After 17 years in the nail industry, one issue that has never changed is the lack of 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?  How do standards and regulation affect our industry?


Our industry has Standards and Codes of Practice set by HABIA (Hair & 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, setting yourself apart from non-professional technicians.  HABIA is a Government approved regulatory body and sets our standards and regulates this through their authorised 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.  We have national and brand qualifications where HABIA’s standards are taught 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 to provide a guidance and regulation for their respective industry.  Some, like Gas Safe, are publicly recognised and regulate 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 a cosmetic level on nails, hands or feet. 

There have been many UK nail associations including the INA (International Nail Association) and the ANT (Association of Nail Technicians) with a few others along the way.  Our Trade Associations require their members to abide by their Code of Practice.  Many of our trade bodies have insurance as their flagship, as this is a necessary business requirement.  Having, myself, worked on the inside of two Trade Associations, their inability to change the industry, as many feel they should, is perhaps due to being linked to a financial decision on insurance costs and not due to their record on standards promotion or enforcement.  It means membership comes as a default due to the necessity to be insured and this can lead to disengaged members.  That said, each of our Associations also offer Associate membership so you can support the standards without opting for insurance.


Licencing is becoming more common and each council has different regulations when it comes to nail 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 payments 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 risks and products and it can seem that we are misunderstood as an industry.  There is not always a minimum standard of qualification to obtain a licence which seems to defeat the object.  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, 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.


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 nail techs should be aware of and you can find information on the HSE website on compliance.  All industry standards and codes of practice stem from the HSE guidelines so be aware of what they are.

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?

Sue Davies

Sue Davies has been an active member of the nail and beauty industry for over 16 years. She has worked widely in the industry in the fields of salon management and ownership, international nail competitions, as an education provider (both independently and for industry brands), and managed nail industry trade bodies. Sue is highly respected within her field, has received industry recognition and awards and been a regular columnist and contributor in trade press.