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Piercing Minors

Willow & Trey Smith, Will Smith's Kids, Have Tongue & Facial PiercingsMany teenagers love the idea of body piercings, but in most states, kids can't legally get pierced without a parent or guardian's consent until they turn 18. There are some piercings that no minor can get even with parental consent, like genital piercings and nipple piercings. Other piercings simply require a parent or legal guardian's written consent, but there are times when a caretaker must also be present at the time their child is pierced and/or provide proof that they are the child's parent or legal guardian. The exact rules vary by state, as do the repercussions for violating a state's regulations regarding piercing minors.

Whether you're a parent with a child who wants to get pierced or a piercing artist trying to make sure you're playing by the rules, it's important to know your state's laws regarding piercing minors. To help you gain a better understanding of your state's regulations, we've put together a chart of rules for piercing minors by state. This information comes primarily from the National Conference of State Legislators website, with supplemental information from the Association of Professional Piercers' website and other state websites and legal resources. Note that these rules may change at any time, so you should periodically review your state government's website for the latest regulations. It's also important to know that some states leave it to their counties and cities to regulate piercing and tattooing, as is the case in Maryland, so you should also check with your local government to make sure you're meeting the trifecta of state, county and city regulations regarding piercing minors.

Scroll down to find your state or the District of Columbia and read the current regulations regarding piercing minors in your area, which are up-to-date as of November 2014.

State Regulations for Piercing Minors

State Rules Regarding Piercing Minors
Alabama
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Anyone under the age of 18 must have prior written, informed consent from their parent or legal guardian to get pierced.

Alaska
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A minor wishing to get pierced must have prior written approval from their parent or legal guardian and the parent or guardian must be present during the piercing. The piercer must keep a copy of the written permission on file for a minimum of 3 years. Piercers who violate these rules may be found guilty of a Class B misdemeanor.

Arizona
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No one under the age of 18 can be pierced without their parent or legal guardian being physically present. It's considered a Class 6 felony for a piercer to violate this law. The only exception is if the purported parent or legal guardian provided false proof of identification that lead the piercer to believe the person was legally responsible for the minor being pierced.

Arkansas
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No minor can be pierced without a parent, legal guardian or custodian providing written consent and being present during the modification. It's considered a misdemeanor to violate this rule. Piercers convicted of unlawfully piercing a minor may be fined between $20 and $200.

California
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No body piercing except for ear piercings may be performed on a minor under the age of 18 without a parent or guardian being present or providing notarized approval for their child to get a specific piercing. This rule does not apply to emancipated minors.

Colorado
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A parent or guardian must provide express consent for a minor in their care to get pierced. If a piercer fails to obtain parental permission before piercing a minor, it's considered a petty offense that may result in a $250 fine.

Connecticut
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Unemancipated minors under the age of 18 must have written consent from a parent or guardian to be pierced.

Delaware
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The parent or legal guardian of a minor wishing to be pierced must provide prior written consent in order for their child to be pierced legally.

District of Columbia
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D.C. has always maintained a libertarian view of tattooing and piercing; it's one of the only places in the U.S. where tattooing and piercing are unlicensed and largely unregulated. The District's Health Department wanted to implement a 24-hour waiting period for body modifications, but strong public opposition killed the bill. The District may still enforce a regulation prohibiting minors under the age of 18 from getting any sort of body modification except ear piercings, and then only if accompanied by a parent or legal guardian. While this regulation has not yet gone into effect, piercers should take the precautionary measure of requiring both a parent or guardian's written consent and presence when piercing a minor in their care.

Florida
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Those under the age of 18 must present a parent or guardian's notarized written consent to get a specific piercing or be accompanied by a parent or legal guardian to get pierced.

Georgia
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A custodial parent or guardian must provide written consent before a minor can be pierced. Violators may be found guilty of a misdemeanor.

Hawaii
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At this time, parental consent is not required for a minor to get a piercing in Hawaii, but the state legislature is working to change that. In the meantime, many shops have implemented their own age restrictions. For instance, Tattoo Licious will perform navel and ear piercings on those age 16+ who present valid photo IDs, and they'll do any other piercing (nipple and genital piercings excluded) for those 16 or older if they present an appropriate ID and have parental consent. Children of any age may have their ears pierced there with parental consent, too.

Idaho
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No one under the age of 14 can get any piercing other than an earlobe piercing in Idaho, even with parental consent. Those between the ages of 14 and 18 can be pierced if a parent or legal guardian provides written informed consent in the presence of the person performing the piercing or an employee or agent of the piercer. The law excludes earlobe piercings and piercing for medical purposes. Violation of this law is considered a misdemeanor offense accompanied by a fine of up to $500. If a piercer has a secondary offense within a year of their first one, they may be fined another $500 to $1,000.

Illinois
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It's a Class C misdemeanor for a piercer to pierce any minor under the age of 18 without written consent of the child's parent or legal guardian. There's an exception for emancipated or married minors. Allowing a minor unaccompanied by a parent or legal guardian to step foot into a tattoo and piercing shop is deemed a Class A misdemeanor.

Indiana
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A minor's parent or legal guardian must be present for a child under the age of 18 to get a body piercing. The parent or guardian must also provide written permission for the minor to receive the piercing.

Iowa
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There is currently no age requirement for piercings in Iowa, although minors under the age of 18 must have parental consent to get tattooed. It's up to individual piercing establishments to set their own rules regarding piercing minors. Some Iowa shops do require parental consent to pierce minors while others, like The Neon Dragon in Hiawatha, won't pierce or tattoo anyone under the age of 18 under any circumstances, even with parental consent.

Kansas
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Written, notarized consent and the physical presence of a minor's parent or court-appointed guardian are required for anyone under the age of 18 to get pierced in Kansas. Piercers must keep copies of written permission to pierce minors on file for 5 years. Violation of this law is considered a Class A misdemeanor.

Kentucky
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A parent or guardian's written, notarized consent is required for any minor to get a piercing in Kentucky.
Louisiana
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Both written consent and a parent or guardian's physical presence during the piercing are required for minors to get pierced in Louisiana. Violators may be fined between $100 and $500 and/or imprisoned for 30-100 days.

Maine
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In the state of Maine, a parent or legal guardian must provide prior written consent for their child to get a specific piercing before the minor can be pierced.
Maryland
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In the state of Maryland, a parent or legal guardian must provide written consent for their minor to be pierced and do so in the presence of the piercer or his or her employee. Civil penalties for violating this rule range from $300 for a first offense to $3,000 for multiple violations. Ear piercing is excluded from the scope of the bill. Individual shops have different rules for what piercings they'll perform on minors of varying ages with parental consent. For instance, at The Studio at Painful Pleasures, minors 15 and older may have their navels and noses pierced and minors 16+ may have their eyebrows and tongues pierced with parental consent.
Massachusetts
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The only piercings for which Massachusetts specifies a minimum age requirement are nipple and genital piercings, which can only be performed on adults age 18 or older. All other piercings may be performed on minors at each piercer's discretion. Most Massachusetts shops require that a parent or legal guardian be present when a minor is pierced, and each shop sets their own guidelines as to which piercings they'll perform at which ages. For instance, Visions Tattoo Gallery will perform ear piercings (lobe & cartilage) on minors 13 or older with parental consent, but only if the minor passes their interview requirements. The shop considers a child's lifestyle, attitude, and maturity as it pertains to their ability to properly care for a new piercing before deciding whether or not to pierce them.

Michigan
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Minors may be pierced before the age of 18 if a parent or legal guardian provides informed, written consent in the presence of the piercer or their employee. This law does not apply to emancipated minors.

Minnesota
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Piercers must have witnessed written parental consent to pierce a minor, meaning that a parent or legal guardian must accompany their child to the shop where they want to get pierced and sign an informed consent form on site. Violations are considered a misdemeanor.
Mississippi
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With the exception of earlobe piercings, it's illegal to pierce anyone under the age of 18 regardless of parental consent in the state of Mississippi. Violating this law is considered a misdemeanor and may result in a fine of up to $500.

Missouri
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A parent or guardian must provide written consent in the presence of a piercer or their agent in order for a child in their care to get a body piercing in Missouri. Piercers who violate this rule may be charged with a misdemeanor offense and fined up to $500, if it's their first offense. Anyone who violates this law more than once within a year of their first violation may be fined an additional $500 to $1,000.

Montana
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No one may knowingly pierce a child under the age of 18 without the explicit in-person consent of the child's parent or legal guardian in Montana. Convicted violators will be fined up to $500 and/or imprisoned for up to 6 months. A second offense may result in a fine of up to $1,000, up to 6 months in prison, or both.

Nebraska
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A parent or guardian must provide written consent in person for a child in their care to get a body piercing, and they must be present for the procedure. Piercers have to save written consent forms for at least 5 years. Although there are no criminal penalties for violating this rule, it's considered unprofessional conduct--a label that may jeopardize a piercer's license to practice.
Nevada
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There do not appear to be any state-wide rules regarding piercing minors in Nevada, but the Southern Nevada Health District in Clark County dictates that a parent or guardian must be present when a child under 18 is pierced, that state- or school-issued picture identification must be provided both by the child and their guardian, and that a photocopy of the IDs must be kept on file with all related paperwork, which should include a signed release form. Some shops also require that the consenting parent be named on the child's birth certificate and provide the shop with a copy of the birth certificate.
New Hampshire
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A parent or guardian must accompany any child under the age of 18 when they get a piercing. They have to provide evidence that they are the child's parent or legal guardian, sign a document providing informed consent, and stay during the piercing procedure. Shops must maintain records of piercing minors for 7 years.

New Jersey
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It's considered a "disorderly persons offense" for a piercing artist to pierce a minor without prior written permission from a parent or legal guardian in the state of New Jersey.
New Mexico
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Although New Mexico is an unregulated state when it comes to body modification, specific areas have set rules regarding piercing minors. For instance, Albuquerque City Ordinance Chapter 11, Article 5 requires a parent or legal guardian's written consent before a minor in their care can be pierced. (Ear piercing is excluded from this rule.) As long as the parent or guardian has hand-delivered written and notarized consent for their child to get a specific type of piercing, they do not have to be present during the procedure. If they do stay during the procedure, the written consent does not have to be notarized.

New York
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A parent or legal guardian must provide written consent for a child in their care to be pierced in New York, and they must do so in the presence of the piercing shop owner or the piercing artist who will be piercing their child. Shops must keep consent forms on file for a minimum of 12 months.
North Carolina
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No one may pierce a minor anywhere but their earlobes without prior consent of the custodial parent in the state of North Carolina.

North Dakota
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A parent or guardian must provide written consent and be present in order for their child to be pierced in North Dakota. It's also worth noting that it's a misdemeanor to sell tattoo or piercing equipment to a minor in the state of North Dakota.
Ohio
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It's illegal to perform any body piercing (ear piercings included) on a minor in Ohio without the consent of the minor's parent or legal custodian. The consenting adult must accompany their child to the piercing establishment and sign a document providing informed consent before the child can be legally pierced.

Oklahoma
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No minor may be pierced in Oklahoma without a parent or legal guardian providing written consent and staying for the piercing procedure. Violating this rule is deemed a misdemeanor offense that is punishable by up to 90 days of imprisonment, a fine of up to $5,000, or both.

Oregon
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A parent or legal guardian must present a current government-issued photo ID and sign a consent form before a child under 18 who's in their care may be pierced in Oregon. However, the piercing establishment is not required to verify the authenticity of the person signing the consent form. If a facility fails to obtain a consent form prior to piercing a minor, though, they are violating state law and subject to disciplinary action. 

Pennsylvania
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A parent or guardian must accompany a child under age 18 who wishes to get a body piercing in Pennsylvania, and they must provide written consent for the procedure in person. It's a 3rd degree misdemeanor to pierce a minor without proper parental consent and presence in Pennsylvania. Doing so may result in a fine of $100, imprisonment for up to 3 years, or both.

Rhode Island
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A minor must be accompanied by his or her consenting parent or legal guardian in order to get a body piercing before the age of 18 in the state of Rhode Island.
South Carolina
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No one under the age of 18 may get a body piercing in South Carolina. Anyone over 18 who wishes to get a piercing must present photo ID to verify their age.
South Dakota
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There are no state-wide regulations regarding piercing minors in South Dakota at this time, but some municipalities have set their own rules. Many shops voluntarily choose to follow the standard practice of requiring a parent or guardian to provide written consent in person before a child under the age of 18 may be pierced.
Tennessee
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Minors may be pierced if a parent or legal guardian accompanies them to the piercing establishment and signs a document explaining the procedure and proper aftercare. They must also present proof of age, provide proof of guardianship or custody, and attest in writing that they are the minor's legal caretaker. Piercing a minor whose legal caretaker hasn't taken all these measures is a Class C misdemeanor that may result in imprisonment for up to 30 days or a fine of up to $50.

Texas
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A parent, managing conservator or legal guardian must physically accompany a child under the age of 18 to get a body piercing in Texas. The legal caretaker must provide evidence of their parental or guardian status and their consent must specify the part of the body to be pierced.

Utah
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Any piercing artist who agrees to pierce a minor must have the consent of the minor's parent or legal guardian in Utah. It's a Class B misdemeanor to knowingly pierce a minor without proper consent. The owner or operator of an establishment where a minor has been unlawfully pierced is subject to a civil penalty of $1,000 for each violation. A piercer will only be found guilty of violating this rule if s/he did not assign a personal ID number to a client and follow all proper protocol before piercing someone s/he did not know was a minor.

Vermont
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Vermont law states that it's unprofessional conduct to tattoo or pierce a minor "in violation of the provisions of section 4102 of this title", but section 4102 only states that parental or guardian consent is required for an individual under the age of 18 to get tattooed. Therefore, there do not seem to be any state-wide regulations regarding piercing minors in Vermont. However, most piercing shops in Vermont have policies requiring parental or guardian consent and presence at the time a minor is pierced.
Virginia
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A parent or guardian must be present for their minor child to get a body piercing in Virginia. Exceptions include ear piercings and piercings performed under the supervision of a medical doctor, registered nurse, or other medical personnel. Virginia considers it a Class 1 misdemeanor to violate this rule.

Washington
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Washington state law mandates that no one under the age of 18 may be tattooed, but there do not seem to be any rules regarding piercing. There's been much debate about this among legislators, but no new laws have been implemented. However, most body piercing professionals in Washington will not serve clients younger than 18 without parental supervision. Some shops even require that the attending parent or guardian provide proof of identification and legal custody.
West Virginia
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West Virginia law currently only requires parental or guardian consent before a minor can be tattooed. There are no rules regarding piercing minors, but professional piercers tend to follow the common protocol of requiring consent by a parent or legal guardian before piercing a minor.
Wisconsin
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Wisconsin Administrative Code dictates that no one under the age of 16 may be pierced, and that those ages 16-17 can only be pierced if a parent or legal guardian signs an informed consent form in the presence of the piercer or shop operator. Piercing establishments are required to clearly post that it's illegal to pierce anyone under the age of 18 without a parent or guardian's informed written consent. Shops must maintain consent forms for 2 years after piercing anyone.

Wyoming
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No one may pierce a minor in Wyoming without consent of the minor's parent or legal guardian, who must be present at the time the procedure is performed. Piercers must verify patrons' ages by examining proper identification. It's a misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment for up to 6 months and/or a fine of up to $750 to pierce a minor without proper consent and parental presence during the piercing procedure.

 

The Final Verdict on Piercing Minors

If you read through each state's rules, you'll see this pattern: Whether or not a state requires parental consent for minors to be pierced, professional piercers everywhere tend to uphold a general code of ethics that includes obtaining parental or guardian consent before performing any body piercing on a minor. Standards nation-wide tend to be more lax regarding earlobe piercings, but even then, most piercers will not pierce a child's ears if they're younger than 13, even with parental consent. Parents who wish to have their infants' ears pierced often ask their family doctor or a nurse in the practice to do the job. It isn't unheard of for a professional piercer to pierce a baby's earlobes, but it's a lot less common than you might think.

As body modification continues to grow in popularity and further infiltrate the mainstream, we'll likely see the lingering states that don't currently regulate tattoos and piercings jump on the bandwagon and implement legislation to protect minors. In the meantime, parents in unregulated states like West Virginia and South Dakota can take comfort in the knowledge that the majority of professional piercers in their area are already looking out for their kids by putting the kibosh on underage piercing without parental consent.

 

Resources for Piercers

The Shop Safety and Piercing Information sections of our Information Center offer a wealth of information for aspiring, new and experienced piercers alike. One of the resources we provide is a Sample Body Piercing Release Form, which you may want to reference when designing your own form to obtain parental consent to pierce minors. You'll also find information that will help you run your shop to code, like our Maintaining a Sterile Work Environment article. Although our Tattooing Safely: A Guide for Tattoo Artists is geared towards tattoo artists, piercers may also find it helpful as it contains tips for verifying potential clients' ages and information on meeting OSHA standards. These are just a few of the many informative articles you'll find in our online library.
 

 

References

Ncsl.org
Cga.ct.gov
Starbulletin.com
Kcrg.com
Mlis.state.md.us
Washingtoncitypaper.com
Southernnevadahealthdistrict.org
Tattoodesign.com
Oregon.gov
Spcp.org
Leg.state.vt.us
Uvm.edu
App.leg.wa.gov
Seattlepi.com
Legis.state.wv.us
Docs.legis.wisconsin.gov