Home > Piercings & Tattoos > The Law Relating to Body Piercing and Tattoos

The Law Relating to Body Piercing and Tattoos

By: Sarah Clark (ILEX) - Updated: 15 Aug 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]
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
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
Fox - 13-Aug-17 @ 7:41 PM
Courtney - Your Question:
How old do you have to be to get a tongue piercing?

Our Response:
There are no age limits for piercing in the UK except for genital and nipple piercings which cannot be carried out on under 16 year olds as it's deemed to be sexual assault. TheBritish Body Piercing Association has its own Code of Practice which says that parental consent/accompaniment is required for tongue piercings on those age 14 to 16. Some local councils also specifiy their own limits for piercing salons in their area so check with your local council first.
BeautyTreatmentExpert - 3-Aug-17 @ 1:01 PM
How old do you have to be to get a tongue piercing?
Courtney - 31-Jul-17 @ 10:56 PM
Katie - Your Question:
How old do you need to be to obtain a piercing licence? I friend of a friend has just had her nipples pierces and it has gone horribly wrong, she has since found out the girl who did the piercings is only 16 yrs old. Is this even legal? Trying to find out who she needs to report to? Would it be the local council? Or police?

Our Response:
If the piercer is operating out of a "salon" this would be licensed by the local council. Nipple and genital piercings cannot be carried out on anyone under the age of 18 (in some areas this is 16) and should be reported to the police if that was the case.
BeautyTreatmentExpert - 27-Jul-17 @ 12:16 PM
Dawn1977 - Your Question:
How do I report a neighbour who is piecing children under 16 without parental consent from her home without a licence

Our Response:
There is no requirement for parental consent for piercing under the age of 16 unless it is genital/nipple piercing etc. It is illegal to tattoo anyone under 18. If you feel the person should be reported, call your local council's licensing department.
BeautyTreatmentExpert - 27-Jul-17 @ 11:06 AM
How old do you need to be to obtain a piercing licence? I friend of a friend has just had her nipples pierces and it has gone horribly wrong, she has since found out the girl who did the piercings is only 16 yrs old. Is this even legal? Trying to find out who she needs to report to? Would it be the local council? Or police?
Katie - 23-Jul-17 @ 7:45 PM
How do I report a neighbour who is piecing children under 16 without parental consent from her home without a licence
Dawn1977 - 23-Jul-17 @ 8:37 AM
The answer to all the people who have asked where you can get a tattoo under 18 or whatever... just get it done in a country where is not regulated. I got my first tattoos at 11, with schoolmates in Singapore. The only difficult part was paying, but I had a kind older brother. :-) Near UK... maybe Belgium?
tsu - 19-Jul-17 @ 2:28 AM
In respose Luke, his exact words was "to cover setup and sterilisation time etc". I've emailed him a long email saying I'm not satisfied with this treatment as he is apparently a specialist is tattoos. I've asked if he cannot finish my tatt then to reimburse me some of this money.His not responded till this day. I've even emailed the tattoo parlour to confirm this, so I'll wait to here what they say. I've had tatt's done in the past never have I been treated this way.
Lex - 2-Jun-17 @ 10:45 PM
In response to Lex, that is ridiculous. We don't take full amount for the tattoo on multiple sittings, but on the odd occasion where the customer has inisited we do, we would never charge anything extra. I don't even know what he means 'pay extra for sterilisation'. Everything should already be sterilised
Luke - 1-Jun-17 @ 4:42 PM
I had a tattoo done which was not fully completed (shading left), the artist suggested that once the swelling had gone done I contacted him, at that point I had paid him the full amount. After the swelling had gone down and the appt was made, I emailed the artist confirm date and time; which he did but he said that he changed location and that I had to pay extra for the sterilisation. Which I don't think is fair as I have paid in full for a half job. Can you please tell me what to do as he won't finish the job unless I pay more than I've budgeted for. MAny thanks.
Lex - 26-May-17 @ 11:30 PM
oi listen thers not need for kids on ere asking daft questions like I needed parental consent over a belly piercing at 13 years old.. if you wan tattoos just wait till youre the legal age tht way if any authorities find out that a tattooist has agreed t tattoo someone under the age of 18 they can b prosectuted...as can whoevers allowed consent over it
pooinyouass - 12-May-17 @ 10:25 PM
I'm 16 and want to get a tattoo apparently you can get one when your 16 in Spain is that true?
isaac - 11-May-17 @ 4:38 PM
Dee - Your Question:
I've just turneed 17 and wish to become a tattoo artist, I asked my parents if I could get a tattoo for my birthday and then agreed this is one of my 17th birthday presents would I be able to get a tattoo or not as I have parental permission

Our Response:
No, it is illegal for anyone to tattoo you if you are under 18. A tattoo artisit would be breaking the law if they did so.
BeautyTreatmentExpert - 11-May-17 @ 12:57 PM
leanbean - Your Question:
So I paid for a chest piece covering a good amount of my under breast and rib cage area right.well my "artist" decided to give the idead that maybe I reschedule for the rest.so basically all he did was the outline.some lines not even full.not to mention I already paid for it to be COMPLETED.well not only did he reschedule my appt cause of him not "liking" the father of my child wich has nothing to do with are business transation and contractbut the day of the app I was told he wouldnt tattoo if (who he didnt like) was to come to the app.i let that go.but then finally I think its gonna be finished he goes of saying hes not finishing it cause he hurd I was tlking abt his relative???and a good client.ok then what am I trash?i kindly asked for him to just finish it.but if not to give me a refund of what was left.he tells me "you did get a tattoo.its not finished cause of you not me.so no.what can I do please tell me theres something cause this is no way shape or form done.

Our Response:
If you are not satisfied with the service and the provider is refusing a refund, you may need to claim the costs back via the small claims court.
BeautyTreatmentExpert - 11-May-17 @ 11:25 AM
I've just turneed 17 and wish to become a tattoo artist, I asked my parents if I could get a tattoo for my birthday and then agreed this is one of my 17th birthday presents would I be able to get a tattoo or not as I have parental permission
Dee - 9-May-17 @ 11:18 PM
so i paid for a chest piece covering a good amount of my under breast and rib cage area right...well my "artist" decided to give the idead that maybe i reschedule for the rest..so basically all he did was the outline..some lines not even full. not to mention i already paid for it to be COMPLETED. well not only did he reschedule my appt cause of him not "liking" the father of my child wich has nothing to do with are business transation and contract but the day of the app i was told he wouldnt tattoo if (who he didnt like) was to come to the app. i let that go...but then finally i think its gonna be finished he goes of saying hes not finishing it cause he hurd i was tlking abt his relative???....and a good client.ok then what am i trash? i kindly asked for him to just finish it..but if not to give me a refund of what was left. he tells me "you did get a tattoo.its not finished cause of you not me.so no........what can i do please tell me theres something cause this is no way shape or form done.
leanbean - 8-May-17 @ 10:22 PM
How do you go about getting a licence for mobile piercing, using single use disposable equipment??
Woody - 29-Apr-17 @ 1:34 PM
CurtinhaInk - Your Question:
It is legal do genital Female pierings for someone over 18 years old in U.K.?

Our Response:
Yes as long as they consent to it.
BeautyTreatmentExpert - 28-Apr-17 @ 12:04 PM
I wanna move to England in a few years and I want to know if there are problems to find a job if i have tattoos . Like I can't have a tattoo in my wrist or stuff like that
Joharebka - 27-Apr-17 @ 10:49 PM
I am 12 I want to get my belly button pierced but will I need a parent with me when I get it done ,
Demi - 27-Apr-17 @ 10:43 PM
It is legal do genital Female pierings for someone over 18 years old in U.K.?
CurtinhaInk - 27-Apr-17 @ 10:05 AM
I'm 14 and I want to get my helix pierced. Do I have to get parental consent or can I just go to the salon by myself?
Mt - 24-Apr-17 @ 9:48 PM
JC - Your Question:
My girlfriend's daughter's, who is 17, father pierced her and her friend's, not sure her age, nipples a week ago. My girlfriend just found out tonight. He is not a professional and not a domicile parent. What laws are there in Mississippi that apply to this particular case? Thanks for your time.

Our Response:
We are in the UK so cannot really comment on your state laws. In the UK it's illegal for a professional piercing salon to perform nipple/genital piercings on under 16s, however, many local authorities impose an 18 year old limit. A father piercing a friend and her daughter in this way is extremely questionable and would be investigated by the police here in the UK.
BeautyTreatmentExpert - 19-Apr-17 @ 12:18 PM
My girlfriend's daughter's, who is 17,fatherpierced her and her friend's, not sure her age, nipples a week ago. My girlfriend just found out tonight. He is not a professional and not a domicile parent. What laws are there in Mississippi that apply to this particular case? Thanks for your time.
JC - 17-Apr-17 @ 6:23 AM
Nat - Your Question:
I'm 16 can I get my nipples pierced without parental consent?

Our Response:
You need to check with your local authority. In general nipple piercings should not be carried out on anyone under 16 but some areas raise this to 18.
BeautyTreatmentExpert - 11-Apr-17 @ 11:51 AM
Porse3006 - Your Question:
Does it come under child abuse for a 13 year old to have a tattoo

Our Response:
It is illegal to tattoo a child under 18.
BeautyTreatmentExpert - 10-Apr-17 @ 2:14 PM
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