Department of Health

Key messages

  • Body art is any process used to decorate, adorn or mark the body. These procedures carry a high risk of transmitting both viral and bacterial infections.
  • Body art and tattoo businesses should follow the guidelines for infection prevention and control for their industry.
  • Poorly performed procedures can also result in nerve damage and additional scarring.
  • There are several age restrictions for body art procedures in Victoria. If you work at a body art and tattoo business, you must be aware of them.

Infection prevention and control guidelines for body art and tattoo businesses should be followed by people working in this industry. If you work at this type of business, you should download and become familiar with the entire guidelines.

In Victoria, it is illegal to tattoo any person under the age of 18. It is illegal for a body piercer to perform intimate piercing (nipples, genitalia, anal region and perineum) on a person under the age of 18 in Victoria. It is illegal for a body piercer to perform non-intimate body piercing on someone under the age of 16 without a parent's or guardian's consent.

Scarification, tongue splitting, branding and beading is prohibited on people under the age of 18.

Body art – what is it

Body art is used to describe any process to decorate or adorn the body by means of implantation, or the marking of the skin in a permanent way by means of injection, incision or heat. Current practices include:

  • tattooing and cosmetic tattooing
  • body piercing
  • branding
  • scarification
  • braiding
  • three-dimensional art, such as beading or devil’s horns.

Body art and tattooing – associated health risks

Invasive body art involves a high risk of transmitting bloodborne viruses such as hepatitis B and C viruses, and HIV, as well as bacterial infections.

Bacteria and viruses can be transmitted by unclean and nonsterile equipment, and unhygienic procedures and premises.

Serious infection can occur during body art procedures because needles used to penetrate the skin become contaminated by blood and body fluids. Such blood and body fluids do not have to be visible on an instrument, needle or working surface for infection to be transmitted.

There is also a risk of nerve damage and unwanted scarring if procedures are poorly performed.

Every client and worker is at risk if proper infection prevention and control procedures are not followed. The client’s skin should be clean and free of infection. All instruments used in skin penetration practices must be sterile at the time of use.

Client information sheets

As part of enhancing public awareness of infection risks, information sheets have been developed for clients receiving particular procedures. In some instances, clients must be provided this information in writing.

View the copies of client information sheets.

Reviewed 26 July 2022


Contact details

Do not email patient notifications.

Communicable Disease Section Department of Health GPO Box 4057, Melbourne, VIC 3000

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