Learn from the Committee

Register Beauty & Wellness Therapists

A step towards professionalism and higher accountability.

 

Mr. Edward Wong is Chairman of the Spa section, Spa & Wellness Association of Singapore. He is also the Principal of EdeS Academy and CEO of EdeS Spa.

 

According to CASE’s statistics for the year 2012, there were 1984 complaints about the Beauty industry making up 12% of total grievances received. While most of the reasons cited in the complaints were about ethics or money related, e.g. ‘hard sell’, ‘large packages’, ‘misrepresentation’, ‘can’t get appointment’, ‘entity closed down’ etc. a few were about quality of work and injuries sustained. In most cases of injuries, the accused would settle quietly with the complainant to avoid negative publicity and legal action. But, the question is, to what extend are entities in the Beauty and Wellness industry liable for causing injuries?

After all, the injuries are not caused intentionally but probably due to insufficient knowledge and/or skills of salon and spa owners, managers and workers to take precaution and work with proper protocols. Well, the salons and spas are simply conducting business according to normal practice! If salons and spas are allowed to sell and perform various treatments without suitably qualified personnel, who have undergone thorough training in the specific disciplines, to manage and carry out the treatments, how can they be held responsible for any accident due to a lack of knowledge and skills?

 

Who are Therapists?

There is no regulation to say that a Therapist must be qualified or how much training is required, in which specific areas of treatment, to qualify as a Therapist!

Is consumer safety compromised when Beauty and Wellness therapists are allowed to practice without proper training? Of course, one can argue that not all treatments are dangerous and many are traditional practices which have been performed by “therapists” without paper qualification for decades. This argument is acceptable as long as the treatments are traditional and carried out by “therapists” who have learnt the trade in the family line or under the apprenticeship of a skillful master for at least 3 years. Would this be a fair expectation of a traditional therapist?

Unfortunately, many of the Beauty and Spa “therapists” today do not conform to the above descriptions and are without formal training or qualification. They are simply employed and assigned to perform treatments without proper and adequate training in the specific area of work. Some are asked to work with strong chemicals, sharp instruments and/or high technology equipment producing high energy, heat and/or power that can burn or damage tissues and cause injuries. Many Beauty, Hair, Nail & Spa workers are not aware of or disregard proper health, hygiene and safety procedures to avert other risks, e.g. infection and injury to self, fellow workers and clients from:

 Lack of appropriate protection and precautionary measures

 Poor or lack of sanitization procedures

 Ineffective treatment of contaminated spa pools and water,

 Dirty instruments

 Wrong treatment procedures

 Recycled waxing and other products

 Colouring, relaxer and other hair treatments etc.

 

Certain Beauty related procedures like tattooing, body art which penetrates the skin pose exceptionally high risks of infection both from unclean instruments and the tattoo dye itself. Treatments like fashionable cosmetic injectables e.g. micro-needling, mesotherapy, carboxytherapy etc. offered by some salons pose similar risks of infection and blood borne illnesses such as hepatitis and tetanus. Hair styling and manicuring tools, if not properly disinfected after each use, may expose “therapists” and clients to the same dangers. The consequences can be fatal.

The Wellness industry is built on the mission to promote holistic wellbeing and to enhance health and comfort levels. The most common wellness treatment is massage, which is available in different modalities and may be used to supplement health enhancement and recovery procedures. Apart from its therapeutic value, massage can be a very relaxing and enjoyable form of Wellness treatment if performed properly by a knowledgeable therapist. On the other hand, an inexperience or untrained masseur/masseuse applying strong pressure in wrong places can cause hurt and injury to the recipient, thereby contravening the principles of massage treatment. Wrong procedures and practices can be harmful to both the provider and recipient, therefore underlining the importance of appropriate and adequate training.

Proper and adequate training for therapists cannot be neglected. As each type of Beauty and Wellness treatment requires detailed knowledge and multiple skills to perform, it is important to, first of all, recognize the different types of Beauty and Wellness treatments and their modalities. There are already established global methods, underpinning knowledge, skills and standards defined by many higher learning institutions as well as professional bodies internationally, some of which offer training courses and qualifications from ‘Entry’ up to ‘Professional’ levels in Singapore. SWAS envisage the benefits of working with these bodies in Singapore and Internationally to enhance the knowledge, skills and qualifications of our therapists as well as recognise different types of Professional skills and levels of proficiencies. To start with, we need to know what Singapore therapists already know and are qualified in! The only government agency that has a detailed record of therapists and qualifications is the Singapore Police Force. The information is used for Massage Establishment licensing.

The perception that therapists are licensed in Singapore is misconceived. The Singapore Police Force controls Spa and Massage therapists under the Massage Establishments Act (Chapter 173), but the purpose is not to ensure that Spa and Massage therapists possess better or more specialized treatment skills. The licensing of Massage Establishments and screening of massage workers is designed to control vice and illegal activities in the Massage Establishments. Hair, beauty, nails, slimming, tattoo and other salons and their workers do not come under the jurisdictions of the Massage Establishment Act (Chapter 173). Unless they perform massage in an enclosed area, to a client of different gender, in a business premise, none of the workers in the Beauty & Wellness Industry are required to be trained, qualified or certified to practice or provide treatment.

 

Enhancing Professionalism

In some countries, Beauty and Wellness Therapists are required to undergo two to three years of full time training and passing rigorous examinations to qualify. Their scope of training include knowledge of health, hygiene, safety and security enhancement procedures; anatomy, physiology and pathology of the human body, principles and practice of specific treatments and complementary therapies, business operation within the wellness industry etc. Each Course duration varies from a minimum of 500 to as much as 3,000 guided learning hours. Qualified Therapists are recognised as Professionals in their trade and may be covered by Professional Indemnity Insurance which requires the therapists to engage in continuous learning to update and improve for renewal. The main focus is on competency and accountability of the therapists.

The Spa & Wellness Association of Singapore is currently proposing the registration of Qualified Therapists within the various segments of Singapore’s Beauty and Wellness Industry. The purpose is to self-regulate as well as creating more transparent and accountable industry practices. The exercise will help all therapists with appropriate qualifications to gain Professional Recognition and facilitate referrals between the different sectors of the Beauty & Wellness Industry and beyond.

Would it be comforting if you can find your aesthetician on line with her professional qualifications and affiliations clearly stated? What about knowing that, in the unlikely event of your being hurt or injured during your treatment, you will be covered for medical and other expenses?

 

The Spa & Wellness Association of Singapore welcomes your comments and suggestions on the registration of Therapists and their Qualifications. Please write to This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

 

For more, watch this space and learn from the committee on Beauty, Hair, Nail, Spa and Wellness, Products, and Technical Knowledge!