Teenage tattoos and piercings
Teens are hard wired to rebel - and one of the ways they do it is in fighting, tooth and nail (many of them) to have bits of their bodies pierced and even tattooed.
What's a mum to do? Under 16, no salon that follows the British Body Piercing Association's code will pierce a child without a parent's consent; also, under-16s can't have their nipples pierced, and under-18s can't have their genitals pierced.
But do you consent? Not to nipples and genitals, of course, but to ears (probably), to tongues and lips and belly buttons? this Mumsnetter says: "I feel that if we can get through the teens with decent exam results and without drugs, unplanned pregnancy, tattoos or running away with unsuitable man, then I can allow a little nose stud as a gesture to show good faith."
If you do say yes, you want to make sure the salon where the piercing happens is reputable. Anyone getting piercings and tattoos done without proper hygiene precautions runs the risk of contracting blood-borne diseases such as hepatitis B, which can be passed on via infected needles.
What to ask and what to check beforehand
- Is the salon registered? Ask about the qualifications of people doing the piercings.
- Does it have an autoclave (steriliser)? You can ask to see it. If a shop or salon does not have an autoclave, do not use it.
- Do they ask for ID, and check for medical conditions?
- Does the shop seem clean? Are they using a new, clean pair of gloves for every piercing they handle?
- Does it use single-use, disposable piercing needles?
- Beware of ear-piercing guns - doctors warn they can lead to crushed tissue injuries and they are difficult to sterilise properly.
- Avoid salons or shops offering cheap nickel or brass jewellery because it can trigger allergic reactions.
- Are instruments kept clean and sterile until they are used?
- Check aftercare guidelines - a salon should give you advice on the best way to heal a piercing safely
After the piercing
Once the piercing is done, your teen has to look after the wound to ensure it heals properly (this takes weeks, not days). Soaking in a weak saline solution (quarter of a teaspoon of sea salt in half a pint of warm water) is what most salons recommend.
Remind your child of the importance of always having clean hands around a new piercing.
Swelling or fluid around the area in the first few days and weeks is normal. But if you've any worries about an infection, take your teen to see their GP.
Bear in mind that although the build-up to your child getting pierced may seem enormous, the fact that she has a diamond in her belly-button or a third hole in her ear will soon just be a normal part of her.
And the drama of having it done, don't forget, is all part of what it's about for your teenager. One Mumsnetter cautions: "At first I was dead against it all, but she is still the funny, bright, charming girl now with her piercings that she was without them. She loves them and would have more done if we let her, but we've said no more until she is no longer financially dependent on us. If people judge her for having piercings that's their problem. She is a fantastic girl."
The same health precautions as for piercings apply with tattoos - hygiene concerns are paramount and proper aftercare is essential to avoid unpleasant and painful infections and diseases.
Tattoos are - or seem to many parents to be - a different matter. Piercings heal, or close up if you get fed up with them, and many are in places, like a belly button, that don't matter anyway. Tattoos are forever and they're visible (that's usually the point). Be very, very careful about tattoos.
If your teenager wants a tattoo, ask a lot of questions about why, and where, and what he/she is going to feel if he/she goes off it one day. Before you agree to any sort of tattoo, find out what your child's school's policy is on having them.
And, of course, DIY tattoos or piercings should be heavily discouraged - tell them suppurating pus from infected piercings or tatts is generally not a good look.
- Visit our teenagers homepage
- Talk to other parents of teenagers
- Running away - advice and information from The Railway Children