Starting a beauty salon in the UK is a challenging prospect. But if you have the necessary beauty expertise, people skills, and business acumen, you have a good chance of achieving success in this lucrative industry. First, you will have to understand that running a successful small business is hard work. Reports have it that a large proportion of UK start-ups fail within three-to-five years.

On the positive side, those business failures aren’t distributed evenly across industries and many closures can be narrowed down to more than simply bad luck. But if you can make the right decisions and put in the work, then you can give yourself a good chance of lasting success.

There will be times when it is tiring and stressful, but you need to remember that your customers come to your beauty salon for more than cosmetic treatments. These individuals want to relax and unwind. So no matter how grumpy or worn-out you feel at times, you will have to project a calm, positive, and enthusiastic image.

Factors That Determine the Type of License You Need for Your Salon

Normally if you are opening a hair salon, you don’t need anything. But, if it is a beauty salon, then you may need to register your new business and get a license with the environmental health section of your local authority. If you offer treatments using lasers or intense pulsed light (IPL), you don’t need to register if you are based in England. But in Northern Ireland, you need to register with the Regulation & Quality Improvement Authority (RQIA).

Note that the registering authority in Wales is the Healthcare Inspectorate Wales (HIW). In Scotland, you do not need to register if you use lasers or intense pulsed light systems for cosmetic purposes, but you are expected to comply with National Care Standards; you can find out more on the Care Inspectorate website.

In addition, if you play background music in the salon you will need a music license (TheMusicLicence) from PPL PRS Ltd. There is an annual fee that you can pay online on the PPL PRS website. If you offer your customers complimentary alcoholic drinks, you may need an alcohol license – both a premises license and a personal license in England, Wales, and Scotland. You can find out more about the need to obtain these from your local authority.

The licenses you need for your beauty salon would vary depending on where you are in the UK. However, if you are not sure whether you need a license or not, find out by approaching your local authorities before you open.

Additionally, if you are changing the use of the business premises you are moving into, then you may need to get permission for this. Find out whether you need to before you sign a lease or buy your new salon/spa premises. Fortunately, all you have to do is to contact the local planning department where you plan to open your salon and open the discussion. Ask all the questions you want; you are better off safe than sorry.

Remember that being the boss of your own beauty salon means taking on the responsibility for both your staff and your clients’ health and safety. There are lots of aspects to making sure that your salon is as safe and hygienic as possible, and constantly ensuring you are up-to-date with the latest laws and regulations can be time consuming and perhaps, beyond what you have been trained for.

Licensing authorities will need to check that you are appropriately qualified and, where applicable, that your premises are suitable. If in doubt about whether you need a license, don’t take any risks – approach the relevant authorities and ask. Nonetheless, here are some basic licenses to look out for, and the necessary ways to get them.

What Licenses are Required to Open a Beauty Salon in UK?

  1. Business License

If you are starting your business as a sole trader, or if you are in a partnership, then you need to register with the HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC). If you don’t, you can be fined as it is your responsibility to let them know if you owe those taxes.

But if you are setting up a limited company, then you need to register your salon/spa with Companies House. Additionally, you will be required to let the HMRC know for Corporation tax purposes. Finally, if you are the director of the limited company, you will more than likely have to register to fill out a self-assessment personal tax return too.

  1. Premises License

You will also need to register your salon or spa and apply for a premises license with your local authority or council. A premises license will enable you to legally run a salon and perform beauty treatments in the property you have chosen. Applications for premises licenses must be made to the licensing authority within whose area your premises is situated. This will normally be your local authority.

How to Apply

  • Application forms can be obtained from GOV.UK or Home Office websites or, on request from your licensing authority. They may also be available on your licensing authority’s website.
  1. Massage and Special Treatment Premises Licensing

You will have to contact your council for a premises license if you run an establishment for massage or other special treatments. Special treatments could include Massage, Manicure, Chiropody, Light treatments, Electric treatments, and other treatments involving heat, light, or vapor, e.g. sauna or other bath treatments.

In most parts of the country, you will need a separate license for any skin piercing treatments, e.g. tattooing or acupuncture. Nonetheless, in Greater London (except for the City of London) special treatment registration also covers these treatments.

How to Apply

  • Contact the council in the area your premises is based on to find out whether you need a license and how much it will cost.
  • Your premises might be inspected before you are given a license.
  1. PPL License

Playing the right music is key to building the right atmosphere within the salon. If you play recorded music from the radio, Spotify, or the TV, then you will need a PPL license and more than likely a PRS license too. If you broadcast TV within the salon, you will also be required to have a TV license. Get a license to play live or recorded music. You usually need to get a license if you:

  • Play recorded music in public or at your business (including background music on a CD, radio, or music channel)
  • Stage live music events in public (for example, a concert or festival)
  • Play live or recorded music in a theatre
  • Use sound recordings in a theatrical production (including on-stage and off-stage effects)

How to Apply

You can also contact PPL PRS for your license and get a quote:

PPL PRS Ltd

[email protected]

Telephone: 0800 0720 808

Monday to Friday, from 8 am to 6 pm

Find out about call charges

  1. Personal License

Simply put, a personal license allows you to sell alcohol on behalf of any licensed premises in a similar way that a driving license allows you to drive a car. The personal license is designed to make sure that anyone running or managing a business that sells or supplies alcohol will do so in a professional fashion.

Once you receive your personal license, you can act as the designated premises supervisor for any business that sells or supplies alcohol. Anyone who does not hold a personal license must be authorized for all sales of alcohol by a personal licence holder.

How to Apply

  • Application forms can be obtained from GOV.UK or Home Office websites or, on request, from your licensing authority. They may also be available on your licensing authority’s website.

Other Beauty Salon Legal Issues to Consider in the UK

Starting up your own beauty salon can be the realization of a life’s dream. It can be very rewarding as your main goal is to make people look and feel better. Putting smiles on faces is a great way to earn living, but there are a handful of important considerations you need to take before throwing the doors open.

  1. Personal Accreditation

Depending on what area of beauty therapy you are engaged in, it may be imperative to obtain some form of professional accreditation. This will be awarded after taking some type of industry-related training so you should make sure you have all your necessary qualifications before starting out. It will also give potential customers peace of mind that you run a professional outfit.

  1. Sunbeds

Young people aged fewer than 18 are banned from using commercial sunbeds. The legislation in Scotland, Northern Ireland, and Wales also bans unsupervised tanning salons. The maximum legal UV output for sunbed tubes is 0.3 watts per square metre.

Trading standard officers may inspect your premises to make sure your sunbed tubes are legal. Also, remember that there are regulations that cover how you get rid of waste electrical items like spent sunbed tubes. You must dispose of these using an authorized waste carrier.

  1. Taxing Issues

Giving someone a relaxing manicure or revitalizing facial can be fun, doing your taxes isn’t. Nonetheless, if you are opening your own beauty salon you will need to be aware of how much and what tax you have to pay. This could include business tax, local taxes, and income tax, and national insurance on you and your employees’ earnings.

  1. Fish Pedicures

If you offer fish pedicures you are expected to make sure you comply with regulations protecting the welfare of the fish. Any dead fish must be disposed of properly.

  1. Cosmetic Product Enforcement Regulations

All cosmetic products are expected to comply with these regulations, which require every product to have a safety assessment before it can be placed on the market. You can find out more on the Cosmetic Toiletry and Perfumery Association (CTPA) website.

  1. Workplace Smoking Ban

Have it in mind that smoking is not permitted in public places and workplaces. You are expected to display appropriate ‘No Smoking’ signs. The legislation varies slightly in different parts of the UK so contact your local authority for details of how the ban affects you. You can also find out more on the HSE website.

  1. Health & Safety, Fire

There are some vital areas where health and safety regulations affect your business, particularly if you employ staff, include:

  • Use of potentially hazardous substances
  • Safe use of work equipment
  • Proper maintenance and testing of work equipment
  • You are expected to comply with workplace health and safety and fire safety legislation.
  1. Employment Legislation

Anyone employing staff Recruitment is expected to comply with employment legislation. Important areas of legislation include:

  • Recruitment and employment contracts
  • Pay and pensions
  • Working time: hours, leave, flexible working
  • Employment policies
  • Sickness and sick pay
  • Maternity, paternity, and adoption
  • Discrimination
  • Managing home workers, remote workers, lone workers
  • Discipline and grievance
  • Dismissals and redundancies
  • Employment tribunals
  1. Insurance for a Beauty Salon

When starting out in business you will need insurance cover. Contact an insurer and explain exactly how your business will operate. They will then be able to recommend what cover you should have, which might include:

  • Premises, premises contents, and stock
  • Employers liability (if you employ staff)
  • Business interruption
  • Public liability, including therapy/treatment risk (this is particularly important)
  • Motor insurance (for business vehicles)

Note that the British Association of Beauty Therapy & Cosmetology (BABTAC) offers members a range of specially tailored insurance packages for both retail salons and home-based or mobile therapists. Visit the BABTAC website for details.

  1. Storing Data

Even if you only keep emails and telephone numbers, you are expected to register with the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO). You should also read up on GDPR – until you get a better idea of what will come from Brexit, it is better playing it safe than to assume data protection laws will be at least as stringent as the European one.

Conclusion

As you can see, there are many steps to think about before you can open your salon. If you want to get a better understanding of what is awaiting you based on your plans, there’s a useful governmental website where you can check what you might need regarding Licenses.

All in all, and especially when you are starting out, it is advisable to talk to an accountant specialized in working with your type of business. Because you and your staff may be handling potentially hazardous substances such as nail polish remover, you will also be expected to comply with the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH) Regulations. Your local environmental health department will be able to help you with this.

Ajaero Tony Martins