Therapist Stereotypes and Misunderstandings in the Beauty Industry

There is a lot of stereotyping in the beauty industry that beauty therapists aren’t clever, and didn’t achieve well at school. Hopefully this article will give you a wider insight into the real world of beauty from an insider’s perspective.

Many people get to school leavers age and decide they want to do beauty because the entry requirements are low. Beauty tends to require only a couple of GCSE grades for Level 2, which is the most common stage to start. The natural progression would be to go on and do Level 3. Beauty can even be studied at degree level for those wanting to get into spa management or design. Level 1 is also available as a ‘taster’ and also to open up beauty to those who have difficulty with the GCSE exams.

Beauty colleges tend to be strict on attendance, punctuality and personal presentation. Some of the more advanced courses such as BTEC, where the whole course is studied at Level 3 require assignments of anything between 500-4000 words. Students are continually assessed on their practicals and in addition they have to learn theory on the full anatomy of the body including bones, muscles and the various body systems. Many girls don’t survive the full 2 years as the course is both physically and mentally demanding. Some people go on to study beauty when slightly older than college age; these people tend to have a more mature approach to clients and are doing it because they have passion and WANT to do it rather than anything else .

Knowledge of pre-treatment preparations is vital in order to get the work area ready. For example you could not do an electrical facial or body treatment on a client if the machine was showing signs of fault or was not working. A) This would be a huge health and safety risk and B) the client would not be getting the service they have paid for.

Beauty therapists learn to do a full consultation including checking for contraindications, which are medical issues that could affect the treatment. Some examples are infectious skin disorders (you would not be able to work on the area for risk of the spread of infection), however you could work around it, restricting the infected area. This is where expert knowledge comes in: therapists need to be able to know when it is safe to perform the treatment there and then or whether the client should be referred to a GP. The GP would then write a letter stating if it was ok for the client to be treated. Working on clients that are contraindicated is not only unethical but you can personally get into a lot of trouble when it comes to insurance- there are a lot of grey areas so always stick to the protocol and ALWAYS perform the consultation.

Therapists need to know the indications of a treatment i.e. why a client should have a particular treatment and what it will do for them. Indications are useful to know, as if the treatment is not appropriate for the client then the therapist can offer something more suitable. Good practice is to never turn a client away and to always offer an alternative.

Beauty therapists are usually expected to retail homecare solutions to the guest to continue the effects of the treatment in the long term. For the client to really see results, a good aftercare program should be followed, as a one-off treatment will not work long-term. This requires good product knowledge, research into ingredients and their benefits when applied onto the skin, how the consistency of products affects certain skin types, and many more factors. Beauty therapists need to be on the ball and have a good retention for facts, especially when they are working with a few product ranges at once, as each brand has their own philosophy.

Imagine you were the client… You go to your local spa because you suffer from tense muscles and skin conditions such as acne; you would expect your therapist to be an expert in their field and knowledgeable enough to give you a solution to treat these concerns, or at least to minimize them! In the same way that you go to the doctors when ill, you expect a solution in order to make you better, therefore to become a beauty therapist you need brains!

Massage is very hard work, both physically and mentally. You have to be physically fit to do massage as it is strenuous and affects the body of the therapists if the correct techniques are not adopted. Massage can be like a full body workout to the therapist; if you do it properly (i.e- using your body weight, keeping your back straight, bending your knees and moving in rhythm with the massage). Time is money, and most spas will not give you long breaks to prepare yourself. In an average day for a full time massage therapist, expect back to back massages throughout the day with a short break for lunch of maybe one hour. As I said above, your elbows and forearms are excellent for this as your fingers and thumbs will just not be able to survive it!

It can also be emotionally exhausting too as you connect to your client on a holistic level. Clients who tend to visit for massages come for a relaxing treatment to relieve them of the stress and strain of day to day life. Because you are constantly touching your guests’ skin, you are connecting with them and sometimes absorb their negative energy. This can make you feel weary or anxious and is common amongst people working as massage therapists, especially aromatherapists. Some of the scents in aromatherapy energize and invigorate whilst others relax and sedate so the therapist is usually in limbo between the 2 states if they have had to work with a lot of different oil blends that day. It can agitate therapists and make them tired.

A lot of the time, people who don’t know much about beauty are not aware of how diverse the industry is. Beauty therapists are different to beauticians; they are providing a therapeutic touch to heal the body and provide a therapy. Beauticians study more of the aesthetic side such as tinting, waxing etc.  Some therapists even go on to study complementary therapies to work closely with the medical profession. To work in massage and holistics you need a natural talent, similar to that of a psychic. You need to be able to use your touch intuitively to address the clients concerns, whilst making them feel pampered and relaxed.

Therapists need to be mentally tolerant- you work with all kinds of personalities and in the more 5-star establishments you will come across all sorts of diva demands. Imagine you were the client, you have come to the spa to escape and are spending lots of money on your treatment. You would want to be treated like royalty, so it all starts with customer care. These clients expect perfection and nothing less.

Some common misconceptions in the beauty industry besides the fact that beauty therapists are ‘thick’ are that people of the elderly generation associate massage with prostitution. This is a very dated way of looking at things; however attitudes are slowly but surely changing with the spa and wellness concept popping up all over the place nowadays. You can even get a neck and shoulder massage whilst waiting for your flight at Heathrow Airport!

Male massage therapists can sometimes receive stigma, the industry traditionally being associated with women. If you are a client who likes deep tissue pressure, however, I would highly recommend going to see a big strong man to get all those knots out! A flimsy massage will do nothing for that lactic acid build-up!

There will always be negative stereotypes about beauty therapists. Don’t let this get you down and always stick to your goals to become a better therapist and broaden your knowledge; whether it’s to travel, work your way up to management or own your own business. There is more to this industry than meets the eye.

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