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The Law Relating to Body Piercing and Tattoos

By: Sarah Clark (ILEX) - Updated: 11 Nov 2018 | 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]
I’m 13 in a 4 month and I would like to get my toung periced could I get it done if i had consent and I live in the UK
Rubster - 11-Nov-18 @ 12:39 AM
I am seventeen years old and would like to have my nipples pierced. I have told my mother this and she wants nothing to do with it, is there any law that could prevent me from doing this behind her back?
Jerk - 22-Oct-18 @ 9:34 PM
I'm 13 and I would like a lip piercing but I highly doubt my parents would approve. If I get it done then can they do anything about it??
H.clerc - 13-Oct-18 @ 10:29 PM
This is really a serious matter. Body piercing should only be done by professionals. If piercing specialist is negligent and fails in their duty to care for their clients health and wellbeing, then you may be able to claim compensation for a body piercing accident.
shireslaw - 1-Oct-18 @ 7:32 PM
My 15 year old got two tattoos done on holiday in Turkey, nothing I can do as its done, can I get in trouble with social services because of his age. You can get them done at 14 "out there.
Holly - 24-Aug-18 @ 1:32 PM
My 13yr old had her nose pierced yesterday I’m fuming as I thought the law states need a parent consent form ,have they heard of maybe forgery where you’re child has pretended is it worth going back to say I’m disappointed ? Also We have tried to take the stud out and can’t
Birdy - 15-Aug-18 @ 8:44 AM
was it against the law to have tatoo on hands .neck face in the 60s?
Stotty - 15-Aug-18 @ 6:43 AM
em - Your Question:
I’m 16 and want my septum pierced. even though my parents aren’t for it. would I be able to go into a piercers and get it done? and if I was to take my mother what proof and questions would they ask of her? as we have different surnames on most forms of identification so I was just wondering how that could effect me.

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.
BeautyTreatmentExpert - 6-Aug-18 @ 11:46 AM
i’m 16 and want my septum pierced. even though my parents aren’t for it. would i be able to go into a piercers and get it done? and if i was to take my mother what proof and questions would they ask of her? as we have different surnames on most forms of identification so i was just wondering how that could effect me.
em - 3-Aug-18 @ 10:03 PM
I'm 13 and I want to get a tongue piercing, can I get it with parental consent?
Angelica - 18-Jul-18 @ 8:10 PM
Hey, I’m 14 and I want to get my nipples pierced, I have my mother’s permission but I was wondering if I could go in to get them done without her ?
Lupe - 12-Jul-18 @ 8:27 AM
So say you are 16 and your parents giveconsent to get your nipples Pericles is it still illegal
Lindsey Steele - 10-Jul-18 @ 8:36 AM
I'm 17 years old and was wondering once I turn 18 (February) would I be able to get my nipples pierced?
Freckles - 6-Jul-18 @ 9:38 PM
hamishette - Your Question:
My son will be 16 when we go on holiday to America and he is wanting a tattoo for his birthday, which is legal in the state we are going to with our consent. Can I ask what would happen when we came home with it being illegal in the UK would we be prosecuted?

Our Response:
The offence is with the person who carries out the procedure, rather than the person who asks for the tattoo so it's unlikely you would be prosecuted for this.
BeautyTreatmentExpert - 27-Jun-18 @ 11:50 AM
My son will be 16 when we go on holiday to America and he is wanting a tattoo for his birthday, which is legal in the state we are going to with our consent.Can I ask what would happen when we came home with it being illegal in the UK would we be prosecuted?
hamishette - 26-Jun-18 @ 2:40 PM
Hi I’m from uk and was wondering at what age can I have a needled non permanent tattoo
Bigboi - 17-Jun-18 @ 11:44 PM
Ella - Your Question:
I’m 16 and want a tattoo and I have my parents consent, will a tattoo shop do it if I go in with my mom??

Our Response:
No - The Tattooing of Minors Act 1969 makes it illegal for anyone to tattoo you if you are under the age of 18 - guidelines suggest that a tattoo artist should ask to see proof of age and record this before agreeing to tattoo you.
BeautyTreatmentExpert - 1-Jun-18 @ 2:04 PM
I’m 15 and I want to get a nipple piercing and my mom says that I can, but I’m don’t sure if it would be legal
Mae - 1-Jun-18 @ 12:20 AM
I’m 16 and want a tattoo and I have my parents consent, will a tattoo shop do it if I go in with my mom??
Ella - 31-May-18 @ 11:29 AM
Hey, I’m 14 and I want to get my ears pierced (standard lobes) I have my parents permission, but would rather go and do it with my friends around than my parents, is it legal for the piercer to Pierce them. Also, is it best to go to a tattoo/piercer or Claire’s to get them done?
Generic user1234 - 30-May-18 @ 8:00 PM
Hi I’m turning 16 in september and I want to get a tattoo in november for my nanas 1 year anniversary and I have parental consent is this ok
Poppy - 24-May-18 @ 5:14 AM
ant - Your Question:
My daughter of 16 has just had a tattoo done, her mum said it was ok, but against my wishes is this still against the law and can I report the shop

Our Response:
Yes, the Tattooing of Minors Act 1969 makes it illegal for anyone to tattoo you if you are under the age of 18. The offencelies with the person who carries out the procedure. The mother may have provided fraudulent ID so you'll need to check this out.
BeautyTreatmentExpert - 18-May-18 @ 12:55 PM
my daughter of 16 has just had a tattoo done, her mum said it was ok, but against my wishes is this still against the law and can i report the shop
ant - 17-May-18 @ 1:09 PM
yaz - Your Question:
Hello I'm 18 yet have no ID. if I'm accompanied by someone over 18 can I get nipple piercings ?? or tongue piercings ?? thank you

Our Response:
No you will be asked for ID of your own. Anything with a date of birth and photo on it should be accepted as proof of ID. A railcard or provisional driving licence etc?
BeautyTreatmentExpert - 15-May-18 @ 3:40 PM
hello I'm 18 yet have no ID. if I'm accompanied by someone over 18 can i get nipple piercings ?? or tongue piercings ?? thank you
yaz - 12-May-18 @ 7:38 PM
Hi I'm 16 and 10 month's I don't live with any parent or gradian. Can I get my belly pierced without parent consent or without a parent been present. Thanks
Dione - 26-Apr-18 @ 8:58 AM
Hey I’m 16 and I’m turning 17 I’m in June, I really want my nipples doing if my parents would give consent could the Piercers do it? Thanks
Me - 22-Apr-18 @ 9:15 PM
Hi Can a person aged 17 in Scotland accompany a person getting a tattoo and be in the room while the person gets it done
Lolli - 15-Apr-18 @ 6:16 PM
Jessica - Your Question:
Hi, I’m 12 and I want to get my nose and septum pierced in the USA and I don’t know if I need permission from my parents or I need to be at least 14.

Our Response:
Sorry, our site is UK based, we don't know what the regulations are in the USA.
BeautyTreatmentExpert - 10-Apr-18 @ 3:31 PM
Hi, I’m 12 and I want to get my nose and septum pierced in the USA and I don’t know if I need permission from my parents or I need to be at least 14.
Jessica - 10-Apr-18 @ 1:25 AM
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