By: Nakira Venible, with edits By: Brandi Bovell, LMT, LA, CNHP
Protect yourself when receiving Spa Treatments by always asking to see license and Insurance prior to your services.
In a new reality for the Spa and Salon industry, there have been several news stories surfacing about unlicensed and uninsured practitioners, and the devastating effects. This became a harsh revelation for some after visiting a day spa for relaxation and pampering but instead ended up leaving with an infection or injury. It is extremely important for those who are practicing as massage therapists and aestheticians to have a license to not only protect themselves but ensure the safety of their clients. Unfortunately, because the police and state boards do not investigate until there has been a complaint, many are operating across the country illegally every day. Furthermore, many now harbor sex trafficking victims who offer illegal services under the guise of the spa industry. Continue reading to learn more and protect yourself.
There is a story from New York, where a spa owner that was prosecuted for performing liposuction on a customer and inserting the fat into her buttocks area for a small fee of $500. This unlicensed surgery went entirely wrong when the young lady who received that service nearly died from the injuries that she received. After beginning to feel extreme pain and developing a fever, the young lady went to a hospital where she was diagnosed with bilateral buttock abscesses and had to undergo operation. It is said that the owner of this Spa is not licensed to practice medical procedures yet was doing so at not only one, but two different spas. This spa owner was charged with “Reckless Endangerment in the First Degree, pursuant to New York Penal Law 120.25, and two separate counts of Assault in the Second Degree, pursuant to New York Penal Law 120.05.”
Yikes, scary right? If that wasn’t enough, there is a story of a man who went to a massage therapist in Seattle, WA who performed a massage that resulted in the client having a torn ligament in his left arm. It later surfaced that the massage therapist was not licensed and was practicing without ever receiving any formal training, or national testing for competency.
To hit more closely to home, here in Virginia, we have many salon and spa services that are operating illegally without being licensed or insured. These practitioners often refer to themselves as “body workers”, “body work practitioners”, “masseuse”, “masseur”, “facialist” or “skin specialist” in an effort to mislead the public into believing that they are licensed. More specifically, in Chesapeake Virginia, there was a Asian massage studio that was shut down due to the discovery of prostitution happening within the business. The 53 year-old owner was arrested along with 14 other women working there, after an undercover police operation discovered proof that there was indeed prostitution and sexual acts taking place inside the studio, further investigation proved that none of the employees were licensed to practice massage. Kinda makes you wonder if the state was more adamant about enforcing licensure if perhaps things like this could be prevented before they start.
It’s crazy to hear stories like this from your own state, which is why it is very important to research a salon or spa service before visiting. To ensure the legitimacy and legality of the day spa, massage practice, or skin care clinic you are about to visit, research the business and look for titles such as: “Licensed Massage Therapist” or “Licensed Aesthetician”.
There are several state specific requirements that are set in place in order to obtain a massage therapist or aesthetician license in order to perform massage therapy or skincare services. In Virginia, an individual that is looking to obtain their aesthetician license must complete 600 hours of schooling for a general license, and 1,200 hours of schooling to get a master license. Once all schooling is completed the individual must pass an exam that entails the universal precautions and state specific requirements that all practicing aestheticians must follow in order to receive their license. This is necessary in order to ensure the individual is properly trained in what to do/ not do to prevent injury or infection of their client. More information about Virginia massage therapist requirements, visit: https://law.lis.virginia.gov/vacode/title54.1/chapter30/section54.1-3029/
There are two ways that you can check for the license of a Spa as an extra precaution to ensure the legitimacy of the Spa you will be visiting. One way to check is by looking for the license inside the establishment. Spas must always have their license posted and in a conspicuous place for their customer to see. If you do not see this, ask to see their license and insurance, they are required by law to show you on demand. When looking it over check to make sure the name matches the name of the practitioner provided to you, and check the expiration date, if its expired they are not practicing legally. Another way is by researching their license online since it is a public record. You can easily obtain information on your massage therapist’s license by visiting the website of the Department of Health Professionals and clicking license lookup https://dhp.virginiainteractive.org/Lookup/Index. To see the license of the Spa that you plan to visit, you can also visit the website of the Department of Professional and Occupational Regulations http://www.dpor.virginia.gov/LicenseLookup/. You can also lookup an Aestheticians license on DPOR’s website http://www.dpor.virginia.gov/LicenseLookup/. Keep in mind that just because you have checked for a license online prior to your visit, you still need to request to see their liability insurance upon arrival. If someone does not want to show you either of these things, leave immediately and contact: 1. The local police, 2. Department of Health Professions (DHP), and The Board of Nursing (BON) for massage, or 3. Department of Professional and Occupational Regulations (DPOR) for Aesthetics.
Here at Old Mechanicsville Health Spa, we are more than happy to show our clients our licenses and insurance as they are proudly displayed on our walls and in our team’s achievement book. It is always one of our goals to create a peaceful and safe environment for our clientele. Your safely is extremely important to us and to help protect you all we find it essential to provide you all the information that you need so that you are aware and knowledgeable in what to look for when visiting a day spa.
Additional Links below:
City of Richmond regulations regarding Massage Therapy:
County of Hanover regulations regarding massage therapy:
State of Virginia Regulations regarding Massage Therapy:
State of Virginia Regulations regarding Aesthetics: