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The Law Relating to Body Piercing and Tattoos

By: Sarah Clark (ILEX) - Updated: 19 Nov 2020 | 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]
Welsh government has a law in place for intimate piercing such Tongue, nipple and genital. It’s 18 and up.
Nikivee - 7-Sep-20 @ 9:13 PM
Is it possible to become a mobile piercer, legally, in the UK?
KG - 7-Sep-20 @ 7:59 PM
After some advice from professional piercers. My daughter (15) has come home with both nipples pierced. Apparently a 16 year old has set up a home based business doing it. She had them done on Thursday, we found out last night. Can I just tell her to take them out? Will they get infected? As you can imagine I’m not best pleased but not sure what to do for the best!
Dizzy - 5-Sep-20 @ 2:48 PM
Listen for those of you that are under 18 that are asking about nipple piercings, there is something you have to understand it's not just a matter of the law it's also a matter of that you're not fully developed yet and piercing a part of your body that is not fully developed can lead the complications. the piercing is not that important to where you can't wait another year or two before getting it.
Shawnpierce - 8-Jul-20 @ 4:18 AM
No child under the age of 18 should ever be allowed too get NOTHING BELOW THE NECKother then the navel I don’t care what state you’re in And the Piercer or shop shop loose license if they do it
PiercingsbyBilly - 17-Jun-20 @ 5:14 PM
I had my nipples pierced approx 2 years ago, and one of them I recently learned was pierced wrong (too shallow), which was the cause of a year and a half of pus and elongated healing time. I now have slight scarring on my nipple and a hole in the front that won’t close after having to take it out. Am I able to sue the place for incorrectly piercing it? (I also had an industrial piercing pierced incorrectly from the same place and took a much longer time to heal because of that) They are a well known piercing shop.
Bludnymph - 10-Jun-20 @ 5:59 PM
You need your parent to go with you. You need them to sign the consent form for you to get pierced or tattooed if you are under 18. Your parent needs to bring your birth certificate, their i.d. And at age 15 or 16 you should already have a state ID. Which you also need to bring with you.
Sundae - 2-Jun-20 @ 10:42 PM
i’m 16 and want my nipples pierced, do I need parental consent ?
jades - 19-May-20 @ 6:42 AM
Can I get my nipple pierced at 17 with parental consent ?
RoseyL - 2-Mar-20 @ 7:42 AM
I’m 17 and I want to get both of my nipples done Do I need my parents/guardians consent to get this done. Please let me know
Zuki - 25-Feb-20 @ 2:45 PM
hi there i’m 16 and want to get my nipples pierced, do i need parental consent?
jelly - 22-Feb-20 @ 3:48 AM
I’m 14,15 in April and want to get my septum done would I be able to get it done without parental consent
Megan - 5-Feb-20 @ 7:54 PM
I’m 14, 15 in April and want my septum pierced I know my mum wouldn’t let me have one but everywhere I try they either won’t do under 16 or need parent consent
Megan - 5-Feb-20 @ 7:52 PM
I’m 17 and live in Adelaide can I get my nipple pierced. My friend is 16 and wants the same
Idk - 23-Jul-19 @ 2:20 PM
I'm 16 and want to get my lip pierced. Would I be allowed to get it done without getting permission from my parents?
Blake - 17-Jul-19 @ 6:55 PM
hiya, I am 15 and 10 months the other day my mate gave me a tattoo ut I am planning on joining the raf and want to know if there are anyways to get roid of it or if it is legal considering that my parents don't know and it was only a stick and poke
james - 6-Jul-19 @ 12:05 AM
I’m 16 and want to get my belly button pierced would I be allowed to get it done without my parents consent ?
Eim - 23-Apr-19 @ 11:24 PM
Sorry I forgot to ask if you could give me some advice could I ask for the beautician to redo my eyes
Susieb - 20-Mar-19 @ 9:03 AM
I hadsemi permanent eyeliner tattooed on my top and bottom lids after two days you could not see any eyeliner on my top lid and the liner on my bottom lid is very faint I rung the beautician and she said there was nothing she could do and I would have to pay another £75 for a top upI went to a reputable salon I paid £350
Susieb - 20-Mar-19 @ 8:40 AM
I’m 13 years old i have my mums permission to get my belly pierced would I be able to get it done ?
Yt - 26-Feb-19 @ 8:14 PM
I'm 16 and want to get my nipples pierced my mom has given consent for my other piercings but am I still allowed to get them even with her consent?
2828k - 18-Feb-19 @ 2:19 AM
Hi I'm 17 and really want my eyebrow done can I go with my bestfriend that's 19
Mollypalmer17 - 7-Jan-19 @ 12:08 AM
I’m 14 and I want my belly button pierced, my dad said that was one piercing I’d have to wait for, but he didn’t mind the thought of me having one. If I show him this would the piercing shop still do it ?
Vpower45 - 2-Jan-19 @ 10:13 AM
I’m 16 and want to get a tongue piercing. Can I do it without having my parent there?
Lip - 29-Dec-18 @ 3:10 AM
I’m 16 and want my nipple pierced, would most places allow it?
nikoles - 13-Dec-18 @ 7:58 AM
I wanted to get a belly piercing and I went with my mom and all they didn't allow me they said I have to be 16 . I'm 15 and my birthday is in August
Gab - 5-Dec-18 @ 1:47 PM
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
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