Cosmetic Piercing a guide to safe practice

This page provides guidance on how to carry out body piercing activities hygienically and safely.

What must I do If I want to carry out body piercing on my premises?

It is a legal requirement that any business carrying out this activity is registered with Breckland Council. You will need to complete an application form and return it to our offices with the required one-off registration fee.

What is the risk from body piercing?

Any activity that involves piercing the skin creates a risk of infection and the transmission of blood-borne diseases such as HIV and Hepatitis B. It is therefore necessary that we regulate operators to ensure adequate standards of hygiene are maintained.

What must I do?

Your premises should meet certain standards with regard to structure and cleanliness, operators need to be properly trained and it is important that a safe piercing procedure is followed.


All parts of the premises where the procedure takes place must be kept in good repair so that they can be effectively cleaned in particular:

  • The room in which piercing takes place and any furniture and fittings must be provided with a smooth impervious surface that can be kept clean.
  • There should be adequate storage for equipment.
  • A supply of hot and cold water should be available nearby preferably with foot/elbow-operated taps, liquid soap dispensers and disposable paper towels.
  • Ideally a separate room should be designated for cleaning and sterilisation of equipment.
  • Rooms should be designed to protect the privacy of the client.
  • Autoclaves must be maintained and thoroughly examined by a competent person who will provide you with a certificate. Vacuum autoclaves should be used for sterilising.


All equipment must be cleaned and where necessary sterilised before use to eliminate the risk of infection. In particular:

  • Needles should be disposable, sterile and single use.
  • All skin penetration equipment must be cleaned and sterilised. This can only be achieved using an autoclave. See separate leaflet on sterilisation and disinfectant.
  • Sterile equipment must be used immediately or kept sterile until used.
  • Tables and couches should be covered with clean, disposable paper sheets for each new client.
  • Working surfaces should be cleaned down with hot water and detergent at regular intervals during the day and disinfected after each client.
  • Smoking, drinking or eating must not take place during treatment.
  • The piercing needle should be held as far away from the tip as possible.
  • Any blood/bodily spillages must be cleaned up safely using disposable gloves/ aprons and a suitable disinfectant such as bleach.
  • Needles should be disposed of in sharps containers. Other waste must be disposed of safely and collected by a competent waste contractor who is registered to take clinical waste.


All persons carrying out body piercing must be appropriately trained, competent and follow good personal hygiene.

All body piercers need to prove they are competent to practice. They should preferably have attended a relevant course and be a member of a recognised association. Newly qualified and inexperienced persons should be adequately supervised. It is also recommended that each premises has a documented procedures manual.

It is also strongly recommended that any training be documented.

Personal Hygiene

Hand washing must be carried out before and after treatment and if contaminated by blood or other bodily fluids.

  • Cuts, sores or open wounds should be covered with an impermeable dressing.
  • New disposable protective gloves should be used for each client.
  • Clean washable over clothing or disposable plastic aprons should be worn.
  • It is strongly recommended that staff are vaccinated against Hepatitis B.

Body piercing procedure

Knowledge of the different types of body piercing, technical skill and experience are essential for anyone carrying out this activity. It is important to ensure that you:

  • Wash hands and wear disposable gloves.
  • Clean skin with alcohol wipe or other suitable antiseptic and mouths with suitable mouthwash. The use of local anaesthetic creams or sprays are not permitted.
  • Ensure jewellery is nickel free and of an appropriate size and grade e.g. stainless steel, titanium or 14 carat gold. Silver is not suitable for new piercings as it tarnishes.
  • For some piercings, e.g. the tongue, a larger piece of jewellery should be inserted initially to accommodate swelling and the client should be encouraged to return to be fitted with appropriate size jewellery once the swelling has reduced.
  • Do not use ear piercing guns on any other parts of the body other than the ear.
  • Dismantle equipment, thoroughly clean and re-sterilise.
  • Dispose of needles and contaminated waste safely.
  • Provide detailed and specific aftercare advice.

Client information and records

It is important that the client signs a consent form. Body piercing should not be carried out on anyone under 16 unless parental consent has been given.

You need to also check if a client is suffering from any medical condition, which may affect the treatment or require written authorisation from the client's GP.

It is imperative that detailed aftercare advice appropriate to the piercing carried out is provided. This should give information on healing times and how to minimise infection, this should ideally be in writing. Client records should be made and preferably be kept for at least three years. This information is important should the client suffer subsequent medical complications.

What action should I take if a member of staff receives a needle stick injury?

  • Encourage puncture to bleed.
  • Wash with cold water.
  • Cover with dry dressing.
  • Seek medical advice as soon as possible.
  • Record details of the accident.

What else do I need to do?

There are a number of other things you should do:

  • When you receive your registration it should be displayed in a conspicuous position on the premises.
  • Clients must be aware of the risks associated with the different types of piercing, it is therefore strongly recommended that you display a notice conspicuously on your premises warning of these risks.
  • You should have employer's liability insurance and it is recommended you also have public liability insurance.
  • You will also need to comply with general health and safety requirements and Breckland Council Byelaws in respect of acupuncture, tattooing, cosmetic piercing and semi-permanent skin colouring.

Where can I get further information?

Should you require any further information please do not hesitate to contact the health and safety team at

Breckland Council, Elizabeth House, Walpole Loke, Dereham, Norfolk, NR19 1EE

Tel: 01362 656870 or Email: foodandHealth&

Last updated: 16/02/2021 12:21:01