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The Law Relating to Body Piercing and Tattoos

By: Sarah Clark (ILEX) - Updated: 16 Jan 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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Share Your Story, Join the Discussion or Seek Advice..
[Add a Comment]
how old do you have to be to get your belly button pierced with ID but without parental permission
georgia - 16-Jan-17 @ 7:48 PM
Would a 16 year old be able to get septum pierced with passport Id without parents permission?
Olivie01 - 15-Jan-17 @ 10:48 PM
why do you have to be 16 to get a nose piercing
crmoa - 15-Jan-17 @ 8:56 PM
Char - Your Question:
I'm 16 this year & on my 16th birthday I want my first tattoo but only a small one though. Would I be able to get one done with parents their & with their consent.

Our Response:
No, it's illegal to tattoo anyone under 18
BeautyTreatmentExpert - 9-Jan-17 @ 11:58 AM
I'm 16 this year & on my 16th birthday i want my first tattoo but only a small one though. Would I be able to get one done with parents their & with theirconsent.
Char - 7-Jan-17 @ 12:00 PM
Raya - Your Question:
Is it possible to get a tattoo at the age of 16 with a parents permission or if a parent is present? Or can you get a tattoo as long as a relative over 18 is with you?

Our Response:
No. It's illegal for to tattoo anyone under 18.
BeautyTreatmentExpert - 6-Jan-17 @ 2:14 PM
Is it possible to get a tattoo at the age of 16 with a parents permission or if a parent is present? Or can you get a tattoo as long as a relative over 18 is with you?
Raya - 5-Jan-17 @ 7:30 PM
Is it illegal if a parent agrees to get a tattoo at 12
Univorn - 2-Jan-17 @ 11:16 PM
I'm 17and I have one tattoo. I'm traveling with my mom to London soon and we would like to get matching tattoos while we are there. Would there be any possibilitys to get them done at 17 in uk with parental permission.
Stella - 29-Dec-16 @ 8:19 PM
I've heard that it is ok for a 16 year old to get a tattoo with parental permission, is this true?
Ant - 24-Dec-16 @ 9:32 PM
Milliemoo- Your Question:
I'm 16 would I be able to get my nipple pierced with my passport for ID

Our Response:
You need to check with your local authority to see what regulations piercers in your area should adhere to. It can be considered an offence to perform a nipple piercing on someone under 18.
BeautyTreatmentExpert - 22-Dec-16 @ 11:04 AM
I'm 16 would I be able to get my nipple pierced with my passport for ID
Milliemoo - 21-Dec-16 @ 12:21 AM
Isabelle - Your Question:
I am 12 can I get a nose piercing if a parent is there?

Our Response:
There is no minimum age for piercing (with the exception of genital piercings). Some salons and local authorities impose their own minimum ages though.
BeautyTreatmentExpert - 20-Dec-16 @ 2:39 PM
I am 12 can I get a nose piercing if a parent is there?
Isabelle - 19-Dec-16 @ 6:41 PM
Far - Your Question:
I'm 15 going to be 16 in a month and I want to get an industrial piercing do I have to take my perants with me or can I go with a friend

Our Response:
In general the only rules surronding piercing are that it is illegal for children under 16 to consent to a genital piercing. So an industrial piercing would be allowed, but many salons would require parental consent before going ahead.
BeautyTreatmentExpert - 16-Dec-16 @ 12:04 PM
Lisa - Your Question:
I'm 15 and I was wondering if it's illegal to tatto my self safely with tatto ink and parental permission. I already have a tatto so would I be violating the law (I'm in the uk)

Our Response:
It's not illegal to tattoo yourself but most professional tattoo artists would advise against this.
BeautyTreatmentExpert - 16-Dec-16 @ 10:57 AM
I'm 15 going to be 16 in a month and I want to get an industrial piercing do I have to take my perants with me or can I go with a friend
Far - 15-Dec-16 @ 4:52 PM
I'm 15 and I was wondering if it's illegal to tatto my self safely with tatto ink and parental permission. I already have a tatto so would I be violating the law (I'm in the uk)
Lisa - 15-Dec-16 @ 8:45 AM
I'm 11can I get my belly button pierced if my parent is there
Lissy - 2-Dec-16 @ 8:46 PM
yllovllab - Your Question:
Im 12 can I get a tattoo if my mom is there

Our Response:
No...as the article says "The Tattooing of Minors Act 1969 makes it illegal for anyone to tattoo you if you are under the age of 18"
BeautyTreatmentExpert - 23-Nov-16 @ 11:59 AM
im 12 can i get a tattoo if my mom is there
yllovllab - 22-Nov-16 @ 11:43 PM
Juju - Your Question:
I'm 17 and thinking about getting my nipples pierced do I need parent permission to get that done?

Our Response:
Most piercers will expect you to have parental permission for a nipple piercing even at 17 and some local authorities impose an 18 limit.
BeautyTreatmentExpert - 22-Nov-16 @ 10:00 AM
I'm 17 and thinking about getting my nipples pierced do I need parent permission to get that done?
Juju - 21-Nov-16 @ 1:28 AM
Jess - Your Question:
The age allowed to get your belly button pierced is 12, with parents permission.

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 impose specific rules on licensed piercing salons in their area.
BeautyTreatmentExpert - 16-Nov-16 @ 12:34 PM
The age allowed to get your belly button pierced is 12, with parents permission.
Jess - 15-Nov-16 @ 6:58 PM
I am 17-year-old girl wants to have a tattoo on my wrist. And I want one on my neck my neck. I'm turning 1811 months time but I was wondering if I could get it before then
Selena Dornan - 11-Nov-16 @ 2:31 PM
mr k - Your Question:
I am a tattoo artist in portugal, I am thinking of relocating to the uk. can you tell me what I will need to open my studio in the uk!Thanks

Our Response:
You will need to get a licence from the local authority in the area in which you choose to live. You may also need to check that you will get planning permission for a tattoo studio - as some councils impose restrictions on the types of business in some locations.
BeautyTreatmentExpert - 1-Nov-16 @ 2:30 PM
I am a tattoo artist in portugal, i am thinking of relocating to the uk. can you tell me what i will need to open my studio in the uk! Thanks
mr k - 31-Oct-16 @ 3:05 PM
Phoebe - Your Question:
I'm 12 and turning 13 in June 2017, I would love to get my septum and eyebrow piercing but I have looked on the internet and got different answers each time, how old would I have to be with parents permission?

Our Response:
There is no legal age for piercing as long it's not in the genital areas, so in principal there would be nothing to prevent you from doing this. However, many local councils do have their own bylaws on this so check with them first. It's also a good idea to check your school's policy as many schools only allow a single ear piercing and will not allow septum or eyebrow piercings.
BeautyTreatmentExpert - 27-Oct-16 @ 2:30 PM
I'm 12 and turning 13 in June 2017, i would love to get my septum and eyebrow piercing but i have looked on the internet and got different answers each time, how old would i have to be with parents permission?
Phoebe - 26-Oct-16 @ 2:27 PM
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