Tattooist with moustache working on a tattoo

Tattoo Laws in The UK: Making Sure You’re Compliant

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As a tattoo artist, you have an obligation to protect yourself and your customers, even more so if you’re self-employed or you own your own shop.

Ensuring you’re compliant to UK tattoo laws is one of the first things an artist should consider before administering ink onto someone’s body. And it doesn’t matter how qualified you are, everyone must follow the same rules.

Women with tattoos holds a mug with the caption 'The Adventure Begins'

Health and Safety

Here in the UK, the licensing and procedures carried out in tattoo and piercing studios is subject to heavy regulation. Local councils often conduct regular inspections of premises to ensure that they are compliant with health and safety laws, and it is a requirement for every tattoo artist to be licensed by their local council. Tattooing without a license or a tattoo certification is illegal.

Some requirements however do differ from council to council. For example, some insist on artists each having their own sink, whereas others will allow artists to share the facilities. So, it’s a good idea to contact your local council first and foremost to ensure you can comply.

These types of legislation and checks are put in place for very good reason – to protect both the staff, artists and customers from infection, and more dangerous blood-borne diseases such as HIV, AIDS and hepatitis.

If you’re thinking of travelling abroad to work, it’s crucial that you ensure the shops you work in are compliant there too. Not just for your reputation, but for the safety of customers. Some countries have different laws to the UK, so you should always check before you start working oversees.

Age of consent in the UK

The UK prohibits anyone under the age of 18 to have a tattoo, and any artist found to do so will be prosecuted and fined, so, it’s imperative you always ask for proof of age and to include a copy in a consent form.

Interestingly, the legal age for a tattoo does differ in other parts of Europe. For example, there is no age restriction in Bulgaria, Czech Republic or Hungary, and in Spain, customers as young as 14 can get inked. France’s age requirement is 16, while Austria, Denmark and Germany are among the few who join the UK of the minimum age being 18.

The UK is actually one of the only E.U. countries not to allow tattooing of teenagers under 18 whatsoever, even with parental consent. In fact, within the UK, you are required to have a license for a broad range of permanent surgical procedures, including tattooing, semi-permanent skin colouring, cosmetic piercing, electrolysis and acupuncture.

Male tattoo artist tattooing a customer

Insurance

Taking out tattoo insurance is another important thing to consider, and purchasing the correct policy is critical to both you and your business.

The type of cover you choose will completely depend on the size of your shop, the amount of people working there and how much protection you want. It’s essentially public liability insurance, so you can pick and choose the policy best suited to you to ensure you’re protected against the important things.

In our opinion, it’s always better to be safe than sorry. If in doubt, we recommend investing a bit more money in insurance rather than getting caught out down the line.

Read our blog, What Insurance Do I Need For A Tattoo Shop? to find out more specific information on Tattoo Shop insurance.

An owl tattoo being tattooed

Tattoo laws are there for good reason – not to get in your way. They protect you and your customers which is why it’s worth keeping up to date with your knowledge of the laws, as they do change over time. A regular check in with your council will keep you on track!

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Meet Our Experts

Chris Harrison Tattoo Artist

Chris Harrison

Bridgend Tattoo Studio

Bridgend, South Wales, UK

Sneaky-Mitch, tattooist at Gold Room Tattoo, Leeds, UK

Sneaky-Mitch

Gold Room Tattoo

Leeds, UK

Tito Inkid

L’Atelier Sans Nom

Armentières, France

Lianne Moule

Immortal Ink
Chelmsford, UK

Julian ‘Corpsepainter’ Siebert

Corpse Painter Tattoo
Munich, Germany

Alex Rattray

Empire Ink
Edinburgh, Scotland, UK

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