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The Law Relating to Body Piercing and Tattoos

By: Sarah Clark (ILEX) - Updated: 20 Jul 2016 | 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]
Josie - Your Question:
I want my eyebrow pierced I'm 16 am I aloud it without parents concent and can I give myself concent with no one with me

Our Response:
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. Check your local authority doesn't have its own laws on this
BeautyTreatmentExpert - 19-Jul-16 @ 2:11 PM
Hi Sarah, I have severe PPD allergies (Paraphenylenediamine) Which is found in most hair-dyes and black henna tattoos (This was actually the cause of my PPD allergies when I was 13). I have been trying to find more information about specific inks and whether they contain PPD's in their coloring. I have been unsuccessful in this matter and most tattoo ink manufacturers are a little shady with sharing their ingredients listing. I am actually booked in to have a tattoo done at the beginning of the month but wanted to see if your team knows of any inks/ brands they might recommend to use? Tattoo inks aren't supposed to contain PPD and to my knowledge this ingredient is banned by the FDA, however in the UK the law is very unclear. Any reading material you can recommend for me would be a massive help. Many Thanks Louise
Louise - 19-Jul-16 @ 1:30 PM
Kim - Your Question:
I'm 13 turning 14 shortly and I was planning to get my tongue pierced but my mum wouldn't allow me. Would I be able to get the piercing with my mums consent?

Our Response:
There is nothing in law about this but bear in mind (1) most schools do not allow tongue piercing (2) Some local authorities have age limits for piercings, (to which the salons must adhere) (3) It would not help future relations with your parents etc
BeautyTreatmentExpert - 18-Jul-16 @ 11:29 AM
I want my eyebrow pierced I'm 16 am I aloud it without parents concent and can I give myself concent with no one with me
Josie - 18-Jul-16 @ 3:04 AM
I'm 13 turning 14 shortly and I was planning to get my tongue pierced but my mum wouldn't allow me. Would I be able to get the piercing with my mums consent?
Kim - 16-Jul-16 @ 10:53 AM
I had a vch done about 2 years ago and want to get it done again! Is it illegal now to have the piercing done?
emz23x - 15-Jul-16 @ 1:12 AM
Dona - Your Question:
Im get 17 in last december and I wanna do a piercing and my parents know that. So Is it legal?with the parental constent?will they allow?

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 - 11-Jul-16 @ 10:22 AM
Im get 17 in last december and i wanna do a piercing and my parents know that. So Is it legal?with the parental constent?will they allow?
Dona - 8-Jul-16 @ 11:04 AM
Disbiaatch - Your Question:
I'm 17 tomorrow, would I be able to get a tattoo with parental consent? I've read the Tattooing of Minors Act 1969 but it doesn't say whether parental consent is ok? And could I just look 18 and say I am?

Our Response:
The Tattooing of Minors Act 1969 makes it illegal for anyone to tattoo you if you are under the age of 18. A good tattoo parlour will ask to see proof of age and record this before agreeing to tattoo you.
BeautyTreatmentExpert - 7-Jul-16 @ 10:55 AM
Kita - Your Question:
I'm 14 I would like to get a nose piercing my parents say no because of school but I need a good reason and I don't know how to debate because I think it's right for piercing

Our Response:
You would not be able to wear the piericng for school, so you'd have to get it done before the long the school holiday in order to allow healing time. Could you tell your parents you'll promise only to wear the piercing at weekends? Would it be better to wait until you're a bit older (say sixth form?) then you'll have more time to allow keep the piercing in and help the healing process etc.
BeautyTreatmentExpert - 7-Jul-16 @ 10:16 AM
I'm 17 tomorrow, would I be able to get a tattoo with parental consent? I've read the Tattooing of Minors Act 1969 but it doesn't say whether parental consent is ok? And could I just look 18 and say I am?
Disbiaatch - 3-Jul-16 @ 6:47 PM
I'm 14 I would like to get a nose piercing my parents say no because of school but I need a good reason and I don't know how to debate because I think it's right for piercing
Kita - 3-Jul-16 @ 11:24 AM
Hollie - Your Question:
I'm 17, and going to get a tattoo shortly. If I have my mum present with me am I allowed if I ring up and pre book but check first that I'm eligible to get it done with her present?Bearing in mind I have 5 months between my birthday and the time I'm getting it done, as its symbolic for my son.

Our Response:
The Tattooing of Minors Act 1969 makes it illegal for anyone to tattoo you if you are under the age of 18 a tattoo artist should thererfore ask to see proof of age and record this before agreeing to tattoo
BeautyTreatmentExpert - 1-Jul-16 @ 12:45 PM
Imogennnnn! - Your Question:
I would like to enquire about a tragus piercing , I am 14 years old nearly 15, but many professionals say the age is 16 what should I do?

Our Response:
There is no legal age of consent for body piercing except that 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 have their own recommendations about the ages at which a person can have specific body piercings. We imagine most good piercing salons would expect parental consent for anyone under 16 on any part of the ear.
BeautyTreatmentExpert - 1-Jul-16 @ 10:02 AM
I'm 17, and going to get a tattoo shortly. If I have my mum present with me am I allowed if I ring up and pre book but check first that I'm eligible to get it done with her present? Bearing in mind I have 5 months between my birthday and the time I'm getting it done, as its symbolic for my son..
Hollie - 29-Jun-16 @ 3:28 PM
I would like to enquire about a tragus piercing , I am 14 years old nearly 15, but many professionals say the age is 16 what should I do?
Imogennnnn! - 29-Jun-16 @ 12:18 PM
Sophie - Your Question:
Im almost 16, when im 18 can I get my nipples pierced without parents permission? Can I get my dads permission although he doesnt live with me?

Our Response:
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. Once you're 16 you can go ahead with this, although most salons will require parental consent.
BeautyTreatmentExpert - 28-Jun-16 @ 10:24 AM
Im almost 16, when im 18 can i get my nipples pierced without parents permission? Can i get my dads permission although he doesnt live with me?
Sophie - 26-Jun-16 @ 12:06 PM
Timi - Your Question:
Hello, Im 14 years old and I would like to get my tongue pierced I live in London and my parents are consent with it, but only my mum could come with me, am I allowed to get my tongue pierced?

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. You should also check with your school as many schools only allow ear piercings.
BeautyTreatmentExpert - 23-Jun-16 @ 10:05 AM
Hello, Im 14 years old and I would like to get my tongue pierced I live in London and my parents are consent with it, but only my mum could come with me, am I allowed to get my tongue pierced?
Timi - 22-Jun-16 @ 12:05 AM
Sophie - Your Question:
I want my belly button pierced but I'm 13 and I live in Sutton colfield if I go to a piercing shop with my mom will they do it

Our Response:
Yes they will probably do this if your mother is with you. Ther aren't actually any laws that prevent piercings on under 16s but some local councils do have their own regulations in place so it's worth checking this before you go.
BeautyTreatmentExpert - 21-Jun-16 @ 10:39 AM
Shannon - Your Question:
Hi I am 15 nearly 16 and I would like a tattoo on my shoulder my mum says she will write a letter of consent and my guardian is coming with me to also give consent so would I be able to get a tatoo

Our Response:
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 - 20-Jun-16 @ 2:36 PM
I want my belly button pierced but I'm 13 and I live in Sutton colfield if I go to a piercing shop with my mom will they do it
Sophie - 19-Jun-16 @ 11:35 PM
Hi I am 15 nearly 16 and I would like a tattoo on my shoulder my mum says she will write a letter of consent and my guardian is coming with me to also give consent so would I be able to get a tatoo
Shannon - 19-Jun-16 @ 3:53 PM
Hi I am about to turn 15 would it be OK to get a tatoo however I want to have it on my side would it be OK to get one with a parents concentrate.
mandy2001 - 17-Jun-16 @ 10:05 AM
I'm 17 and I want my nipples pierced.If my mom comes with me and she approves it as well, can I get them pierced?
PrincessBaby - 16-Jun-16 @ 8:37 PM
Fairy - Your Question:
Hi soo I'm twelve years old I was wondering if I'm allowed to get my upper ear pierced. As long as I have my parents consent, as well as them coming along with me.

Our Response:
As the article says: "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"
BeautyTreatmentExpert - 10-Jun-16 @ 11:56 AM
Hi soo I'm twelve years old I was wondering if I'm allowed to get my upper ear pierced. As long as I have my parents consent, as well as them coming along with me.
Fairy - 8-Jun-16 @ 10:21 PM
Fay - Your Question:
Hi I'm 12 an so want my bellybutton pierced. My mum had hers done and both of my parents don't mind me getting it done. But at my school we are only allowed one piercing in our ears. So do I have to get concent from my school to get the piercing?

Our Response:
If your school does not allow it, then surely there is no point in going ahead with a bellbutton piercing?
BeautyTreatmentExpert - 6-Jun-16 @ 11:42 AM
Chloe - Your Question:
I'm 16 years old and would like a tattoo, can my parents give consent for it?

Our Response:
The Tattooing of Minors Act 1969 makes it illegal for anyone to tattoo you if you are under the age of 18. A tattoo artist should ask for proof of age and record this before agreeing to tattoo you.
BeautyTreatmentExpert - 6-Jun-16 @ 10:27 AM
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