Age limits – piercings, tattoos, sunbeds

Body piercing

In England, Wales and Northern Ireland the law does not set down a minimum age limit for the piercing of ears or any other parts. Organisations may have their own guidelines about age and parental consent.

Piercing of nipples or genital areas of someone under 16 could be seen as sexual assault even if the person has consented.

In Scotland, if you are under 16 you can have body piercing done only if you are accompanied by a parent and have their written consent.

Find out more about the health implications of body piercing on the NHS website here

Cosmetic surgery

Perhaps surprisingly, regulation on cosmetic surgery and other cosmetic procedures is quite limited at the moment, but it is likely to increase. Although there is no minimum legal age for cosmetic procedures, responsible plastic surgeons normally recommend that you are at least 18 and sometimes older, and will make sure that you have the necessary discussions and counselling before any procedure, so that you fully understand the process.

There is some useful information on cosmetic surgery on the NHS website here.


If you are under 18 you are not allowed, by law, to use a sunbed in a hotel, beauty salon, leisure centre, gym or anywhere else, anywhere in the United Kingdom, except for medical treatment.   


It is illegal to tattoo anyone under 18 unless a qualified medical practitioner does it for medical reasons.

You might also be interested in our page on the health implications of piercings and tattoos:

Skin adornments

You may also be interested in our other pages on age limits:

Understand age limits