In Alberta, you need a licence to cut hair. But if you want to be an esthetician — which involves intimate procedures to the body such as manicuring nails, doing facials and removing body hair with a hot wax — there are “no standard education requirements,” according to the Alberta government.
In short, since there is no licence requirement, anyone can technically provide those services.
“We could set up a spa right here and start a beauty salon and nobody would be able to do anything about it,” said Louis Francescutti, a public health professor at the University of Alberta.
A Global News investigation revealed many beauty and wax salons in Edmonton are falling short of sanitation safety standards. A review of inspection reports of these facilities from the last three years showed there were salons where tools such as tweezers and scissors were not properly disinfected between clients, where wax sticks were doubled dipped, thereby contaminating the bulk supply and where no handwashing was observed among staff.
Estheticians are required to be licensed in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Manitoba; Francescutti said it is not surprising Alberta does not require regulation for estheticians.
“Ten years ago, there wasn’t as many spas as there are today, so this is a growth industry. I think it caught the government off guard,” he said.
But, at the same time, he said complications are arising from spa treatments.
“We should take heed and that should serve as a warning that we’ve got a problem.”
The inspection reports obtained by Global News also show there have been several complaints over the last few years from clients of these salons.
Watch below: A Global News investigation has found some Edmonton salons violate many sanitation safety standards. Julia Wong has more on the risk of body waxing.
Carmen Schutz, the operations manager for the Eveline Charles Academy, said it is a “bad thing” for the esthetics industry to not be regulated in Alberta.
“If you have higher expectations for people, they will often work harder to meet those expectations,” she said.
“If you take note of the tools and instruments estheticians use, they’re using lots of things like blades and razors. It’s concerning a trade that uses sharp tools that can pierce the skin and can cause bodily harm quite readily is not regulated.”
Dr. Harvey Lui, a UBC dermatology professor who also works at Vancouver General Hospital, said regulation can be empowering.
“That will increase the chance of educating the practitioners. It increases the chance of educating the people who are seeking the service, the customers. If these educational things happen then that’s going to be better for everyone,” he said.
Francescutti said customers could potentially see higher prices if estheticians are regulated, but touted the benefits of licensing, including the fact that there would be a complaints process for customers and disciplinary action could be taken against companies.
“The customer would know they’re going into a certified facility, that a regulator has standards of practice for that facility. They would know that the people that work within the facility actually have the training and have passed a certification examination and have continuous professional development.”
Global News brought the concerns to Alberta Health Minister Sarah Hoffman, who said the province is considering regulation.
“We’re watching what’s happening in other jurisdictions,” she said.
“My understanding is the regulations [for personal services] haven’t been updated since 2003 and, of course, that is something that’s probably due for a review and reconsideration so we’re looking to see what is best practice across Canada right now.”
Hoffman said she is interested in seeing what changes there have been in jurisdictions with regulations.
“What the health outcomes have been and how it’s moved forward. I understand that the businesses are regulated but not the individuals who necessarily work there so maybe there’s something that could be done more quickly rather than creating a whole new system,” she said.
Lui suggests people can keep themselves safe by looking for referrals from family and friends, taking a close look at the cleanliness of the salon and being inquisitive.
“Talk to the person who’s providing the service. Ask them how they’re going to do it,” he said.
“I think it’s very fair and appropriate to say, ‘What do you do to make sure you’re offering a procedure that’s clean and show me how you would do it.'”
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