Special treatments licence

Businesses that offer certain treatments to people like massages, tattooing, laser/IPL treatment need to be licensed. This is so we can ensure the safety of people using them.

The London Local Authorities Act 1991 requires businesses that offer “special treatments” to be licensed, unless an exemption applies under section 4 of the act. Special treatments include, but are not limited to

  • massage
  • manicure
  • acupuncture
  • tattooing
  • cosmetic piercing
  • chiropody
  • light treatments
  • electric treatments
  • other similar treatments, including vapour, sauna or other baths (including infra-red sauna cabin).

Application for a licence covers both the person carrying out the treatment(s) and the premises. The applicant must ensure that the procedures, equipment and facilities used are safe and hygienic. This is to prevent the spread of disease and follow the general duty of care as required by the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and set conditions.

It is an offence to provide or advertise special treatments without a licence, unless there is an exemption in place.

Licences cover the premises and those registered to provide treatments listed on the licence. There are no provisions under the act to grant personal licences.

Who does not need a Special Treatment Licence

Premises where the special treatments are carried out by, or under the supervision of a medical practitioner registered with the General Medical Council may be exempt and not required to be licensed.

Some treatments do not need licensing if the therapist administering them is a member of an exempt organisation. Exemption only applies to the special treatments in the ‘Treatments’ column next to the organisation.

If you offer any other special treatments at the premises that are not administered by a member of a relevant exempt organisation, the premises will need a licence.

If you believe you are exempt from the requirement to hold a licence, you must contact us and provide evidence to prove this exemption. If not, you must apply for a licence. Once we are satisfied that you are exempt from this requirement, we will write to you to confirm this.

Application process

Applicants can be from individual, company or partnership.

Applications must be submitted using the forms provided by the council. It must come with the correct application fee and information and documentation which the council requires. The requirements are:

  • Two passport sized photographs of the applicant and each operators.
  • Copies of each operator’s current qualification certificate(s).
  • A copy of the current treatment price list
  • Portable Appliance Test (PAT) record or copies of receipts if the electrical appliances are new.
  • A customer vetting/history card or able to show a system is in place.
  • Public notice on a local newspaper (only required on the first application).
  • Third party/Public Liability Insurance.


New and renewal applications for new special treatment must advertise their application using a notice displayed at the premises for 28 days. Download the public notice of application template:

Applications for a new premises licence must place a public notice in a local newspaper. Download the newspaper public notice template:

We will send a copy of your application and supporting documents to the Metropolitan Police Licensing and the London Fire Brigade.

The council will consider any objections made authorities mentioned or any other person when determining an application.

If no objections are received, we will normally grant the application, which can be subject to conditions. Where objections are received, these will be forwarded to you at the end of the consultation period, unless the council is aware that you have already received them.

Once an objection is made to a Special Treatment Licence application, the applicant will be referred to the council’s Licensing Committee.

They will determine whether the application should be granted at a public hearing. Information relating to the committee hearing will be sent to the applicant and any other interested parties before the hearing.

Tacit consent

Tacit consent does not apply. This means we will only issue your licence when:

  • we have received all your documents
  • made all the necessary checks
  • we are satisfied that your premises meet the required standard.

Renewal of licence

Once granted, special treatment licences must be renewed every year before your licence expires. This is a similar process to a new application. Licence holders will be contacted to apply for a renewal.

You can continue offering special treatments if you have submitted a valid renewal application before your licence expires. You can do this up until you know the outcome of your renewal application.

Application forms and fees

To apply or renew your current licence please download the relevant application form

Fees (new and renewal)

  • £749 for IPL (Intense Pulse Light)/Laser treatments with or without other treatments.
  • £544 for all other treatments that do not include IPL or laser treatments.

Once completed the application form and required documents can be sent via email to:

Or posted to:
Licensing and Safety Team
Environmental Health and Trading Standards
4th Floor Tower Hamlets Town Hall
160 Whitechapel Road
E1 1BJ

Licence condition requirements

The council has adopted standard conditions which will be applied to all licences. These conditions include certain requirements as follows:


  • All surfaces in any part of the premises used by clients must be kept clean and in good repair
  • All furniture and fittings in the treatment area must be kept clean and in good repair.
  • Tables, couches, seats, etc, used in the treatment area must have a smooth surface. It should be wiped down regularly with disinfectant and covered by a disposable paper sheet, changed after each client.
  • A 'No Smoking' sign must be displayed in a visible location.

Cleanliness of practitioners

  • Any overall worn by the practitioner should be clean and in good repair
  • The practitioner's hands and nails must be kept clean.
  • Any open cut, wound, sore or boil must be covered by a water-resistant dressing.
  • The practitioner should not smoke nor drink in the treatment area.
  • The practitioner should have sole use of the washing facilities which must provide hot and cold running water, soap (or a similar cleanser) and a nail brush


  • Any needle, metal instrument or other item of equipment used in the treatment must be in a sterile condition and kept sterile until it is used.
  • If pre-sterilised items are not used then adequate facilities must be provided for sterilisation.

Hairdresser licence

The Deregulation and Contracting Out Act 1994 means hairdressers do not need to be registered. However, activities like ear piercing, electrolysis, tattooing and acupuncture, and the employment of employees still need to be registered.

Health and Safety at Work

The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 is the key act which affects all commercial activities, whether self-employed or as an employee. Under this act, many regulations are considered. The more relevant of these include:

  • The Health and Safety (First-Aid) Regulations 1981
  • The Electricity at Work Regulations 1989
  • The Health and Safety (Information for Employees) Regulations 1989
  • Health and Safety (Training for Employment) Regulations 1990
  • The Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992
  • Health and Safety (Display Screen Equipment) Regulations 1992
  • Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations 1992
  • Manual Handling Operations Regulations 1992
  • The Reporting of Injuries Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 1995
  • The Health and Safety (Consultation with Employees) Regulations 1996
  • The Health and Safety (Young Persons) Regulations 1997
  • Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998
  • The Working Time Regulations 1998
  • The Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002

Further information

To get a copy of a leaflet on the legislation, please contact Health and Safety or download a copy of the form from the Health and Safety website.

For more information email Healthand.Safety@towerhamlets.gov.uk.