Get to know your clients—every time you see them

Whether we go to a dentist, physical therapist or other appointment, we’re all used to the question, “Are there any changes to your health since your last visit?” There are good reasons these professionals ask the question: they want to make sure their treatment does not affect you negatively because of a pre-existing condition. And if their treatment causes a negative reaction, they know they have done their due diligence in case you seek legal action to compensate you for damages.

Salon and spa professionals don’t need to take a medical history—clients probably wouldn’t like that very much—but they should communicate with their clients about health concerns and injuries.

This is critical for estheticians and electrologists. Many insurers (like us) require electrologists to maintain a record of client’s stated medical conditions. This is for good reason—the side effects of this sort of hair removal can be made worse by certain conditions. Because their many wonderful skincare products can also be allergens and irritants, estheticians may also want to ask their clients about skin health concerns, newly discovered allergies or major health changes.

For hair stylists and nail technicians, it pays to be keen observers. With the number of walk-ins and relatively non-invasive nature of these services, asking about each client’s health isn’t practical. But there are scary scenarios to consider: Has a client had her hair dyed somewhere else recently and been advised not to dye again? The result could be hair loss or a burnt scalp. Does the client suspect she has a nail infection, but decided to visit you instead of their doctor? The infection may get worse.

These may be signs of poor service received from someone else—and they warrant medical attention. Stylists and nail techs that notice sores, cuts, signs of irritation, contact dermatitis or infections should speak up and discuss the matter with their clients. Nail techs sometimes feel obligated to help clients resolve an infection. But if you observe a suspicious area of inflammation, it is better to gently refuse service and refer the client to their physician. This may result in a cancelled service, but that is less expensive than the potential consequences.

These open, honest communications and clear records matter because they can help prevent costly claims and lawsuits. For example, if a stylist proceeds with a hair color service, despite suspicious sores on a client’s scalp, you may be held liable for further damage. The same is true for an electrologist who fails to collect information about a client’s health condition.

Of course, if you ask, a client can decline to tell you about medical conditions or a warning from another professional. But if you ask, at least you have done your due diligence. If you don’t feel comfortable doing the treatment, it may be better to be safe than sorry.

Remember, taking the time to ask a few simple questions, watching out for warning signs that something is wrong and keeping good records of these conversations can avoid harm coming to your clients – and keep you away from costly claims.

Kathy Lopez, Account Manager for SASSI, the Salon and Spa Specialty Insurance program at Brownyard Group. She can be reached at klopez@brownyard.com.