Before beginning any aesthetic treatment, let alone a medical aesthetic treatment, it is a good idea to have general and professional liability insurance in place. This is true when performing medical hair removal, even with a medical director.
Both laser hair removal and electrolysis can be classified as medical hair removal. A professional’s ability to perform these services will vary depending on the state in which they work. Many states have no certification or training requirements and no restrictions on who can perform medical hair removal procedures. Other states are more stringent, yet their policies may be difficult to understand.
WHAT IS MEDICAL HAIR REMOVAL?
Laser hair removal is one of the most common nonsurgical aesthetic treatments performed. If a client no longer wants to worry about waxing, tweezing, or shaving to remove unwanted hair, laser hair removal may be a good alternative method. A concentrated beam of light is aimed at the hair. The pigment in the hair absorbs the light, which then damages the follicle. This impedes future growth. Laser hair removal is considered semi-permanent, as results can vary widely from person to person. There are multiple variables that affect laser hair removal outcome, such as skin color, hair color, laser device used, the wavelength used, and treatment timing. Because of these many variables and risks associated with the procedure, aestheticians performing these treatments carry a higher liability risk.
While laser hair removal is not for everyone, based on factors such as skin color, hair color, or health condition, electrolysis is another medical hair removal procedure that has been around for decades and is a well-established method of permanent hair removal.
Electrolysis is the only FDA-approved method of permanent hair removal that can be used on all hair and skin tones. Electrolysis works by inserting a tiny probe into the hair follicle and emitting a current to destroy the hair. There are three types of current used: thermolysis (a high frequency current), galvanic current, and blend that is a combination of the two.
Electrolysis does cause discomfort and, like other forms of hair removal, the presence of erythema and swelling is not uncommon. All medical hair removal services require a protocol of regularly scheduled appointments in order to effectively target the hair. As with laser hair removal, this procedure is considered more invasive than basic aesthetic hair removal services and carrying liability coverage is important to protect against unforeseen circumstances.
As a professional providing medical hair removal services, the focus is on making the client feel beautiful. However, ensuring you and the client are protected with general and professional liability insurance is part of being a professional. Unfortunately, not all clients are easy to satisfy and accidents do happen. A study from UCLA researched legal documents for liability claims related to laser surgery on the skin. The researchers found that 42.8 percent of legal cases related to laser hair removal involved someone other than a physician operating the laser. What’s more, laser hair removal resulted in the most lawsuits naming defendants who were not doctors. In other words, more clients are filing claims after being burned, scared, or injured and those named are the aestheticians, laser technicians, nurses, and so forth.
COVERAGE UNDER THE BUSINESS OWNER’S POLICY
Often, providers assume they are covered under the policy of their medical director or business owner. However, having personal coverage is essential. There are several scenarios to consider when deciding to purchase your own policy. Under some plans, only the business entity is covered. If you are co-named in a lawsuit, you may not have coverage. In this case, you are responsible for all court fees, attorney fees, and a share of the settlement. The policy may not cover every service provided or every type of equipment used. Further, the services provided may have been added later in time and are not part of the policy. The business owner may fail to renew their policy or could allow their policy to lapse, leaving you without coverage. A client can also file a claim against you personally rather than against the business. In this situation, you might not be covered unless you have your own insurance.
GENERAL VERSUS PROFESSIONAL LIABILITY
General liability coverage is insurance that can provide protection against claims of negligence, which can include slip and fall or damage to a client’s property. General liability policies typically exclude coverage for professional liability claims. Separate professional liability coverage (also called malpractice insurance) can provide coverage for claims from providing professional services. An example of this type of claim could be a client who sustained burns or blisters to the skin resulting from services provided.
1 Associated Skin Care Professional, n.d. “Liability Insurance.” https://www.ascpskincare.com/liability-insurance-estheticians.
2 Pittman, Genevra. “Laser Surgery Lawsuits Against Non-Doctors on the Rise.” Reuters. 2013. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-laser-surgery/laser-surgery-lawsuits-against-non-doctors-on-the-rise-idUSBRE99F10P20131016.
3 “Estheticians Must Have Insurance to Protect Their Business.” The Healthcare Guys. 2018. https://www.healthcareguys.com/2018/11/05/estheticians-must-have-insurance-to-protect-their-business/their-business/.
4 Varney, Valerie. Interviewed by Maggie Staszcuk. 2018. Electrologist.
Maggie Staszcuk is the advanced modality insurance specialist for Associated Skin Care Professionals. She has been a licensed aesthetician for more than 12 years and has a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Stephens College. Staszcuk has worked in the spa and medical spa industry and served as an aesthetics instructor and the director of education for a medical aesthetic college. She is passionate about skin care and makes learning and growing a top priority.