After over 2 decades in the nail and beauty industry, one issue that has never changed is the lack of formal or unified, national or local regulation.  It is a common theme of demand and discussion across our forums, social media and trade press, but why has this never changed and what is on the horizon?  How do standards and regulation affect our industry?


The industry National Occupational Standards (NOS) are set and updated through a collaboration of UK Standards, HABIA and a selected group of relevant, current industry professionals.  The NOS are the underpinning approved government guidance for all treatments carried out in an educational or commercial environment.  These standards are where any insurance provider refers for their information on how a service should be provided to a client and if a business is not working to these set standards the insurance policy may be invalidated.

Our industry has Codes of Practice for each skill area set by HABIA (Hair and Beauty Industry Authority).  These guidelines apply to hygiene, working practices and aftercare for example.  HABIA provide qualification criteria & standards, guidance, codes of practice and the Beauty Register, a voluntary scheme, where professionals can sign up to abide by the guidelines.  It will enable you to show your continued commitment to ensuring high standards and your alignment with the highest level of professionalism.  HABIA is a government approved regulatory body and produces our standards and codes of practice which are used throughout regulated Ofqual qualification providers and HABIA endorsed independent training providers.

Education is where all professionals begin, choose well and you will have high standards to work towards and good support to ensure you achieve this.  There are national and brand qualifications where HABIA’s standards are used, taught and implemented and these are always a great place to begin or add to your training.  A good educator will give you high standards, how you use them is up to you. 

 Trade Associations

As a nation we expect trade associations or trade bodies to provide a guidance and regulation for their respective industry.  Some, like Gas Safe, are publicly recognised and have become so as they are controlled by government legislation.  They work under regulated and strict guidelines and laws on service provision that demand qualifications and compliance.  Unfortunately, this level of regulation has never been deemed as necessary for working on human bodies for cosmetic purposes.   

This is now under government review and currently legislation is being written and approved to regulate the highest end of the nail & beauty industry beginning with treatments that have a blurred line with medical procedures such as injectables/fillers.  This is potentially the beginning of a regulated industry and when this filters through the levels of work we do it will require nationally recognised qualifications to continue providing treatments for all professionals.

We currently have many trade bodies within the personal care sector and some provide a more traditional trade body function whilst others are more heavily linked to providing insurance and accreditation.  With this in mind any agreements you sign up to for professional membership, you should ensure you are getting your interests represented appropriately and not just being sold insurance for an accredited course you have taken.  Trade representative bodies consult with Government and will be involved in the consulting in the future legislation and regulation that is heading our way.  

The key formal trade bodies have stood out throughout the pandemic and some of these are listed below:

  • British Beauty Council
  • NHBF
  • Federation of Nail Professionals
  • Hair Council
  • UK Spa Association


Licencing is becoming more common and each council has different criteria and requirements when it comes to our industry services.  Many local councils require nothing from us at all, unless it comes down to planning or business rates.  In my area, I contacted my council when opening and they weren’t interested in my qualification, standards of hygiene, health & safety etc.  Licencing is now compulsory for London salons and other councils will no doubt follow if they haven’t already.  Licencing fees vary hugely, some being one off payment whilst others require annual payment which can add thousands to a salon’s costs.  It can seem a money-making exercise without penalty for non-compliance in some areas, when compliance checks are surely something that licence fees should be paying for.  Administered by council employees who, in many cases, do not understand our specific services and risks which can lead to a misrepresentation of our industry.  There is no unified approach through local authorities and so what happens in one London borough may be very different to its neighbour.  If you want to make a difference some councils welcome objective input from professionals.

National licencing is what many have called for over the years and may be on the way in the form of industry regulation as detailed above.  However, the current sporadic reality of local authority licencing is not the magic wand many have hoped for.  Local authority licencing provides bureaucracy without effective compliance enforcement and in areas where it has been implemented professionals can feel targeted with high costs whilst non-professional providers seem to continue to float under the radar as if nothing has changed as many councils allow home salons or mobiles to remain unlicenced.

Existing Law

The highest level of regulation is the Health & Safety Executive.  We are legally bound to abide by HSE laws and ultimately can be prosecuted for non-compliance.  COSHH (Control of Substances Hazardous to Health) & RIDDOR (Reporting of Injuries, Diseases & Dangerous Occurrences Regulations) are regulations that all professionals should be aware of and you can find information on the HSE website on compliance.  All industry standards and codes of practice ultimately stem from the HSE guidelines.  As we discovered during the pandemic much of our working practices were affected by guidance set by the HSE.  Failure to comply with HSE regulations can result in fines and imprisonment.


Ultimately, we are regulated, albeit not in a way that seems to be industry specific or the self-regulating way that many want or expect.  If local authority licencing is not the answer, then who should be our regulatory enforcers and how will it be funded?  The answer to this may be on the horizon and it will change our industry permanently.  Are you ready for regulation?  Do you have the right qualifications?  How do you get them if you haven’t?  We know this is heading our way and we have time to ensure that our education meets the future requirements so ensure your first or next course future proofs you.