How to become a beauty therapist: the ultimate guide

By Salon Gold on June 29th, 2022

You have a gift — making people more comfortable in their own skin. This is a unique talent, and you want to make the move into a career that allows you to apply it on a larger scale. We’re all for it! Being a beauty therapist is an incredible profession that utilises your aptitude for cosmetics as well as your knowledge of skin biology and physiology. You help your clients with anything beauty-related, and in return you get a lucrative and rewarding career. 

But before you make the transition, there are a few things you should know. From what being a beauty therapist is exactly, all the way to qualifications and training, we’ve got you covered with an ultimate guide to becoming a beauty therapist.

What exactly is a beauty therapist?

First things first: what does a beauty therapist do? Put simply, as a beauty therapist, you perform non-medical treatments to enhance your clients’ appearance. This includes anything from facials, applying make-up, manicures and pedicures, and even electrotherapy. Hair removal, eyebrow and eyelash treatments and spray tanning are some other methods beauty therapists use.

What does a beauty therapist do?

What would be your working hours?

Before we outline what your days would look like as a beauty therapist, it’s important to note that this is not an easy job by any means. Although the usual work hours are 9am-6pm, you’ll probably have to work on Saturdays too, and at least one evening a week, seeing as many of your customers will also be working standard office hours. During holidays you might even need to put in more time, as many clients will try to prepare themselves for big events like Christmas. That being said, if you opt to work as a self-employed beauty therapist, you’ll have the freedom to arrange your schedule around your lifestyle.

What tasks will you be performing?

Your job will consist of two types of tasks: admin, and your bread and butter — treatments. Admin will include maintenance, answering the phone, booking clients in, doing stock, cleaning up your space, and cashing up. When it comes to treatment, luckily, there is such a variety of therapies you’ll be performing that no day will be like the one before. It also means your time will be broken up and you can avoid the repetitive nature of other beauty-related jobs. 

What would your day look like?

Usually, you’ll start your day with a little bit of administrative work. Opening up the salon or room, ensuring everything is in place and clean, turning on any machines that require waking up (such as wax pots or heaters), and confirming you have all the tools and stock for the day. Then, you’d usually have a few appointments. Some clients will be in-and-out with a quick 10-minute treatment, whereas others may come in for multiple treatments that will inevitably take longer. The most common therapies will be waxing, tanning, make-up application, mani-pedis, and facials. In between sessions, you may wish to clean or reach out to your clients, as well as check your stock and any other admin tasks to complete. When your workday is done, you’ll clean and tidy, and look through your schedule for the next day and prep anything for it.

What skills do you need to become a beauty therapist?

If you’re considering becoming a beauty therapist, there are a few attributes that are useful. Of course, you’ll need to work well with your hands, but you’ll also benefit from a keen eye for detail and the ability to be thorough and patient when doing your job. A passion for beauty and art is essential, seeing as you’re going to have to match the best styles and products to your clients, as well as keep up to date with new trends. Organisational skills are a must — you’ll be keeping your own schedule and in charge of sticking to time. Having an aptitude for sales can come in handy too, as you might want to sell your clients products that will enhance their treatments in the long-term.

However, beauty therapists don’t only conduct treatments and make clients look their best — they also act as regular therapists sometimes. They handle customers at their most vulnerable, and deal with the most delicate and intimate concerns. This is why, beyond the physical attributes that are required, fantastic people skills are necessary for the role. Customer service, sensitivity and empathy are essential, and you’ll also need to be a good listener with exceptional verbal communication skills to put your customers at ease.

What qualifications do you need to become a beauty therapist?

Understandably, it’s not just skills or a natural aptitude that are needed for a career as a beauty therapist. There are also some tangible qualifications that are required. You already know that a beauty therapist performs a variety of different treatments, and that’s why it is so crucial that you are fully trained to carry them out. Usually, to become a qualified beauty therapist you will be obliged to obtain an NVQ (National Vocational Qualification) Level 2 and 3 in Beauty Therapy. While studying for your NVQ, you could start working as a beauty assistant at a salon to gain experience, which will help you ace your diploma as well as add to your resumé. 

These qualifications are attainable by attending college or beauty school. College will be cheaper and usually longer than beauty school, and if you opt for the latter, you should ensure the qualification you received is a recognised one. The easiest way to ensure this is by making sure it is identified by CIBTAC (Confederation of International Beauty Therapy and Cosmetology) and CIDESCO (Comité International d’Esthétique et de Cosmétologie), or HABIA (Hair and Beauty Industry Authority) for any hair courses. If you’re not yet ready to embark on a full studying journey, you can start with a government-run apprenticeship in a salon. 

Before you choose the course you want to take, it’s recommended to have a think about what it is you’d like to specialise in, what your salon of choice requires, and what your potential clients may look for. Once you’ve done that, double check that your course offers qualifications that correspond.

Where to get a job?

Beauty therapists are sought after, so you have a choice between a variety of working environments and styles. 

At a salon

The easiest way to kickstart your beauty career is by working at a salon. Some will opt for direct employment, meaning you’ll receive a paycheck from the salon. This is a fantastic option, because you’ll get the stability that many beauty therapists don’t have, and the peace of mind knowing you’re insured and don’t need to hire an accountant. Other salons will want you to work as a self-employed beauty therapist, and will just provide the facilities and, in some cases, equipment. This is still a great opportunity, as you’ll be able to work with more experienced therapists and learn from them. You’ll also have the name of a recognised salon drawing clients your way, reducing your marketing requirements.

Outside of salons

Speaking of self-employment, you could also forego joining up with a salon altogether as a self-employed beauty therapist. The world is your oyster. Work for one or multiple salons, rent a room or a chair at one and conduct your treatments from there, or even go to your clients’ abodes as a mobile beauty therapist. This gives you a level of flexibility that no salon can, however, it also means you’ll have to take care of your own insurance and marketing, and will have to attract clients on your own. This may be difficult as a young and inexperienced therapist (but not impossible). Once you gain some credibility and regular clients, you could also make the move and open your own salon.

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