 3-Oct-17 @ 10:16 AM
Hi im 16 and i want to get a tattoo is it illigal to get a tatto under the age of 18 even with the consent of a parent?
Ruben - 30-Sep-17 @ 2:30 PM
Keiraxo - Your Question:
Hi I’m 13 and I want my tongue done am I old enougj

Our Response:
There’s no age limit for tongue piercing in the UK, but some piercing places will have their own guidelines and might refuse to pierce you if they feel you’re too young.
BeautyTreatmentExpert - 29-Sep-17 @ 10:45 AM
FreyaJ - Your Question:
My 29 year old daughter has her tongue pierced without my consent what do I do?

Our Response:
You can't do anything about this. She is past the age of consent.
BeautyTreatmentExpert - 27-Sep-17 @ 2:50 PM
Hi I’m 13 and I want my tongue done am I old enougj
Keiraxo - 27-Sep-17 @ 12:56 PM
My 29 year old daughter has her tongue pierced without my consent what do I do?
FreyaJ - 26-Sep-17 @ 4:17 AM
Gen - Your Question:
I'm 17 and have my nose pierced. My dad is trying to make me take it out. Legally do I have to?

Our Response:
Not legally no. If you live with your parents and this is one of their strict (house) rules, then maybe it might be better to remove it to appease him. Maybe once it's healed (if it hasn't already), you could agree to only wear to nights out or when you're with friends etc?
BeautyTreatmentExpert - 12-Sep-17 @ 12:34 PM
Monse - Your Question:
Is their a certain age to get your bellybutton pierced?

Our Response:
There's no real age limit for piercings but certain piercings cannot be carried out on those under 16 (18 in some locations). Please see the response to ShannonB below.
BeautyTreatmentExpert - 12-Sep-17 @ 11:16 AM
Shannonb - Your Question:
Hi im 16 and my parents don't agree with me having my belly button pierced am I allowed to have it done without their consent?

Our Response:
Check with your local authority - to see what their local licensing laws are on navel piercing.
BeautyTreatmentExpert - 11-Sep-17 @ 11:45 AM
I'm 17 and have my nose pierced. My dad is trying to make me take it out. Legally do I have to?
Gen - 11-Sep-17 @ 9:24 AM
Is their a certain age to get your bellybutton pierced?
Monse - 10-Sep-17 @ 2:54 PM
Hi im 16 and my parents don't agree with me having my belly button pierced am i allowed to have it done without their consent?
Shannonb - 8-Sep-17 @ 9:09 PM
Rosie1 - Your Question:
My daughter 15 has had her nipples pierced without my consent.what can I do?

Our Response:
You can take action against the salon that undertook the piercing. Make a complaint firstly with your local authority which is the licensing body. If you want to take private legal action, you might be better seeking professionla legal advice.
BeautyTreatmentExpert - 4-Sep-17 @ 2:48 PM
My daughter 15 has had her nipples pierced without my consent ..what can I do?
Rosie1 - 29-Aug-17 @ 3:20 PM
Brubru - Your Question:
Can I tattoo in the UK if I have at italian licence? Thank you!

Our Response:
You need to get a UK licence from the council in the area in which you live/will be operating. More details are here
BeautyTreatmentExpert - 17-Aug-17 @ 11:27 AM
Can I tattoo in the UK if I have at italian licence? Thank you!
Brubru - 15-Aug-17 @ 2:03 PM
Fox - Your Question:
Hello, I was wondering if I was 16 and went with a parent to get a tattoo is that exceptable. My mum said it is but if it's illegal I guess not

Our Response:
No it's illegal, you will need to wait until you're 18.
BeautyTreatmentExpert - 15-Aug-17 @ 1:56 PM
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