Cosmetic Piercing - to pierce or not to pierce

What you need to know if you are considering having parts of your body pierced.


Body piercing is the practice of piercing parts of the body into which jewellery is then inserted.

It is important that before you have any part of your body pierced you are aware of the health risks. You need to make sure that the piercer knows how to carry out the piercing safely and hygienically.

What are the health risks associated with having parts of your body pierced?

Any activity which involves a needle penetrating the skin creates a risk of infection, injury or disease. If you do have part of your body pierced you are at risk of:


If equipment used to pierce your skin is not sterile, the premises are not kept clean, or if the piercer does not practice good hygiene there is a risk you could contract a serious blood borne disease such as HIV or Hepatitis. You may also get other infections caused by bacteria which can lead to inflammation, abscesses, scarring and possibly severe blood poisoning.


Although bleeding often takes place after piercing this can sometimes become excessive. The pain during the piercing may also be so serious to cause a person to faint.


This can happen anywhere following a piercing but this is particularly associated with tongue piercings where the tongue can swell three times its normal thickness.


This can sometimes happen if jewellery is poorly inserted or if it migrates under the skin. An infection and poor healing can also lead to scarring.


If jewellery is not of a suitable material it can cause an allergic response. You should ensure it is nickel free or has a nickel content less than 0.05%.

Some anaesthetic sprays have been known to cause a severe reaction when placed on the skin; anaesthetic sprays are therefore no longer allowed to be used.

Embedding of jewellery

Sometimes the piece of jewellery may sink beneath the surface of the skin, this can happen for example when an ear piercing gun is used to pierce parts of the body such as navels. It is for this reason that ear piercing guns should only be used to pierce the ear lobe.

Many of these problems can be prevented by ensuring you choose a competent, reputable and experienced piercer.

If I want a part of my body pierced how do I choose where to go?

It is important that any premises you visit who carries out body piercing is experienced, reputable and competent. It is now a legal requirement that all persons carrying out body piercing are registered with Breckland Council. This means that premises are subject to regular inspections by officers from Environmental Health to check that they are operating safely, hygienically and within the law. When you visit the premises, ask to see the registration as this must be displayed on the premises.

What should I expect when I visit the body piercing studio?

The person carrying out the piercing should explain the procedure to you; the potential risks and any complications that may take place before you agree to the procedure.

Your medical history should be discussed in case you have any condition such as diabetes, heart disease, HIV, Hepatitis B or C, epilepsy, pregnancy which may make piercing unsafe or require the consent of your GP.

  • You should sign a consent form agreeing to the piercing.
  • The piercing must take place in an area which provides privacy from other persons in the premises.
  • The premises and the piercer must be clean and the piercer must wear new disposable gloves over clean hands before starting the piercing.
  • All equipment used in the piercing procedure such as needles and tweezers must be sterile. Ask how equipment is sterilised and kept sterile before use. Only by using a piece of equipment called a vacuum autoclave can equipment be properly sterilised.
  • Any needles used for your piercing should be disposable and opened in their sterile package in front of you. If they have already been opened they may no longer be sterile and you must ask for some new needles in their original packaging to be used.
  • The piercer should use a 'no touch' technique; which means their hands should not come into contact with your skin.
  • Anaesthetic injections, sprays etc are not allowed to be used by body piercers as they can have serious side effects.
  • Following the piercing you must be provided with detailed verbal and written aftercare advice that provides you with information on how to take care of your piercing to enable you to take appropriate action to prevent any future problems from taking place.
  • A reputable piercer will encourage you to make an appointment to return so that they can check there are no complications with your piercing.

Remember if at any point you are unhappy with the way the piercer is operating leave the premises. If you do not the result of having your piercing completed by a piercer who is carrying out unsafe or unhygienic methods may result in a serious risk to your health.

Is there a minimum age for body piercing?

There is no law concerning this, however, you will find that most reputable piercers will not pierce children's ears, naval and nose under the age of 15 unless parental consent has been given. Many will not carry out piercings of other parts of this body to persons under the age of 18, as if a female child has piercings of genitals it could be regarded as assault as a child of this age cannot give consent for this activity.

To ensure there are no misunderstandings it is recommended that you take a friend with you, especially when you are having genital piercings.

If I have a complaint or want further information on body piercing who should I contact?

If you have a complaint regarding a body piercer or premise or you require any further information on body piercing 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: 23/02/2021 08:37:57