Age limit on piercings

Hannah ThompsonYouGovLabs and UK Public Opinion Website Editor
November 08, 2011, 2:23 PM GMT+0

52% support age limit of over 16 for ear piercings, but opinion divided over age restriction for other body parts

The British public think there should be an age limit on getting ear piercings without parental consent in England and Wales, with more than two thirds thinking the age limit should be at least 16, and around one in five stipulating that it should be at least 18.

Opinion is similar when it comes to piercings of other parts of the body, with nine out of ten people saying the limit for this should be at least 16, and one in ten going as far as saying that the age should be at least 21 or over.

The results come in light of a recent Welsh parliament petition highlighting high incidences of health problems caused by young people’s exposure to piercings. Although Scotland has a consent age of at least 16 for ear piercings, there are no laws regulating piercings for minors in England and Wales.

  • 52% of people think the age limit for having ear piercings without a parent’s permission should be 16 and over
  • 16% think it should be 18 and over
  • And 3% would put the limit at over 21 years of age, meaning that 71% of people would set the age of consent to be at least 16 or over, and 19% at least 18 and over
  • Just 5% say that there should be no age of consent for ear piercings

However, opinion is split over other body piercings. While the vast majority would impose a limit of at least 16, 39% would be happy with 16 as the minimum age, while a similar 41% would go further and raise it to 18. One in ten (10%) would have the minimum age as 21 and over.

It’s an age thing

There are perhaps unsurprising differences between age groups regarding the issue. While similar numbers of older and younger people say 16 and over should be the age limit for ear piercings, double the amount of those aged over 60 (24%) would raise the limit to 18 and over compared to those aged 18-24 (12%).

Among all age groups, setting an age limit of 16 or over is the most popular option for ear piercings.

For other body parts, however, more people over 60 (46%) favour 18 and over as the legal age, compared to 34% saying 16 and over.

People aged 18-24 are more likely (47%) to feel 16 and over, rather than 18 and over (35%), is fine for body piercings.

Piercing legislation?

Despite many piercing salons imposing their own age restrictions for body piercings, there is no legal age restriction for any kind of piercing in England and Wales, unlike in Scotland, where people under 16 are required to have a parent’s permission before having ears and other body parts pierced.

Concerns surrounding the issue have recently seen the Welsh Government calling for an age restriction on piercings. With a legal age of consent in place, it is argued, the risk of complications from piercings ‒ which can include anything from simple bacterial infections to conditions like blood poisoning or toxic shock syndrome ‒ among young people would be reduced.

‘The risks and implications’

Lesley Griffiths, the Welsh Heath Minister, announced she would be in favour of setting the age at 16 if a legal age of consent on piercings was introduced in Wales. She told the BBC that her reasoning behind it was because 16 year olds are able to ‘maturely and intelligently’ consider ‘the risks and implications’ of having body piercings.

However Jocelyn Davies from Welsh party Plaid Cymru contests imposing age legislation and has commented, ‘I imagine that there is a number of serious individual cases relating to piercing, but not necessary related to age or the lack of parental consent’.

Jon Taylor, director of UK piercing shop chain Blue Banana, which has its own guidelines put in place to protect clients, welcomes the idea of enforcing a minimum age of consent. ‘Very young people tend not to listen to the advice they are given [and often] end up with minor infections and complications’, he told the BBC.

See the survey details and full results here