The lack of regulation in the UK beauty industry is seriously alarming

Would you be shocked if you discovered your regular wax lady never completed her course? What about if someone told you your brow stylist has never stepped a foot in beauty school? Not bothered?

OK, how about if you found out the therapist about to carry out your chemical peel had no formal training? Or that the ‘aesthetician’ coming at your face with filler doesn’t actually hold any qualifications?

Shockingly, all of the above could be true. A recent survey carried out by British Association of Beauty Therapy Cosmetology (BABTAC) has revealed that 1 in 3 people don’t know whether or not their beauty therapist is insured or even appropriately trained. And the scariest thing of all is that actually, for the majority of procedures, they don’t have to hold any qualifications.

Chairman at BABTAC, Lesley Blair reveals: “Presently, beauty is more or less an unregulated industry meaning there is very little to no legislation. Legally you do not need to be trained or insured to carry out most treatments. While some local authorities do have some licensing requirements, this can vary greatly, and some authorities presently don’t require them at all.”

Let’s highlight some positives, shall we? To begin with, we think it’s safe to say that there are a huge amount of qualified, well-trained, fully-insured beauty experts out there. And, although there’s not enough regulation, there is some. Let’s take Botox, for example. Currently, laws say that Botox can only be prescribed by a doctor or a nurse – so that’s one step in the right direction.

When it comes to other forms of injectables, however, the rules aren’t so tight. For instance, regulation around filler is more or less non-existent. So much so that the product itself can be bought online and administered by absolutely anyone, all totally legally. You don’t have to have watched every episode of Botched to know what the risks are there…

And it’s not just the lack of legislation around injectables that give cause for concern. The majority of other treatments also lack regulation. Whether you’re off for a wax, a facial, a brow appointment or even to get your nails done, there’s no real regulation in place to protect you from dodgy technicians. And while it might not seem like a huge deal, the implications can be severe.

Lesley explains: “Because consumers aren’t aware of how unregulated the industry is, they often don’t give consideration to the implications of getting a treatment from a therapist as they assume that they are qualified, verified and insured. This can lead to consumers not getting the level of treatment that they expect or worse a treatment that can cause physical and/or mental harm, with no accountability or recompense if something goes wrong.”

But that’s not to say that the blame lays in the hands of the beauticians themselves. Due to government negligence in the area, many therapists are unaware that the training they have isn’t up to scratch. “A therapist may not be aware that the training that they have undertaken is unregulated and often not fit for purpose. They can be left without the skillsets that they need, and sometimes unable to get insurance cover,” says Lesley. And while a widespread lack of insurance can cause all sorts of issues, there’s a far more serious issue at hand.

In 2015, the government passed The Modern Slavery Act as a way to crack down on illegal workers and human trafficking – including that which happens within the beauty industry. Recently, Britain’s anti-slavery chief has come out to say that most recommendations made by her office in 2017 on tackling the issue – including regulation of nail bars – have not been implemented.

Lesley expands: “The lack of regulation in the beauty sector means that victims of modern slavery are both hard to identify and too frightened to come forward. As we have seen recently in the news, the problem is still growing and further legislation is needed for our sector in order to combat this growing humanitarian crisis.”

So what do we want to see? Well, BABTAC have made it their mission to pressure the government for attention. “We believe that there needs to be a minimum of a mandatory register that can verify all therapists are competently qualified and have adequate insurance to ensure the safety of therapist themselves and the clients that they treat. The ultimate goal would be for full regulation, either by the government or an independent industry body. Over recent years there have been other priorities for the government. While we all agree on the importance of regulation for the beauty industry, this may not currently be considered their most urgent issue,” says Lesley.

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