Home > Piercings & Tattoos > The Law Relating to Body Piercing and Tattoos

The Law Relating to Body Piercing and Tattoos

By: Sarah Clark (ILEX) - Updated: 2 Dec 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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Share Your Story, Join the Discussion or Seek Advice..
[Add a Comment]
I'm 11can I get my belly button pierced if my parent is there
Lissy - 2-Dec-16 @ 8:46 PM
yllovllab - Your Question:
Im 12 can I get a tattoo if my mom is there

Our Response:
No...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 - 23-Nov-16 @ 11:59 AM
im 12 can i get a tattoo if my mom is there
yllovllab - 22-Nov-16 @ 11:43 PM
Juju - Your Question:
I'm 17 and thinking about getting my nipples pierced do I need parent permission to get that done?

Our Response:
Most piercers will expect you to have parental permission for a nipple piercing even at 17 and some local authorities impose an 18 limit.
BeautyTreatmentExpert - 22-Nov-16 @ 10:00 AM
I'm 17 and thinking about getting my nipples pierced do I need parent permission to get that done?
Juju - 21-Nov-16 @ 1:28 AM
Jess - Your Question:
The age allowed to get your belly button pierced is 12, with parents permission.

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. Some local authorities impose specific rules on licensed piercing salons in their area.
BeautyTreatmentExpert - 16-Nov-16 @ 12:34 PM
The age allowed to get your belly button pierced is 12, with parents permission.
Jess - 15-Nov-16 @ 6:58 PM
I am 17-year-old girl wants to have a tattoo on my wrist. And I want one on my neck my neck. I'm turning 1811 months time but I was wondering if I could get it before then
Selena Dornan - 11-Nov-16 @ 2:31 PM
mr k - Your Question:
I am a tattoo artist in portugal, I am thinking of relocating to the uk. can you tell me what I will need to open my studio in the uk!Thanks

Our Response:
You will need to get a licence from the local authority in the area in which you choose to live. You may also need to check that you will get planning permission for a tattoo studio - as some councils impose restrictions on the types of business in some locations.
BeautyTreatmentExpert - 1-Nov-16 @ 2:30 PM
I am a tattoo artist in portugal, i am thinking of relocating to the uk. can you tell me what i will need to open my studio in the uk! Thanks
mr k - 31-Oct-16 @ 3:05 PM
Phoebe - Your Question:
I'm 12 and turning 13 in June 2017, I would love to get my septum and eyebrow piercing but I have looked on the internet and got different answers each time, how old would I have to be with parents permission?

Our Response:
There is no legal age for piercing as long it's not in the genital areas, so in principal there would be nothing to prevent you from doing this. However, many local councils do have their own bylaws on this so check with them first. It's also a good idea to check your school's policy as many schools only allow a single ear piercing and will not allow septum or eyebrow piercings.
BeautyTreatmentExpert - 27-Oct-16 @ 2:30 PM
I'm 12 and turning 13 in June 2017, i would love to get my septum and eyebrow piercing but i have looked on the internet and got different answers each time, how old would i have to be with parents permission?
Phoebe - 26-Oct-16 @ 2:27 PM
Kara sykes - Your Question:
Im 13 but when I turn 14 my dad said I can get a tattoo is that legal, it is not a tattoo and/or peircing place that I would get it done, the person is a practicing tattoo artist and is friends with my parents?

Our Response:
No, under the Tattooing of Minors Act it is an offence to tattoo a person under the age of eighteen - it doesn't matter whether it's at a salon or not.
BeautyTreatmentExpert - 24-Oct-16 @ 1:59 PM
Im 13 but when i turn 14 my dad said i can get a tattoo is that legal, it is not a tattoo and/or peircing place that i would get it done, the person is a practicing tattoo artist and is friends with my parents?
Kara sykes - 23-Oct-16 @ 5:39 AM
Can I get a tattoo with a parent? I am 15 but she's agreed that I can get one but we're not sure who would do it for us, I know I have to be 18 but is it possible?
Jayde - 14-Oct-16 @ 9:30 PM
I'm twelve and I would like to know if it's ok for me to have my belly button peirced. My mum isn't so ste about this but is willing to come with me to get it peirced. Am I allowed to have my belly button peirced at twelve?
Craycray.harley - 6-Oct-16 @ 9:06 PM
I am 16 and wondering can I get a tattoo with my parents permission?
Holl - 5-Oct-16 @ 6:33 PM
So as long as Im at least 18 I can get any piercing I want?
ASHLEYY - 2-Oct-16 @ 11:25 PM
I'm 15 I want to get my second earrings pierced. My mum's not so keen. Could I go and get it done by myself ( without her). Or am I not old enough to go without a parent?
Jenny - 2-Oct-16 @ 7:25 PM
Sandy - Your Question:
My daughter is 16 is it legal for her to go get a beast piecing without my knowledge. She s as I'd she had it for a while. Where do I go from here. Can I sue or take them to court the shop that did the piecing.

Our Response:
No this may be considered indecent assault especially if there was no parent with her at the time. Speak with your local council licensing department in the first instance.
BeautyTreatmentExpert - 30-Sep-16 @ 12:15 PM
Wolfboy - Your Question:
I'm 17 I what to get a tattoo so is it possible

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 - 30-Sep-16 @ 11:02 AM
My daughter is 16 is it legal for her to go get a beast piecing without my knowledge. She s as I'd she had it for a while.Where do I go from here. Can I sueor take them to court the shop that did the piecing.
Sandy - 29-Sep-16 @ 2:59 PM
Gigi - Your Question:
I am 17 years old and was wondering if I could legally get my nipples pierced in Nashville, TN. Thanks!

Our Response:
We don't have any information on the rules outside of the UK unfortunately.
BeautyTreatmentExpert - 29-Sep-16 @ 10:35 AM
I'm 17 I what to get a tattoo so is it possible
Wolfboy - 29-Sep-16 @ 7:17 AM
I am 17 years old and was wondering if I could legally get my nipples pierced in Nashville, TN. Thanks!
Gigi - 28-Sep-16 @ 6:07 AM
I was 12 on the 21st of September 2016, and was wondering if I am old enough to get a belly button piercing... Because my big sister used to have one so I've always wanted one.. So Am I old enough????
Belle - 25-Sep-16 @ 10:55 PM
Kyla - Your Question:
I'm 11 I really want a nose piercing ever since 7 also my auntie wants one two and she's 29 so could me and her go get it done toghether if my mum says so oh I'm 12 on September 2017 is it possible

Our Response:
There is no legal age of consent for piercing (except for genital/nipple piercing) but many salons will only do piercings on over 16s or with a parent's consent. You should check your school's rules on this as you might not be able to wear your nose piercing to school.
BeautyTreatmentExpert - 23-Sep-16 @ 10:53 AM
Hi I would like to know can a tattooistssmoke a vape cig in there studiothank u
buzz - 22-Sep-16 @ 9:57 PM
I'm 11 I really want a nose piercing ever since 7 also my auntie wants one two and she's 29 so could me and her go get it done toghether if my mum says so oh I'm 12 on September 2017 is it possible
Kyla - 21-Sep-16 @ 2:21 AM
I'm 15 on the 16th September... is there anywhere in hull that would do me a tattoo with parental consent??x
Grayce - 14-Sep-16 @ 7:21 PM
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