Registration of businesses carrying out skin piercing acitivities

Anyone carrying out skin piercing activities, including but not limited to, cosmetic piercing, tattooing, microblading, acupuncture or electrolysis must be registered with the local authority. The practices include the following:

  • tattooing
  • cosmetic piercing (including ear-piercing and body piercing)
  • electrolysis
  • semi-permanent makeup to including make-up, micropigmentation, derma pigmentation, microblading, temporary tattooing, cosmetic tattooing; and
  • acupuncture

Some cosmetic procedures are currently regulated by the General Medical Council, not the local authority, such as micro-needling, Botox, and fillers. For more information visit: General Medical Council (GMC) - A doctor's guide to GMC online

Registration of skin piercing activities is required for both the person carrying out the activity and the premises used for that purpose, unless being carried out by a registered medical practitioner such as a doctor. There is similar exemption for dentists in respect of acupuncture.

Procedures, equipment, and facilities used must be safe, hygienic, prevent the spread of disease and comply fully with the general duties of care required by the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974.

There are no powers to refuse registration, but the practice is controlled through compliance with byelaws. A court may suspend or cancel the registration of a person who is found guilty of contravening a relevant byelaw.

Any person carrying out any of these activities without being registered may be prosecuted.

How to register

Registering a skin piercing business in the West Suffolk area, or applying for a variation of registration, must be done online at GOV.UK - Tattoo, piercing and electrolysis licence (England and Wales)

Registration fees

Currently, a one-off registration fee is payable for the person at the premises. If the business moves, or a new business takes over an existing site, this will require a new registration.

If, after the initial registration, you wish to add a practitioner or additional treatments, a variation can be applied for.

The current registration fees are:

  • new registration: £185
  • variation of registration £90

The fees and charges are subject to periodic review.

When applying for either a new registration or a variation of registration you will need to attach electronic copies of the following documents:

  • public liability insurance certificate
  • relevant qualifications (please note: for microblading, National Standard Level 4 is required)
  • proof of membership of relevant trade organisation (if applicable).

When completing the application form, applicants must supply the council with information on how the practices will be carried out hygienically and safely.

Once an application for registration is received, an inspection of the premises will be carried out to check compliance with the byelaw requirements as well as ensuring that general health and safety requirements are being met. An inspection may also be carried out for an application for variation of registration.


The skin piercing byelaws for West Suffolk set hygiene standards relevant to cleanliness and hygiene of premises, staff and equipment. The byelaws must be adhered to. Failure to meet the byelaws may result in enforcement action being taken by the council.

A copy of the local authority byelaws for acupuncture, tattooing, semi-permanent skin-colouring, cosmetic piercing and electrolysis.


More information

  • Tattooing of Minors Act 1969 - It is an offence to tattoo any person under the age of 18 years, regardless of parental consent. This would be a police matter.
  • A person under the age of 18 years may receive body piercing provided they have received written permission from, or the treatment is performed in the presence of, the person's parent or guardian.
  • Nipple and genital piercing are prohibited on minors, regardless of parental consent.
  • Botulinum Toxin and Cosmetic Fillers (Children) Act 2021 - Practitioners who wish to undertake these procedures will need to register with the General Medical Council (details below). The Act makes it illegal to provide either procedure to under-18s for cosmetic reasons. 

This is not an exhaustive list, contact the General Medical Council for further guidance and information: General Medical Council - Registration and licensing

West Suffolk skin piercing guidelines

The advice set out in the skin piercing guidelines provides additional information on how to meet best practice for hygiene and safety. It is recommended that all applicants read through this guidance before submitting their application. All licensees are sent a copy to ensure continued good practice and a high standard of safety and cleanliness.

Download: Skin Piercing Guidelines

Additional information

The Chartered Institute of Environmental Health (CIEH) convened a multi-agency working group to develop guidance following concerns raised by tattoo and body piercing practitioners, as well as health protection and environmental health specialists, about the lack of robust and consistent guidance on standards of hygiene and safety in the industry. The group comprised representatives from the CIEH, the Health and Safety Laboratory, Public Health England, the Tattoo and Piercing Industry Union and individuals with practical experience of working in this area.

Guidance documentation available include the following:

Eligibility criteria

You must provide specific information including details of your premises, and any previous convictions for practicing without being registered in this field.


No tacit consent will apply. It is in the public interest for reasons of public health that the authority must process your application before it can be granted (completion period 28 days). 

If you have not heard from the authority within a reasonable period, please contact us. You can do this via the contact details on this page.

Trade associations

Changes to registrations

If you need to make any changes, if the business closes, or practitioners are no longer working at the premises, please contact us at food&