How to Start a Spa or Salon in Ontario
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Salons and spas provide a range of services, from cosmetic treatments to personal care. A business is often called a salon if it provides hairdressing, manicuring or other esthetic services. Spas generally provide the same treatments as salons along with additional services that help to relax their clients, such as massage therapy, saunas, steam rooms or whirlpools. Before opening your business, consider which type of services you would like to offer.
Some common types of salon and spa businesses are:
- Beauty salons, which provide esthetic services like manicures and pedicures, makeup applications, facials and skin treatments, hair removal or any combination of these services.
- Hair salons, which provide hair cutting and styling services.
- Day spas, which promote relaxation and health by offering personal care services such as massage, aromatherapy and other therapeutic treatments.
- Personal care services, such as esthetics and tanning salons.
This guide is written for an independent salon or spa. For information on buying a franchise, visit The Canadian Franchise Association online or call 1-800-665-4232.
Some common licences, permits and regulations that may apply to starting your salon or spa include:
If you provide hairstyling services, you must be certified to work in Ontario. To become certified and work legally as a hairstylist in Ontario you must either:
- Be a registered apprentice and a member of Ontario College of Trades' Apprentices Class, or
- Pass the Certificate of Qualification Exam for this trade and register in the Ontario College of Trades' Journeyperson Class
In addition, "Red Seal" certification allows qualified tradespersons to practice their trade, including hairstyling, in any province or territory in Canada without having to re-apply for certification in other provinces.
Note: The Ontario skilled trades and apprenticeship system is changing. You can find more details about these ongoing changes on the ServiceOntario website: Skilled trades and apprenticeship system changes
If you manufacture, distribute or sell cosmetics and personal care products, you are responsible for:
- Submitting a Cosmetic Notification Form (CNF) to Health Canada
- Guaranteeing the safety of the ingredients and your product
- Labelling your products according to Health Canada regulations
Contact Health Canada’s Cosmetic Program:
Cosmetics - Consumer Product Safety
Tanning salons guidelines
To provide tanning services (ultraviolet light treatment), you need to follow the guidelines for tanning salon owners and meet the legal requirements for operating tanning equipment in Canada and Ontario. This includes posting approved signs around your facility and notifying your local public health unit. As well, in Ontario you may not sell or advertise tanning services to youth under the age of 18.
Contact Health Canada:
Tanning equipment and labelling (Information for tanning salon owners, operators and users)
You may choose to offer therapeutic treatments or procedures that involve injections, lasers or other technologies to treat or enhance your clients’ health or appearance. As a salon or spa operator, you are responsible for ensuring that these treatments meet legal and regulatory requirements.
Some treatments may fall into the category of alternative and complementary healthcare. Examples of these types of treatments include:
- Homeopathic medicine
- Naturopathic medicine
- Massage therapy
In Ontario, many of these treatments can only be performed by someone who is certified by, or holds a licence from, a professional regulatory body. For information on certification, training, and licensing you will need to contact the regulating organization.
To find out more about alternative healthcare services, please see our How to Start an Alternative and Complementary Healthcare Business in Ontario guide.
Some treatments may fall into the category of traditional western medicine and can only be performed by Ontario-licensed healthcare professionals.
You can find a list of regulatory bodies for the Ontario health sector on the Ministry of Health and Long-term Care website.
Regulated health professions
You can also contact Health Canada to find out about regulations and other requirements that may apply to the devices, drugs, products or procedures you want to offer in your salon or spa.
Contact Health Canada:
You may wish to offer services in your salon or spa that use laser technology, including:
- Hair reduction or removal
- Wrinkle reduction
- Treatment of acne scars or pigmented blemishes
- Treatment of spider veins or port wine stains (vascular lesions)
- Tattoo removal
Health Canada licenses all medical devices for use in Canada. As the business owner, it is in your interest to ensure that laser devices you use in your business have Health Canada approval and that you follow any guidelines for their safe use in your workplace. For example, depending on the class of laser devices used, you will need to:
- Designate a qualified Laser Safety Officer
- Institute a laser safety program
- Perform regular safety inspections
- Designate qualified employees to operate laser devices
- Install appropriate ventilation systems
- Provide protective gear
- Assess client skin type
- Post warning signs and labels
- Keep proper patient and equipment records
You can also access additional information on safety standards for lasers in the workplace through the Ontario Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development.
Contact Health Canada:
Laser hair removal - safety guidelines for facility owners and operators
Contact Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development:
Lasers in Ontario Workplaces
Infection prevention and control
If you will be providing personal services such as hairstyling, barbering, tattooing, body piercing or various aesthetic services, contact Public Health Ontario for resources on preventing infection.