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Tattoo licence requirements for aspiring tattoo artists in the UK


One of the significant pain points that budding tattoo artists must navigate is understanding and complying with the intricate tattoo licence requirements imposed by local authorities across the country.

These licensing regulations, designed to ensure public safety and uphold industry standards, can be a formidable obstacle to setting up a successful tattoo studio.

In this article, we delve into the essential tattoo licence requirements, shedding light on the crucial steps, nuances, and considerations that every aspiring tattoo artist in the UK must grapple with to turn their tattooing dreams into a legal and thriving reality.

What tattoo licence do you need for tattooing?

In the United Kingdom, tattoo artists and studios typically require a "tattoo, piercing, and electrolysis licence" or a "special treatments licence" to operate legally. The specific name and requirements of the licence may vary by local authority or council, as licensing is administered at the local level.


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Is a license required for performing skin piercing and tattooing?

Yes, a licence is typically required for performing body piercing and tattooing in many jurisdictions, including the UK. Tattoo and piercing licences are essential to ensure practitioners meet specific health and safety standards and regulations established by local authorities or government agencies.

The licensing process is designed to safeguard the health and well-being of both practitioners and clients, reduce the risk of infections and complications, and maintain high standards of hygiene in tattoo and piercing studios.

Therefore, anyone considering a career in tattooing or skin piercing should consult their local council or relevant regulatory authority to understand the specific licensing requirements and procedures in their area. Failure to get the necessary licence can result in legal consequences and the closure of the business.

Legal requirements in setting up and running your tattoo business

Register yourself and your premises with your local council

Before operating your tattoo shop business, you must register both yourself and your premises with your local council to obtain a tattoo, piercing, and electrolysis licence. To do this, you should:

  • Be over 18 years of age: Only individuals who are 18 years or older are eligible to register for a tattoo, piercing, and electrolysis licence.
  • Provide details about yourself and your premises: The registration process involves submitting comprehensive details about yourself as a tattoo artist and information about your business premises. This includes your name, contact information, and details about the location of your studio.
  • Pay a one-off registration fee: The registration fee is determined by the local council and may vary depending on your area. It is a one-time cost that is required for obtaining the licence.
  • Be vaccinated against hepatitis B: Tattoo artists are typically required to provide proof of vaccination against hepatitis B as part of the registration process. This vaccination is crucial to protect both you and your clients from potential health risks.

It is important to check with your specific local council for the exact requirements, fees, and procedures for obtaining the necessary licence.

Register with your Local Environmental Health Department

Tattoo artists in the UK must register with their local Environmental Health department. This registration ensures that your tattoo studio complies with health and safety standards, and it involves inspections to maintain compliance.

Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations (1992)

These regulations require businesses with five or more employees to conduct risk assessments, ensure safe working conditions, and maintain equipment. Adequate ventilation, temperature, lighting, cleanliness, and spacing in the studio are essential.

Tattooing of Minors Act (1969)

This Act prohibits the tattooing of individuals under the age of 18 in the UK. Tattoo businesses must request photo identification to verify the age of clients before providing tattoo services.


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Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations (PUWER) 1998

PUWER regulations apply to tattoo artists and their equipment. Tattooing machines or any tattoo equipment must be fit for purpose, regularly maintained, and used safely. Health and safety risks related to equipment usage should be minimised.

Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH) Regulations

COSHH regulations mandate the control of potentially hazardous substances used in the tattooing process. Tattoo artists must assess, control, and reduce risks associated with chemicals, sterilising materials, and other substances used in the business.

Reporting of Injuries, Diseases, and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations (RIDDOR) 2013

RIDDOR requires businesses to report all workplace injuries or diseases, and dangerous incidents to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). This ensures that all relevant incidents are documented and addressed.

Manual Handling Operations Regulations (1992)

Tattooing often involves manual handling, which can strain the hands, fingers, wrists, and arms of tattoo artists. Compliance with these regulations helps protect employees from injuries related to manual handling tasks.

General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) and the Data Protection Act (DPA)

When handling personal information, such as customer contact details, tattoo businesses must comply with GDPR and DPA. This includes securing and managing customer data and, if necessary, obtaining a licence for processing personal data.

Be aware of copyright infringement laws

You should avoid knowingly copying another artist's work to prevent copyright infringement. They can also register their original designs with the Intellectual Property Office (IPO) to protect their creations.

Dispose of waste appropriately

Tattoo businesses generate clinical or hazardous waste, including tattoo needles, gloves, and materials containing bodily fluids. This waste must be disposed of properly through registered, authorised waste carriers to ensure safety and environmental compliance.

Register for self-assessment tax

Tattoo business owners need to register for self-assessment tax with HMRC. This allows them to calculate and pay their own taxes each year, including tracking finances and submitting expenses as part of the tax assessment.


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What is the duration of the licence validity?

The duration of the licence validity for tattooing and skin piercing can vary depending on local regulations and the specific licensing authority or agency overseeing these practices. In many jurisdictions, tattooing and skin piercing licences are issued for a set period, typically one year. However, some regions may issue licences with longer or shorter durations.

It's crucial for individuals and businesses engaged in tattooing and skin piercing to check with their local council or relevant regulatory authority to determine the exact duration of the licence validity in their area.

Additionally, it's essential to be aware of renewal requirements and deadlines to ensure that the licence remains valid and compliant with local regulations. Failure to renew the licence on time can result in the suspension or revocation of the licence, which can impact the ability to continue operating legally.

Can individuals from outside the UK also obtain a licence?

Yes, individuals from outside the UK can still obtain a licence for tattooing or skin piercing in the UK. However, there are additional requirements for non-UK residents, particularly if they have not lived in the UK for at least 10 years.

Specifically, individuals who have not resided in the UK for a minimum of 10 years may be required to obtain a Certificate of Good Conduct or Criminal Record Certificate from their country of origin. This is done to ensure that the licensing authority has access to the same information about the applicant's criminal history as it does for individuals who have lived in the UK for a decade or more.

To obtain this certificate, individuals should typically contact their Embassy or Consulate in the UK to learn about the specific process and requirements. If the certificate is not issued in English, applicants may also need to arrange for a translation of the document. It's important to note that applicants are responsible for covering the costs of obtaining the certificate and any necessary translation.

Get your tattoo licence

Navigating the tattoo licence requirements as an aspiring tattoo artist in the UK is undeniably challenging but necessary. While the path may seem intricate and at times daunting, it is essential to recognize that these regulations are in place to ensure the well-being and safety of both artists and clients.

By diligently adhering to the licensing process, aspiring tattoo artists establish a foundation for a successful career and contribute to the industry's overall professionalism and credibility. Stay informed, stay compliant, and let your passion for tattooing shine through while embracing the responsibilities that come with it.


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  • Mark Joshua Luz