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Whilst the law requires people and premises to be registered for acupuncture, tattooing, electrolysis, cosmetic piercing and micro-pigmentation, it does not cover other body modification techniques. These techniques include:

  • scarification
  • branding
  • sub or trans-dermal implants
  • ocular implants
  • tongue splitting


If you want to carry out body modification techniques, please refer to Tattooing and Body Piercing Guidance for information on safe working practices.

The Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 provides general duties on employers and the self employed to safeguard the health and safety of members of the public. All establishments carrying out body modification will also be subject to health and safety intervention by North Devon Council's Health Food and Safety team. 

Offences and penalties

The law contains a range of enforcement powers, which may be used by officers if risks to the health and safety of members of the public are identified.

Extreme forms of body modification do cause actual harm and generally leave permanent marks and can result in disfigurement. They can therefore be considered as assaults to the body and so are potentially subject to the legislation concerning assault. This means that the question of age and the client's informed consent are very important.

You should be aware that accusations of assault could be made and include:

  • common assault - this is unlikely because clients can give consent
  • actual bodily harm - if bruises or grazes are evident
  • grievous bodily harm - if a cut has been made to the skin
  • indecent assault - touching female/male genitalia or breasts without consent

The Prohibition of Female Circumcision Act 1985

This Act states that a person who ‘excises, infibulates or otherwise mutilates the whole or any part of the Labia majora, Labia minora or Clitoris of another person’ is guilty of a criminal offence. Therefore, piercing the female genitalia could be an offence and this must be considered before such piercings are performed.

It is important to note that the Act does not allow women to consent to any procedure that could be defined as female circumcision.


If you want to make a complaint about a premises that practices body modification techniques, please contact us.

In addition, consumer complaints may be investigated under The Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974.