The attitude towards tattoos and piercings has shifted significantly in recent years. It is no longer seen as an extreme thing to do and has become more socially accepted. Between 2004 and 2014 there was a 173% increase in the number of tattoo parlours in the UK and now one in five of us have a tattoo.

The Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH), an independent health education charity and the world’s longest-established public health body, has published its latest report, Skins and Needles. The report explores the health risks associated with increasing number of people in the UK having tattoos, piercings and other treatments that compromise the skin barrier.

The RSPH is now calling for an overhaul in infection control in shops offering tattoos and piercings after research shows that almost a fifth (18%) of customers suffered negative effects over the last five years.

According to the RSPH, there is no standard legal infection control requirement in the UK for anyone offerings tattoos, piercings or other treatments that compromise the skin barrier. This means that currently anyone can set up a tattoo or piercing parlour without the correct training or qualifications and put people at risk of infection.

Exploring the rising public appetite for change

Populus research commissioned as part of the report shows that an overwhelming majority (90%) of respondents believe people who carry out these types of procedures should hold an infection control qualification. In addition, 86% of the public agree that purchases of tattoo machines or any other associated equipment should be restricted to those who are registered or licenses by their local authority to carry out these procedures. Currently anyone can buy this equipment online without having to provide any type of qualification.

In 2019, 82% of people we surveyed agreed that the rise in photo based social media platforms such as Facebook and Instagram puts pressure on younger people to have unnecessary cosmetic procedures done, like fillers. As a result of this, a high number of respondents (87%) want the UK government to make any type of non-surgical procedures such as fillers illegal for people under the age of 18.

RSPH Chief Executive Shirley Cramer CBE said:

“The growing popularity of tattoos, piercings and cosmetic procedures is all part and parcel of people choosing to express themselves and their individual identity.

However, the legislation and regulation of providers of these services, which ultimately protects the public, is markedly different across the UK and in some areas is not fit for purpose…”

President of the UK Association of Professional Piercers (UKAPP), Nicole Holmes, said:

“People should have the freedom to express themselves through piercings, but they should also have the right to do so safely and without harm to their health. When someone approaches a piercer, they embark on an exciting new project, but one that comes with health risks that much be managed.”

To read the full report by the RSPH click here.

Populus interviewed 2,073 consumers across the United Kingdom between 31st May and 2nd June 2019. Quotas and weights were used to ensure the sample was representative of the GB adult population. Populus is a founder member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules.