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The Law Relating to Body Piercing and Tattoos

By: Sarah Clark (ILEX) - Updated: 19 May 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?

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 piercing's.

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]
SilverMoon - Your Question:
Hey, I'm 16 and my grandparents had parental rights over me until last month, so now my parents have them again, they've said that I'm allowed to get a piercing but my nan says I can't, can she actually stop me and do my parents or one of my parents have to sign anything?

Our Response:
There is no legal age of consent for body piercing (except for genital or nipple piercings) so it will not matter that you do not have parental consent. Please see the above article for more information.
BeautyTreatmentExpert - 20-May-16 @ 12:04 PM
Hi I'm 16 & I would like to get my navel pierced. A gf of mine who is over 18 said she would take me to get it done. My question is would I have to have a parent or guardian along too?
Essie - 19-May-16 @ 11:10 PM
darthies - Your Question:
Hiya I've just had a tattoo done and not happy with it I asked for a cover up and has not been done very well and as a result looks horrlble what are there legal requirements for a tattoo going wrong and me not benig happy with it darren

Our Response:
Here is a guide that tells you your rights if a tattoo procedure goes wrong.
BeautyTreatmentExpert - 18-May-16 @ 2:25 PM
Hey, I'm 16 and my grandparents had parental rights over me until last month, so now my parents have them again, they've said that I'm allowed to get a piercing but my nan says I can't, can she actually stop me and do my parents or one of my parents have to sign anything?
SilverMoon - 17-May-16 @ 7:51 PM
Hiya I've just had a tattoo done and not happy with it i asked for a cover up andhas not been done very well and as a result looks horrlble what are there legal requirements for a tattoo going wrong and me not benig happy with it darren
darthies - 16-May-16 @ 4:45 PM
Jammy.c - Your Question:
I'm 17 would I be able to get a tattoo with parental consent

Our Response:
As the article says: "The Tattooing of Minors Act 1969 makes it illegal for anyone to tattoo you if you are under the age of 18"
BeautyTreatmentExpert - 16-May-16 @ 2:44 PM
I'm 17 would I be able to get a tattoo with parental consent
Jammy.c - 13-May-16 @ 10:26 PM
sumerrrr - Your Question:
Im 15 and want my nipple pierced, my mum says yes and is willing to pay for an come with me to get it done, will I be allowed??

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.
BeautyTreatmentExpert - 10-May-16 @ 9:54 AM
Im 15 and want my nipple pierced, my mum says yes and is willing to pay for an come with me to get it done, will i be allowed??
sumerrrr - 9-May-16 @ 7:33 PM
Jasmine - Your Question:
I'm 16 and want a tattoo with my mum as a mother and daughter symbol and she's said I could but I've heard you have to be 18+ even though most of my family got their first tattoo at 16 with parental consent about 10 years ago, when did this even change? And is there any places in Grimsby/Cleethorpes that will do this tattoo for me?

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 - 5-May-16 @ 10:11 AM
I'm 16 and want a tattoo with my mum as a mother and daughter symbol and she's said I could but I've heard you have to be 18+ even though most of my family got their first tattoo at 16 with parental consent about 10 years ago, when did this even change? And is there any places in Grimsby/Cleethorpes that will do this tattoo for me?
Jasmine - 2-May-16 @ 3:39 PM
Im 13 and i want to get my nose, bellybutton and tounge pierced and i have my mum says im aloud to get it done and she will go to the place with me when im going to get it done but do you think that they will pierce it or do you think that they will say that im too young?
Ozzyniamh - 24-Apr-16 @ 5:53 PM
I'm 14 and want to get my belly pierced do I need my parents consent?
Izzi - 12-Apr-16 @ 3:46 PM
a)What if I were to tattoo myself using the stick and poke method, I'm 16? b)If I had an infected would next to the and I needed medical assistance from the doctors and they saw the tattoo what would they have do to by law? In other words would I be in trouble with the police?
georgia - 9-Apr-16 @ 12:45 PM
I'm 11 and I want my septum pierced, could I get it done with my parents consent, I live in England.
Holly - 7-Apr-16 @ 8:45 PM
Gothic-princess - Your Question:
Hi I was wondering im 15 and my mum says I can get my lip pierced but she works alot and is unable to take me if my sister takes me can I still get it

Our Response:
This will depend on the policy of the piercer. There is no age consent limit for non-genital piercings.
BeautyTreatmentExpert - 6-Apr-16 @ 12:51 PM
loulou1 - Your Question:
I'm 16 and want a tatto and was wondering if anyone knows any tatto shops in stoke-on-trent I could have it done with parental consent

Our Response:
It is illegal for anyone to tattoo you if you are under the age of 18. If you ask a tattoo artist to do this for you, you would be helping them to break the law.
BeautyTreatmentExpert - 6-Apr-16 @ 12:21 PM
Hi i was wondering im 15 and my mum says i can get my lip pierced but she works alot and is unable to take me if my sister takes me can i still get it
Gothic-princess - 4-Apr-16 @ 12:35 PM
I'm 16 and want a tatto and was wondering if anyone knows any tatto shops in stoke-on-trent i could have it done with parental consent
loulou1 - 3-Apr-16 @ 11:55 PM
caro19671 - Your Question:
I had a dath piercing the guy didn't ask me any questions not even my name, he hit an artery and I ended up in hospital it didn't stop bleeding for about 7 hours and it was pouring through layers of padding there was blood everywhere, eventually it was cauterised at the hospital. I sent the guy a message the next day and he hadn't even replied. Worried that if it happened to someone else they could become ill.

Our Response:
Have you reported this to your local Trading Standards Office and also your local council which would be responsible for licensing the premises etc.
BeautyTreatmentExpert - 1-Apr-16 @ 10:10 AM
Happy - Your Question:
I know a woman who has let her daughters be tattood.both were 13 when this was done.a guy went to there house to do it and is unlicensed.the elder I's now almost 17 and has 12 tattoos.is there any way this can be reported to someone as it's just not right.13 and being allowed tattoos. One on :-(

Our Response:
Have you reported this to the police (non-emergency number 101)? The tattoo artist could be prosecuted for this.
BeautyTreatmentExpert - 31-Mar-16 @ 10:22 AM
I know a woman who has let her daughters be tattood..both were 13 when this was done. .a guy went to there house to do it and is unlicensed..the elder I's now almost 17 and has 12 tattoos..is there any way this can be reported to someone as it's just not right. .13 and being allowed tattoos. . One on :-(
Happy - 28-Mar-16 @ 3:47 PM
I'm 14 and I want my tongue pierced on my 15th birthday. Next month. I live in Mississippi. Is it legal to get my tongue pierced?
Vanna - 25-Mar-16 @ 10:55 AM
I had a dath piercing the guy didn't ask me any questions not even my name, he hit an artery and I ended up in hospital it didn't stop bleeding for about 7 hours and it was pouring through layers of padding there was blood everywhere, eventually it was cauterised at the hospital. I sent the guy a message the next day and he hadn't even replied. Worried that if it happened to someone else they could become ill.
caro19671 - 25-Mar-16 @ 2:49 AM
Can you get a tattoo with your parents consent
Lol - 14-Mar-16 @ 8:05 PM
I wanna get some kind of small tattos on my fingers and im 12 , Is it legal?
Alina - 29-Feb-16 @ 8:13 PM
I'm 15 and want my tongue pierced but I'm in foster care can I still have it done?
Ash - 25-Feb-16 @ 9:44 PM
mo - Your Question:
I'm 16, would I be able to get my belly-button/ tongue pierced without parental consent?

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. Check also that there are no specific regulations in your area (your council will be able to tell you).
BeautyTreatmentExpert - 23-Feb-16 @ 2:44 PM
I'm 16, would I be able to get my belly-button/ tongue pierced without parental consent?
mo - 22-Feb-16 @ 11:45 PM
My daughter has had her nipples pierced.She is 17 is this legal?
Kitty kat - 21-Feb-16 @ 12:52 PM
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