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Health risk awareness

The personal appearance services (body art and beauty therapy) industry is rapidly changing. There are a number of new, emerging or popular services and procedures that may be offered by beauty therapists, dermal technicians or tattooists.

Because some of the methods and equipment used may be new it is up to you as a customer to be aware of potential risks and to educate yourself about:

  • what to look for when choosing where to have a treatment done
  • what to expect when undergoing personal appearance treatments
  • what to expect in relation to the immediate effects of such treatments

The relevant legislation covers some activities, but some are not regulated.

Treatment outcome claims

Procedures and products may claim certain results, but there may not be a lot of evidence for the claims being made.

Little may be known about possible adverse events associated with the treatment, or potential side effects.

Licensing

Any business that uses 'Class 4' lasers to deliver their service must be licensed. The person operating the equipment is also required to have a licence.

Class 3 lasers, which are not as powerful, do not currently need to be licensed.

Some higher risk personal appearance services businesses (for example tattoo artists and other people who provide treatments which are expected to cause bleeding) also require a specific licence to operate. This is managed by local government agencies. Ask to see the business’s licence.

Lasers and intense pulsed light sources (IPL)

Lasers and Intense pulsed light sources (IPLs) are devices used for a range of cosmetic treatments such as:

  • removing hair, tattoos, birthmarks and various skin lesions, cellulite, acne and acne scarring
  • reducing the visibility of blood vessels and skin pigmentations
  • rejuvenating the skin
  • reducing the appearance of fat.

The devices target beams of light onto your skin:

  • lasers tend to be very focussed, with only 1 or 2 wavelengths of light
  • intense pulsed light sources are less focussed, with a range of wavelengths of light – so surrounding areas may also be affected.

It is important that the right device is used for your treatment. For example IPL machines are not designed to remove tattoos. These machines have the potential to cause serious burns and permanent scarring if not used for their intended purpose.

Read Australian Government advice about Lasers and Intense Pulsed Light (IPL) Sources used for cosmetic purposes

Read about laser licensing in Queensland.

Pain relief medicines

Some procedures like cosmetic needling or body modification might involve pain relief medicine first (for example a numbing agent applied to the skin). These are 'scheduled' or regulated medicines, and only trained health professionals are able to supply and administer these medicines. They understand how these medicines work and the possible dangers that may arise when using them.

Most beauty therapists and personal service providers do not have this training. They are not legally able to provide that kind of medication.

If your procedure does require pain relief, you need to discuss this with your doctor or pharmacist to determine the most appropriate pain relieving medicine for you.

  • get your pain relief medicine from a pharmacy or on prescription from your doctor.
  • be wary of using pain relief medicine that you have ordered from an overseas internet site or brought into Australia yourself. Some medicines produced overseas may not comply with Australia's strict laws.

Staff training

You need to be informed, and satisfied that the person who is carrying out your treatment is experienced and appropriately qualified for the procedure they are doing.

Be aware that people working in the personal appearance services industry may be untrained, or have little training.

There are no mandatory qualifications for personal appearance service providers. The only exception is for people and businesses providing high risk services, for example where bleeding might occur. These requirements are around minimising the risk of infection when carrying out certain procedures.

The National Code of Conduct for Health Care Workers (Queensland) supports the regulation of unregistered health care workers across all States and Territories. Even though this Code may not apply to many personal appearance services, you can still see what is expected for unregistered health care workers in related industries such as massage therapists, acupuncturists, homeopaths.

Note that this Code of conduct is for unregistered health care workers. Registered health care providers, including doctors and nurses, do provide many of the same services. Their training and operating environments are generally more regulated and they must comply with the Health Practitioner Regulation National Law (QLD) 2009 and the Health Ombudsman Act 2013.

Contamination

Some products and equipment used in personal appearance procedures may be prone to contamination, either from:

  • product contamination—for example tattoo inks are prone to contamination. These can be purchased online, so suppliers are very hard to regulate. Visit the European Medicines Agency or US Food and Drug Administration websites to find the latest information.
  • incorrect handling and storage—needles and some other equipment need to remain sterile.

Allergic reactions

Some people may react to ingredients contained in products that are used for some treatments. Allergic reactions may range from mild to severe. If you are prone to reactions check the composition of any creams or inks that may be used as part of a procedure.

Some people react to the metals contained in jewellery used for piercings, or to ingredients in some tattoo inks. You can ask your tattooist to do a skin test of the inks they plan to use, to check for reactions. If you have a reaction, consult your doctor.

Sun safety

People with exposed tattoos, or any exposed areas that have undergone skin treatments should be very aware of sun safety:

  • tattoo pigment can mask skin changes, including the appearance of pigmented lesions (skin cancers) which may delay treatment
  • any treatment that involves exposing layers of skin (for example chemical peels, dermal abrasions, or tattoo removal) can increase the risk of sun exposure.

Relevant legislation

Some of these activities are regulated in Queensland, while others are not. Some of the relevant laws are being reviewed so that they keep up with what is happening in the industry.

The laws that regulate body art, beauty therapy or other personal appearance products, procedures or equipment are mostly covered by 3 pieces of legislation:

More information

Find relevant personal services industry news and advice