With the summer holidays upon us and a break from school, many students and parents alike are looking to get their own, or their children’s ears, nose or [insert here] pierced.
However, many are faced with conflicting information regarding the age at which the law and body piercing establishments allow minors to be pierced.
Unfortunately, this is very much STILL a grey area. Currently, the only statutory age restrictions that apply in the UK regarding body modifications is the ‘Tattooing of Minors Act 1969’
”It shall be a criminal offense to tattoo a person under the age of eighteen except where the tattoo is performed for medical reasons by a qualified medical practitioner or by a person working under his direction, but it shall be a defense for a person charged to show that at the time the tattoo was performed he had reasonable cause to believe that the person tattooed was of or over the age of eighteen and did in fact so believe.” [legislation.gov.uk]
Under English law, those under the age of 16 years cannot have their genitalia pierced, as this is regarded as indecent assault to which the customer cannot legally consent. The same law applies to female nipple piercing. The majority of studios however do not allow genital piercings on under 18’s, this stance is taken as the moral and ethical preference of the piercer.
Nonetheless, there are no outright laws in place to prevent anyone under the age of 18 getting a non-intimate body piercing. If there was, this would make it much easier for parents and piercees to make an informed and educated decision on what is a suitable age to be pierced.
For the most, ear piercing is the first piercing that a child asks for. Many people go to a jewellers, beauticians, or hairdressers. As you know, this will not be performed by a trained professional with knowledge of anatomy, healing and the like. It will be someone trained (often not though!) on how to use a piercing gun. Most of us (myself included) were pierced with a gun, if at all possible, its best to leave the guns out of the piercing equation, there is a long list of why this should be avoided which you can read here … [gun-free] otherwise I will digress with an Anti Piercing Gun debate instead!
The basis on when its decided ‘Ok’ to get a body piercing takes a few things into account. This is the stance that the majority of reputable studios have taken between themselves, as previously mentioned, there are no guidelines or outright law.
Piercings are essentially a foreign object in a wound that we are trying to heal. This can be an introduction to infection and other serious injury if done without consideration for the piercee. Our age restrictions deem 14 an appropriate age for straightforward lobe and cartilage piercings as the piercee is able to understand and interpret the important aftercare given, the lobe piercing has a fairly short healing time (6-12 weeks to change jewellery, but not leave them out!) and that they will sit well for the procedure. Taking common sense into account, many parents and piercers would not feel comfortable using a needle to pierce a jumping 8 year old. Regardless of the procedure, actually having the piercing itself is not without its risks. They can become caught in hair, clothing or other people. Infection can also all too easily be introduced, many places that pierce with guns tell the client to ‘turn’ the studs, which can often be overdone (with unwashed hands) by keen young piercees. The helix piercing (cartilage in upper ear) can be trickier to heal, (up to a year) but we expect at this time that a 14 year old can cope with this. It goes without saying that at Blue Lotus, parental consent is necessary with those under 16.
For the rest of facial, ear and body piercings, 16 is considered appropriate with it being the age of consent and they are leaving school (school can pose problems with asking pupils to take piercings out, which does not bode well for healing) Also, body piercings such as navel and surface piercings fare much better when the customer has done the majority of their rapid growth during puberty. It can put piercers in a risky position performing body piercings on those under 16 as legally, they can not consent. This may open the door for assault charges being placed on piercers when youngsters are being pierced without their parents consent.
A lot of girls want their navels pierced when they get to secondary school but we all too often see older girls visiting the studio with navel piercings that have ‘grown out’ or are hanging on by a few millimeters of skin. This migration is more often than not caused simply by growing! Navel piercings all migrate over time due to it being in the surface of a ‘knuckle’ of skin. However, during puberty your body is growing (and healing) much faster upwards and outwards, and it effectively pushes this bar out of your body. Yes, it may not migrate to the point where it begins to reject and break the skin, but it can cause an unhappy piercing that may not sit quite right or hanging on by this unattractive snippet of skin! The scarring caused by this can sometimes mean that when they are older and done growing, they can be unsuitable for piercing again as the scar tissue will be too weak to hold the piercing in, and again will grow out.
This all being said, I am not taking a moral high ground. I’ve had some dodgy piercing experiences myself. I have my own child who will one day, growing up with modified parents and family friends, make me face this dilemma. All that we ask is that as parents or piercees, you make an informed and educated decision about what is best when getting a piercing then healing it happy and problem free.
- At Blue Lotus our age restrictions are… 14+ with parental consent for lobes & straight forward helix piercings,
- 16+ with valid photographic I.D for facial & body piercing
- 18+ for genital & nipple piercings
- Avoid being pierced by a gun.
- For better success with navel and surface piercings, wait until 16 and done the majority of your growing.
- Wait until you no longer need to remove your piercings for school, as constant removal and re-insertion drags out the healing process and may introduce infection.
If you require any further clarification on the points raised above, don’t hesitate to contact the studio with any questions you may have!