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How to start a spa or salon in Ontario
Table of contents
Salons and spas provide a range of services, from cosmetic treatments to personal care. A business is often called a salon if it provides hairdressing, manicuring or other esthetic services. Spas generally provide the same treatments as salons along with additional services that help to relax their clients, such as massage therapy, saunas, steam rooms or whirlpools. Before opening your business, consider which type of services you would like to offer.
Some common types of salon and spa businesses are:
- Beauty salons, which provide esthetic services like manicures and pedicures, makeup applications, facials and skin treatments, hair removal or any combination of these services.
- Hair salons, which provide hair cutting and styling services.
- Day spas, which promote relaxation and health by offering personal care services such as massage, aromatherapy and other therapeutic treatments.
- Personal care services, such as esthetics and tanning salons.
This guide is written for an independent salon or spa. For information on buying a franchise, visit The Canadian Franchise Association online or call 1-800-665-4232.
When you start a business there are several things to consider before you can sell your product or service. Most businesses in Ontario need to complete a minimum of three basic steps:
- Find out what licences and regulations apply to your type of business
- Choose a business structure and register or incorporate your business
- Determine if you will need to collect and remit HST
Our Starting a Business guide will give you more information on these steps and other basic requirements for starting a business in Ontario.
Starting a Business
Your business may need licences and permits from the federal, provincial and municipal levels of government.
In addition to the information you will find in this guide, you can use BizPaL to find licences and regulations that may affect your business. You can also contact us to speak to someone about starting your business.
Permits and licences search
Some common licences, permits and regulations that may apply to starting your salon or spa include:
If you provide hairstyling services, you must be certified to work in Ontario. To become certified and work legally as a hairstylist in Ontario you must either:
- Be a registered apprentice and a member of Ontario College of Trades' Apprentices Class, or
- Pass the Certificate of Qualification Exam for this trade and register in the Ontario College of Trades' Journeyperson Class
In addition, "Red Seal" certification allows qualified tradespersons to practice their trade, including hairstyling, in any province or territory in Canada without having to re-apply for certification in other provinces.
Note: The Ontario skilled trades and apprenticeship system is changing. You can find more details about these ongoing changes on the ServiceOntario website: Skilled trades and apprenticeship system changes
If you manufacture, distribute or sell cosmetics and personal care products, you are responsible for:
- Submitting a Cosmetic Notification Form (CNF) to Health Canada
- Guaranteeing the safety of the ingredients and your product
- Labelling your products according to Health Canada regulations
Contact Health Canada’s Cosmetic Program:
Cosmetics - Consumer Product Safety
Tanning salons guidelines
To provide tanning services (ultraviolet light treatment), you need to follow the guidelines for tanning salon owners and meet the legal requirements for operating tanning equipment in Canada and Ontario. This includes posting approved signs around your facility and notifying your local public health unit. As well, in Ontario you may not sell or advertise tanning services to youth under the age of 18.
Contact Health Canada:
Guidelines for tanning salon owners, operators and users
You may choose to offer therapeutic treatments or procedures that involve injections, lasers or other technologies to treat or enhance your clients’ health or appearance. As a salon or spa operator, you are responsible for ensuring that these treatments meet legal and regulatory requirements.
Some treatments may fall into the category of alternative and complementary healthcare. Examples of these types of treatments include:
- Homeopathic medicine
- Naturopathic medicine
- Massage therapy
In Ontario, many of these treatments can only be performed by someone who is certified by, or holds a licence from, a professional regulatory body. For information on certification, training, and licensing you will need to contact the regulating organization.
To find out more about alternative healthcare services, please see our How to Start an Alternative and Complementary Healthcare Business in Ontario guide.
Some treatments may fall into the category of traditional western medicine and can only be performed by Ontario-licensed healthcare professionals.
You can find a list of regulatory bodies for the Ontario health sector on the Ministry of Health and Long-term Care website.
Regulated health professions
You can also contact Health Canada to find out about regulations and other requirements that may apply to the devices, drugs, products or procedures you want to offer in your salon or spa.
Contact Health Canada:
You may wish to offer services in your salon or spa that use laser technology, including:
- Hair reduction or removal
- Wrinkle reduction
- Treatment of acne scars or pigmented blemishes
- Treatment of spider veins or port wine stains (vascular lesions)
- Tattoo removal
Health Canada licenses all medical devices for use in Canada. As the business owner, it is in your interest to ensure that laser devices you use in your business have Health Canada approval and that you follow any guidelines for their safe use in your workplace. For example, depending on the class of laser devices used, you will need to:
- Designate a qualified Laser Safety Officer
- Institute a laser safety program
- Perform regular safety inspections
- Designate qualified employees to operate laser devices
- Install appropriate ventilation systems
- Provide protective gear
- Assess client skin type
- Post warning signs and labels
- Keep proper patient and equipment records
You can also access additional information on safety standards for lasers in the workplace through the Ontario Ministry of Labour.
Contact Health Canada:
Laser hair removal - safety guidelines for facility owners and operators
Contact Ministry of Labour:
Lasers in Ontario Workplaces
Infection prevention and control
If you will be providing personal services such as hairstyling, barbering, tattooing, body piercing or various aesthetic services, contact Public Health Ontario for resources on preventing infection.
When your business uses recorded music, you are responsible for obtaining the right licence(s) for that use. Contact the following organization for more information:
Organizations that use music are legally required to obtain applicable RE:SOUND and SOCAN licences. Entandem enables businesses that use music to complete both licences at one time, through a single music license, so that rights-holders can be compensated for what they have fairly and legally earned through their work.
You can contact Pro Bono Ontario’s free legal advice hotline to enquire about getting help with your everyday civil legal needs (no family law or criminal law). The service is generally aimed at those who cannot afford a lawyer.
Note that service is not guaranteed and you will be asked questions as part of the qualifying process, such as the amount of personal income earned by your household, your name, postal code and age range.
Contact Pro Bono Ontario’s Free Legal Advice Hotline:
You can also contact the Law Society of Ontario's Law Society Referral Service if you have legal questions of a business nature. The service may be able to assist you in finding a lawyer or paralegal, based on your needs.
Law Society Referral Service
Depending on your location and the type of products or services being offered, federal, provincial and/or municipal business taxes may apply.
If you sell goods and services in Ontario, you may need a business number to collect and remit the Harmonized Sales Tax (HST). Most businesses that make less than $30,000 in any 12-month period are not required to charge HST; however, you can register voluntarily and claim input tax credits. Speak with the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) for more information.
Canada Revenue Agency
Grants, contributions, subsidies and loan guarantees are available from various government sources. Use Innovation Canada’s online search tool to look for programs and services that may apply to your business.
Grow your business
From day-to-day operations to long-term planning, learn how to manage your business efficiently.
If you are interested in finding an association, use our secondary market research service request and have us search for one based on your needs.
You can also find books, magazines and other relevant print material at business service organizations in your community. To locate a Small Business Services (SBS) community partner, contact us at 1-888-576-4444.