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What is the law on piercings in the UK

Updated March 06, 2019

Finding out the laws relating to piercings in the UK is important if you’re considering getting one. Piercings are generally safe, so there is very little restriction placed on them by national law, although it can differ depending on the local area you’re in or the specific establishment you’re using. It can also differ depending on the specific location of your piercing, although most piercings aren’t specifically mentioned. The laws are quite straightforward, though, so it’s easy to check whether your piercing is suitable.

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No legal age

For the vast majority of piercings, there is no legal age operating throughout most of the UK. This means that things like ear, nose, lip, tongue or bellybutton piercings, for example, are legal, regardless of age. This is the general rule, but there are some notable exceptions which you should find out about before assuming that your piercing will be OK.

Genital piercings

There are age restrictions for piercings to genitals. Only people aged 16 or over are allowed to have their genitals pierced, but the definition of “genitals” is a little different for males and females. For boys, the actual genitals are the only parts covered by the law, so nipple piercings are allowed. However, for girls the nipples are also classed as genitals by the law, so they can’t be pierced until you are 16. This is usually classed as indecent assault on the part of the person conducting the piercing. However, if somebody is willing to conduct the piercing, even though you won’t get in trouble, it probably means that they aren’t reliable in other ways too.

Business policies and local laws

Although there are no UK laws covering the majority of piercings, businesses are free to place restrictions on who they offer piercings to. This means that a certain piercing business, for example, might not offer any type of piercing to under 16s, or may have different rules for specific piercings. Similarly, local governments are free to implement additional rules, so it’s always worth checking with your local authority just in case. You might need parental consent if you’re under 16. These laws will generally relate to the business themselves, however, not the person receiving a piercing.

Scotland’s ear piercing law

There is an important difference in Scotland relating to the ear piercing law. If you’re under 16, you aren’t allowed to give consent to have a piercing. This means that you’re technically allowed to have a piercing, but your parents have to agree by law.

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About the Author

Lee Johnson has written for various publications and websites since 2005, covering science, music and a wide range of topics. He studies physics at the Open University, with a particular interest in quantum physics and cosmology. He's based in the UK and drinks too much tea.

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