How to start a spa or salon in Ontario
Table of contents
A salon or spa may provide a range of services from personal care to cosmetic care. Before opening your business, consider which type of services you would like to offer.
Some common types of spa/salon 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.
- Massage therapy, which provides manipulation of skin, muscles and joints to promote relaxation and health.
- Personal care services, which include esthetics and tanning salons.
This guide focuses on operating an independent spa or salon. 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 business start-up 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 the Canada Business Permits and Licenses Search, powered by 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 spa or salon include:
If you provide hairstyling services, you must be certified to work in Ontario. "Red Seal" certification allows qualified tradespersons to practice their trade in any province or territory in Canada without having to re-apply for certification in other provinces.
Red Seal Trades - Hairstylist
If you are manufacturing, distributing, or selling 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:
Information for industry and professionals: cosmetics and personal care products
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, which include posting approved signs around your facility and notifying your local public health unit. In Ontario you may not sell or advertise your tanning services to youth under the age of 18.
Contact Health Canada:
Guidelines for tanning salon owners, operators and users
In-Spa therapeutic treatments
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 spa or salon operator you are responsible for ensuring that these procedures or treatments meet the legal and regulatory requirements.
Some of the 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 certificated 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 therapeutic treatments or procedures 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.
You can 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 spa.
Contact Health Canada:
You may wish to offer several different services in your spa or salon 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. Depending on the class of laser devices used, you will need to:
- Designate a qualified Laser Safety Officer (LSO)
- 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, including hairstyling, barbering, tattooing, body piercing and various aesthetic services, you can contact your local public health unit for resources on preventing infection.
Health Services in Your Community
When your business uses recorded music, you are responsible for obtaining the right licence(s) for that use. The Copyright Board of Canada works with individual copyright collective societies who provide music licensing. Contact the following two organizations for more information.
Society of Composers, Authors and Music Publishers of Canada (SOCAN) Music Licence
SOCAN is a not-for-profit organization that represents the performance rights of music creators and music publishers. They can help you learn about your obligations and obtaining the required license(s).
Tariffs & forms - Music in a business
Re:Sound Music Licensing Company
Re:Sound is the Canadian not-for-profit organization that represents the performance rights of artists and record companies, and provides the legally required license(s) for businesses. You can get help determining what licence(s) will be required, what the licensing process will be and how much it will cost.
If you have legal questions, contact a lawyer who deals with business regulations. The Law Society of Upper Canada's Law Society Referral 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
Canada Business can help you find government financing options for your business. There are programs that apply to businesses across Canada, and others that apply only to businesses in Ontario. Use the Canada Business financing search tool or browse by type of financing.
Canada Business: Government grants and financing
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.
Industry specific information
- Mandatory surveys - Chemical ingredients
- OSH answers fact sheets - Lasers
- OSH answers fact sheets - Ultraviolet radiation
- Public Health Ontario - Infectious diseases
You can also find books, magazines and other relevant print material at business service organizations in your community. To locate a Canada Business Ontario (CBO) community partner, contact us at 1-888-576-4444.