Beauty and hairdressing - safe operation

Hairdressers, nail salons and beauty therapists may spread infections like cold sores, ringworm, scabies, head lice and staphylococcal bacteria. Operating your business safely can prevent the spread of infections. Find out how to operate your business safely.

General hygiene

Hand washing, using clean equipment, using safe procedures and keeping your premises clean can help to prevent the spread of infection to your customers. The Public Health (Infection Control for Personal Appearance Services) Act 2003  and the Infection Control Guidelines for Personal Appearance Services apply to hairdressers, nail salons and beauty therapists to help minimise the risk of infection. The guidelines provide information on:

  • hand hygiene
  • cleaning equipment and premises
  • waste disposal
  • sterilising equipment.

 It is a good idea to keep a copy of the guidelines at your premises.

Personal hygiene

Handwashing is the most important measure in preventing the spread of infection. You must wash your hands:

  • before and after each client
  • before putting on and after removing gloves
  • before contact with instruments that penetrate the skin
  • after contact with blood or other body substances
  • after contact with used instruments and jewellery
  • after eating, smoking, going to the toilet
  • whenever hands are visibly soiled
  • in any other circumstance when infection risks are apparent.

Operators must not smoke while attending to a customer.

Closed ear, nose and navel piercing

New disposable gloves must be worn for each client. Sterile gloves should be worn when handling sterile instruments or jewellery.

Closed piercing instruments

Operators should use ear piercing devices that minimise the risk of cross-contamination. Piercing guns designed with disposable cartridges are recommended. They use cartridges containing pre-sterilised studs, clasps, clasp retainers and stud adaptors, and the cartridge can be disposed of immediately after use.

Closed piercing instruments must only be used for their designed purpose and not for other parts of the body, as per manufacturer’s instructions. Keep the manufacturer’s written instructions on the premises where the instrument is used.

Piercing guns must be cleaned and disinfected between clients.


When preparing for closed piercing:

  • open packages containing sterile instruments in front of the client
  • avoid skin contact with instruments
  • insert sterile single-use disposable capsules, containing the stud and butterfly, into the gun
  • mark the site to be pierced before disinfecting the skin
  • prepare client’s skin by swabbing with an antiseptic solution.

When performing closed ear piercing:

  • do not re-use jewellery or fittings on another person unless they have been sterilised 
  • pre-sterilised jewellery accidentally touched before insertion must be resterilised before use or discarded 
  • stud packets that are not sealed and intact must not be used.

Post treatment

After ear piercing:

  • place used single-use disposable items, e.g. clasps and gloves, in a waste container
  • clean the gun with detergent and water to remove any contaminants before re-use on another client
  • sterilise re-usable equipment in accordance with the Infection Control Guidelines for Personal Appearance Services
  • clean the immediate working area in which the procedure was performed
  • store ear piercing guns in a clean and hygienic manner
  • provide your client with after-care information to avoid infection, including:
    • cleaning of site and jewellery
    • infections and what to look for
    • general care instructions
    • healing times.

Beauty therapy

General procedures

  • Do not apply materials to a client if it has been applied to another person. Wax can be reused if it is treated correctly.
  • Avoid cross-contamination by using a single-use applicator or dispensing sufficient material from original container into another clean container (to be used only on one client).
  • Do not apply cosmetic testers directly to the face or mouth.
  • Apply materials to a client by either using single-use equipment or equipment that has been effectively cleaned, disinfected or sterilised.
  • Before using on another client, clean and sterilise instruments (e.g. razors, manicure instruments) that do not normally penetrate the skin but which may have been contaminated with blood and body substances. Find out more about cleaning methods:

Foot spas

Foot spas need to be cleaned correctly to prevent infections:


  • Clean spatulas before re-using on another person or use disposable spatulas (wax can become contaminated by dipping the spatula into the wax pot after it has just been used on a client)
  • Single use wax is preferable, however, the following steps are required if you choose to re-use wax:
    • heat and strain re-useable wax to remove hair
    • reheat it to at least 130°C for 15 minutes before it is used on another client (use a thermometer to check)
    • leave the strained material in the waste container
    • clean the strainer after each use
    • clean wax pots and tongs daily to remove build up of hair etc.


Before carrying out electrolysis on a client, their skin must be adequately prepared to protect them from infection. This can be done by swabbing with an antiseptic solution. General procedures:

  • ensure all needles used in electrolysis are sterile
  • whenever possible, use single-use disposable needles
  • if non-disposable needles are to be re-used, sterilise them in accordance with the Infection Control Guidelines for Personal Appearance Services before using on another client
  • if a reuseable sterile needle is used extensively on a client in one treatment session, this needle must be disposed of in the sharps container and not re-used
  • clean needle holders with warm water and detergent, then allow to dry.

Post treatment

After each client:


Cleaning hair cutting scissors

The best way to clean hair cutting scissors is to wear protective gloves, rinse the scissors in lukewarm water to remove hair, fully-immerse the scissors in warm water and detergent and scrub with a clean brush, rinse the scissors in running hot water, and dry with disposable paper towels.

Cleaning hair cutting scissors after accidental contamination with blood

Clean scissors as per Guideline 1.6, in the Infection Control Guidelines for Personal Appearance Services:

  • disinfect the cleaned scissors with either:
    • 70-80% ethyl alcohol-soaked wipe
    • 60-70% isopropyl alcohol-soaked wipe
    • cloth or tissue soaked in methylated spirits.

Cleaning electric hair clippers after accidental contamination with blood

Clean electric hair clippers immediately after accidental contamination with blood:

Treating clients with head lice

Hairdressers may treat clients who have head lice, however, they need to:

  • use a non-chemical treatment (e.g. white hair conditioner and comb) or a chemical (insecticidal) treatment - follow the instructions on commercially available head lice products
  • clean instruments used in head lice treatments (e.g. combs) as per Guideline 1.6.1, Method 1 of the Infection Control Guidelines for Personal Appearance Services
  • kill head lice and their eggs which stick to linen by using one of the following treatments:
    • washing the linen in a washing machine using the hot water cycle
    • placing the linen in a hot clothes dryer cycle for 15 minutes
    • soaking the linen in near boiling water for 30 minutes.


After each client:

Check your compliance