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The Law Relating to Body Piercing and Tattoos

By: Sarah Clark (ILEX) - Updated: 25 Feb 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]
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
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
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