California Laws on Body Piercing

Woman getting pierced.
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The rules detailing the safe and sanitary practices for body art shops are covered in the California Safe Body Art Act. The law covers everything from the legal age to get a tattoo to the certifications required to open a tattoo shop. When it comes to body piercing, some of the most important aspects of the law are those dealing with juveniles, registration, jewelry and piercing guns.

California Piercing Laws for Minors

While California tattoo laws prohibit minors under the age of 18 from getting a tattoo even with their parents' permission, body piercings are allowed as long as the juvenile's parents consent and are present during the piercing. That being said, nipple and genital piercings are against the law for all minors, even with parental consent. It is worth noting that body piercers have the option to refuse to tattoo or pierce a minor, even those with parent consent. Performing a piercing on a minor without the parent present is a misdemeanor.

Shop and Artist Registration

All artists performing body art must register with local health agencies and renew their registrations every year. To be registered, the artist must show current vaccinations, undergo bloodborne pathogen training and certify that he has knowledge of all laws related to body art safety. Piercers must perform their work at a studio, mobile studio or temporary body art facility.

Shops must be certified by the local health agency, pay inspection fees and be subject to periodic inspections. Permits issued by the health department must be reissued every year. All shops must have written infection and control plans. These plans must include details like cleaning procedures, how to prevent contamination before work begins and how to handle sharp waste such as used needles. Body artists must follow these plans. No food, drink or tobacco products are allowed to be in the procedure area during a piercing. Failure to comply with regulations is a misdemeanor, punishable by up to $1,000.

Laws About the Piercing Procedure

Before commencing any body art, the client must read and sign a consent form that describes the procedure, including aftercare and potential complications of the procedure. The client must also complete and sign a questionnaire detailing health information, including whether or not she is pregnant and disclosing certain medical conditions that could complicate the procedure.

As for the artist, he must wash his hands, apply a clean apron and put on clean gloves before starting work. If the skin is to be shaved before the procedure, it should be washed first, and the artist should use a disposable razor to shave the hair. The client's skin must be prepared with an antiseptic solution before piercing.

After the procedure, the artist should answer any questions related to the procedure site and provide care instructions. He must then dispose of needles in a biohazard container, wash and disinfect all reusable instruments and clean his work station.

Piercing Jewelry Rules

All jewelry used in a new piercing should be sterilized prior to the procedure, and only jewelry made of implant-grade stainless steel, 14- to 18-karat yellow or white gold, niobium, titanium or platinum can be used in new piercings.

Piercing Gun Rules

Piercing guns, legally known as mechanical stud and clasp ear piercing devices, are excepted from most body piercing regulations because their piercings are not considered to be body art under state law. That being said, the devices are still covered by the Safe Body Art Act. By law, the device must be sanitary and the jewelry used must be made of the same piercing-quality materials used in other body piercings. Piercing guns can only be used on ears, and those that use the devices must receive one hour of training on use of the device, proper hand hygiene and bloodborne pathogens. Minors cannot get pierced with these guns without their parents being present.

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