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The Law Relating to Body Piercing and Tattoos

By: Sarah Clark (ILEX) - Updated: 28 Mar 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]
Tom - Your Question:
Hi can I get a tattoo at 17 if a perant comes with me

Our Response:
No, please see the article above where it states: "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"
BeautyTreatmentExpert - 28-Mar-17 @ 11:43 AM
im nine years old and I want my nose pierced and my cartilage piercing can i get it done
meg - 28-Mar-17 @ 1:14 AM
Hi there Is it legal for a registered person who has their own business premises to come to my house and do a piercing if I dont want to go to their premises? Cheers.
UUJ - 27-Mar-17 @ 7:40 PM
Hi can I get a tattoo at 17 if a perant comes with me
Tom - 27-Mar-17 @ 1:52 AM
Megz - Your Question:
Hi I'm 16 and I was wondering if I could get a tattoo with the consent of my parents??

Our Response:
As the article clearly says: "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"
BeautyTreatmentExpert - 24-Mar-17 @ 1:41 PM
Hi I am house bound would it be possible for a tattooist come out to the house
Mandy - 24-Mar-17 @ 12:07 PM
Jake - Your Question:
Ey IM 15 , 16 in july , could I get a tattoo with parnents concent on my 16th

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 - 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.
BeautyTreatmentExpert - 22-Mar-17 @ 10:22 AM
Hi I'm 16 and I was wondering if I could get a tattoo with the consent of my parents??
Megz - 21-Mar-17 @ 7:10 PM
Is it legal for someone to come to my house and carry out a piercing and or a tattoo. I am 35. And it would be easier if this was carried out in my own home and someone is willing to come but just want to know if it's legit.
Byusbts - 20-Mar-17 @ 6:50 PM
Bayer - Your Question:
For my 14th birthday I want my nose pierced on the left side is this legal?

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.
BeautyTreatmentExpert - 20-Mar-17 @ 2:30 PM
EyIM 15 , 16 in july , could i get a tattoo with parnents concent on my 16th
Jake - 19-Mar-17 @ 1:36 AM
For my 14th birthday I want my nose pierced on the left side is this legal?
Bayer - 17-Mar-17 @ 11:10 PM
Wiktoria - Your Question:
Hello, I'm wanting to get my belly button pieced tomorrow for my 13th Birthday. Would I need a parent to come with me or can I just go with my friends

Our Response:
That would depend on the salon involved. Give them a ring first and see what their policy is.
BeautyTreatmentExpert - 14-Mar-17 @ 11:29 AM
Hello, I'm wanting to get my belly button pieced tomorrow for my 13th Birthday. Would I need a parent to come with me or can I just go with my friends
Wiktoria - 11-Mar-17 @ 7:06 PM
Ellie - Your Question:
Im 13 and I want to get my septum pierced. My mum said she would come with me so would I be aloud??

Our Response:
Usually a salon would do this with the consent of a parent but you should check that your school will allow this, as there may be no point (pardon the pun) in having one if you can't wear it.
BeautyTreatmentExpert - 28-Feb-17 @ 2:07 PM
Jo - Your Question:
I want to get a tattoo on my wrist on my 17th birthday. Can I get it done if I have my parents permission??

Our Response:
NO - please read the above article which clearly says "The Tattooing of Minors Act 1969 makes it illegal for anyone to tattoo you if you are under the age of 18 "
BeautyTreatmentExpert - 27-Feb-17 @ 12:53 PM
Im 13 and I want to get my septum pierced. My mum said she would come with me so would I be aloud??
Ellie - 25-Feb-17 @ 1:29 PM
I want to get a tattoo on my wrist on my 17thbirthday. Can I get it done if I have my parents permission??
Jo - 25-Feb-17 @ 12:11 PM
Can a 12 year old travel to ireland get a tattoo and then come back to northern ireland without getting into any legal trouble?
OutWithNade - 11-Feb-17 @ 12:21 AM
Josh- Your Question:
I'm 17 and have parent permission for a tattoo of my brothers name in a heart on my left side of my chest my family highly agree to this but I have been waiting for a few years and can't wait any longer. I want a perminant reminder and memorial of my brother on me. My mum is getting it done aswel but waiting for me to get mine. What do I do as you used to be able to get one at 17 with parents consent but now it's hard.

Our Response:
It is illegalfor a tattoo artist to tattoo you if you are under the age of 18.
BeautyTreatmentExpert - 8-Feb-17 @ 12:02 PM
I'm 17 and have parent permission for a tattoo of my brothers name in a heart on my left side of my chest my family highly agree to this but I have been waiting for a few years and can't wait any longer. I want a perminant reminder and memorial of my brother on me. My mum is getting it done aswel but waiting for me to get mine. What do I do as you used to be able to get one at 17 with parents consent but now it's hard.
Josh - 7-Feb-17 @ 3:01 AM
My daughter is 16 and has just had a tattoo done without my consent. What can I do about this?
Samgolfer - 6-Feb-17 @ 7:16 PM
Hi,im 13 would I be able to get my belly button pierced if my parents came with me ?
Amie - 4-Feb-17 @ 7:25 PM
Hi, I am 12 could I get my nose pierced with my parents permission or can I get it done without or am I too young?.
Rachie - 30-Jan-17 @ 7:41 PM
can i get my nipple pierced at the age of 15 with parental consent
jade - 29-Jan-17 @ 4:11 PM
Hi I'm 13 could I have a belly button piercing if I have my parents consent and they come with me
Ginge - 27-Jan-17 @ 3:53 PM
Im 15 andbi wont to get a tattoo to cover really bad self harm scars on my leg dose anyone know if it would be possible?No hate please
amy - 25-Jan-17 @ 6:33 PM
Is it possible for a 14 year ol to get a tattoo with parents consent
Chan - 21-Jan-17 @ 3:27 PM
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
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