How to start a spa or salon in Ontario

Table of contents

Introduction
Getting started
Regulations
Taxation
Financing
Other resources

Introduction

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.

Getting started

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.

Read online:
Starting a Business

Regulations

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 Licences 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.

Contact us:
1-888-576-4444
Permits and licences search

Some common licences, permits and regulations that may apply to starting your salon or spa include:

Hairstylist certification

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 the College’s Apprentices Class
  • Pass the Certificate of Qualification Exam for this trade and register in the College’s 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.

Read online:
Fact Sheet - Hairstylist
Red Seal Trades - Hairstylist

Cosmetics program

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:
1-866-662-0666
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 your tanning services to youth under the age of 18.

Contact Health Canada:
1-866-225-0709
Guidelines for tanning salon owners, operators and users

Read online:
Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care - Skin Cancer Prevention Act (Tanning Beds)

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 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:

  • Acupuncture
  • Aromatherapy
  • Chiropractic
  • 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.

Read online:
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:
1-866-225-0709
Health Canada

Laser technology

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:
1-866-225-0709
Laser hair removal - safety guidelines for facility owners and operators

Contact Ministry of Labour:
1-877-202-0008
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.

Read Online:
Public Health Ontario - Infection Prevention and Control

Music licence

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).

Contact SOCAN:
1-800-557-6226
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 licence(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.

Contact Re:Sound:
1-877-309-5770
Re:Sound

Legal questions

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.

Use online:
Law Society Referral Service

Taxation

Depending on your location and the type of products or services being offered, federal, provincial and/or municipal business taxes may apply.

Read online:
Taxation guide

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.

Contact CRA:
1-800-959-5525
Canada Revenue Agency

Financing

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.

Search online:
Canada Business: Government grants and financing

Other resources

Managing

From day-to-day operations to long-term planning, learn how to manage your business efficiently.

Associations

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

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.