Pennsylvania Regulations for Cosmetology
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This is the season for celebrating and get-togethers. Many Pennsylvanians will include a trip to the salon or spa. However, before scheduling any services, consumers should be aware of which techniques and equipment are permitted under Pennsylvania law.
The State Board of Cosmetology licenses nail, estheticians and hair salons.
In early December, the State Board of Cosmetology decided to allow nail technicians to use non-invasive metal foot smoothers in place of pumice stones. The advantage of metal foot smoothers is that they can be sanitized. The board prohibits the use of metal razors and rasps (which resemble kitchen cheese graters and metal files). This type of implement is considered invasive because it can cut the skin. Nail technicians and cosmetologists are prohibited from the use of metal razors or rasps unless under the direction of a podiatrist.
The use of the adhesive methyl methacrylate (MMA) by nail salons is illegal and may cause serious damage. Originally developed for the dental industry, MMA was adapted for use in nail enhancement products. In 1998, it was banned after it was found to be harmful. MMA may be identified by its strong and offensive odor.
At the same meeting, the board also clarified approval for the use of industry standard mechanical and electrical equipment for noninvasive body treatments. Customers may find this type of equipment in an esthetics salon when requesting services such as a body wrap or chemical exfoliation. The equipment must be of a cosmetic grade and not a medical grade, unless the services are provided under the direction of a physician. A client at a spa that promotes itself as a “medi-spa” should ask about the supervising physician. For chemical exfoliation, any production application with a pH of two or below would be considered medical grade; above two is considered cosmetic because it does not alter the skin.
Any use of lasers in esthetic services, such as laser hair removal, Intense Pulse Light and similar procedures, must be performed under the direction of a physician. The Federal Food and Drug Administration classifies lasers used on skin as medical lasers due to the risk and nature of the procedure. For instance, lasers could remove skin lesions that may be symptomatic of more serious conditions that should be medically treated. For this reason, medi-spas must be affiliated with a licensed doctor. Many physicians prefer to hire trained estheticians to work in their offices or in medical spas.
The Board of Cosmetology does not regulate massage therapy services, although cosmetology licensees may massage certain areas: the feet, lower leg, hands, arms, shoulder, neck and head. Cosmetology salons are prohibited from providing massage of the torso and leg within the licensed salon area. Salons and spas may offer these services in separate areas but the cosmetology board has no jurisdiction over these services. Massage rooms should be labeled “Massage.”
Among the more than one million professionals licensed by the Department of State are 134,991 Board of Cosmetology licensees (as of Nov. 19, 2007), including:
– 88,831 cosmetologists — 9,828 cosmetology teachers — 3,703 estheticians — 14,651 nail technicians — 6 natural hair braiders — 14,590 cosmetology salons — 1,159 esthetician salons — 2,042 nail technology salons — 157 cosmetology schools — 24 cosmetology apprentices
When considering cosmetic treatments or other professional services, it is important that consumers seek out the services of only licensed individuals. To verify that a professional is licensed as required, go to http://www.dos.state.pa.us/ and, under the heading Let Us Help You, click on the Verify a Professional License link and enter his or her name. This site also informs visitors if any disciplinary action has been taken against a licensee.
To report unprofessional or unlicensed practice, contact the Bureau of Professional and Occupational Affairs’ Professional Compliance Office at 1-800-822-2113. Complaint forms are available online at http://www.dos.state.pa.us/; under the heading “Let Us Help You”, click on the File A Complaint link.
The 27 licensing boards and commissions oversee a range of occupations in health and business-related fields, including auctioneers, barbers, chiropractors, engineers, funeral directors, nurses, nursing home administrators, optometrists, pharmacists and many others. If a licensed professional is found to have violated either state law or that board’s regulations, the board can impose disciplinary action against that licensee. Disciplinary actions may include civil penalties and the suspension or revocation of a license.
Find important information for each of the 27 boards under the Department of State’s Bureau of Professional and Occupational Affairs, including the current board newsletter and regulations governing each particular board’s licensees, at the department’s Web site,
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