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Protect Your Spa From Risk

By: Jesse Cormier
Posted: January 28, 2011, from the February 2011 issue of Skin Inc. magazine.
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Product reactions. Failure to heed contraindications, allergic reactions, burns due to improperly mixed or applied product, or inadequate instructions for home care.

Waxing. Irritation and blisters, as well as lifting and tearing of skin that can lead to scarring.

Although these are run-of-the-mill, some stranger occurrences have led to claims, as well: A steamer that malfunctioned and sprayed scalding water on the client; a heavy magnifying glass that was dropped and injured a client’s eye; or a collapsing table that fell due to loosened bolts, causing the client to hit her head on a radiator, requiring stitches and amounting to more than $10,000. Taking the cake, however, is the story of an esthetician who lit a candle so she could continue a treatment after the spa’s power suddenly lapsed. The esthetician cleaned her hands with a bottle of rubbing alcohol and set it next to the client who made a sudden move and spilled it all over her chest and drape. In her haste to grab the alcohol bottle after it spilled, the esthetician knocked over the candle, which caught the draping on fire and resulted in third-degree burns for the client. As you can imagine, this was a very expensive claim to settle.

Stay within your scope of practice

One of the biggest blessings—and hazards—in skin care is constant innovation. This usually means better results for clients and a more lucrative practice for you. However, there’s a lot of confusion out there about what’s legal for estheticians to do and under what circumstances. An intelligent and well-intentioned esthetician demonstrating IPL at a trade show made the blanket statement that you can’t hurt a client with IPL. Incorrect statements such as this can lead spa professionals to become overconfident or unintentionally work outside their scope of practice. The highest percentage of claim settlements is due to scarring—sometimes permanent—caused by IPL. One such case resulted in damages of more than $100,000.

There’s also misinformation in the profession about what treatments are within an esthetician’s scope of practice under state law. It’s risky to take the word of a manufacturer’s representative who may be trying to remember the laws of 50 states, not just yours. Your state board is your only resource to be absolutely sure you are obeying the law and conducting business safely. For complete, up-to-date contact information for all 50 state boards, log on to

Minimize your risks