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Unregulated beauty procedures putting clients' health at risk

Last Updated Feb 8, 2018 at 6:28 pm EST

Some of the trendiest beauty procedures — eyelash extensions, permanent eyeliner, microblading — remain virtually unregulated, although they could easily go wrong and lead to dire cosmetic or health consequences.

“People can get sties; they can get pink-eye — any kind of eye infection that is contagious can go from one client to the next, if they don’t change everything in between clients and clean it,” explained Yvette Spencer of Eyelash Canada, which offers spa services and training.

Toronto Public Health (TPH) does inspect salons and spas that offer these services — which involve tattooing or small incisions and chemical adhesives near the eyes — but only if they are licenced with the city.

If the shop owner operates secretly, as many do out of home salons, TPH doesn’t know they exist and can’t ensure the blades they use are sterilized or new.

“The consequences are that you could get a blood-borne disease, such as Hepatitis B, C and HIV,” said Cecilia Alterman, manager of infectious disease for TPH. “There are many other types of skin infections as well, if they’re not following skin infection control practices.”

What makes it doubly dangerous is the lack of training and credentials required to practice.

Unlike hairstylists, who are required to undergo training and supervised work hours before working solo, eyelash and microblading technicians can be self-trained, learn their craft on YouTube or take a class.

“Who is enforcing it?” said Spencer, who’s been practicing her craft for more than 15 years. “The city, the health department, is not adequately enforcing it.”

Spencer — whose four-day microblading course covers drawing techniques, hygenic practices, needle selection and pain management combined with considerable practical work on models and mannequins — says it’s time the practice is regulated.

“I can teach you today, and students are going out and teaching other people in their homes the next day, and there’s nobody to stop them,” she said. “They won’t have the experience or the skills to teach and will still be learning, but nobody will stop them from teaching.”

But with no qualifications or training requirements, the government has nothing to regulate.

“As standalone eyelash extension and microblading courses tend to cost less than $1,000 and do not provide all the skills and knowledge required to obtain employment in a prescribed vocation, neither registered private career colleges nor unregistered institutions need to seek approval from the superintendent in order to offer them,” Tanya Blazina, spokeswoman for the Ministry of Advanced Education and Skills Development said in a statement.

Although neither Health Canada nor Public Health Ontario polices the industry, clients can view the licence status of salons and spas operating in Toronto on TPH’s BodySafe website.