Getting started as an aesthetician, massage therapist, or pedicurist

Last modified:

Friday 25 September 2020

Are you launching your business as an independent aesthetician or pedicurist? Do you want to open a beauty or massage salon? Or, does your project only involve nail care? This little authorization guide is for you!

Basic management skills

No matter what sector you’re starting your business in, you must first demonstrate basic business management skills in order to become self-employed or create your company. These skills consist of the minimum knowledge of accounting and legislation you need to manage your company properly. There are three ways to demonstrate these skills : via a recognized diploma, via sufficient professional experience or by undergoing a review by the Central Jury.

Professional qualifications

In addition to basic management skills, occupations involving personal care require additional special professional skills. These are known as “professional qualifications”. Qualifications vary based on the project. The following occupations require “professional qualifications”:

  • Pedicurist. An occupation involving foot care:
    • intended solely to maintain or improve the aesthetics of a person;
    • when the care doesn’t require the involvement of, or a prescription from, a doctor or paramedical professional covered by Royal Decree no. 78 on the exercise of healthcare professions.

  • Massage therapist. An occupation which involves:

    • the massage of the human body intended to maintain or improve the aesthetics of a person;
    • cosmetic massage;
    • massage commonly applied in a beauty salon in the normal sense of the term.

  • Aesthetician. An occupation involving the care of the human body intended to:

    • maintain the aesthetics of a person;
    • improve the aesthetics of a person.

This type of care also includes hair removal and semi-permanent make-up.

However, some aesthetic practices do not require professional qualifications and are included in the list of exceptions. For these activities only, professional qualifications are not required. These include:

  • the application, modification and removal of permanent tattoos;
  • piercings;
  • the decoration, lengthening or shaping of nails;
  • the application of false nails;
  • face painting;
  • hair care;
  • dental techniques;
  • foot care;
  • relaxing massage.

Actions related to the premises 

You have two options :

  • either obtain your own premises (purchase or lease);
  • or offer your services in a salon which already has all the necessary authorizations, such as the designation of the premises, SIAMU certification for an establishment of more than 100 m2 open to the public, music playback (contract with the SAB, and a waste collection contract.

There is a third possibility, but only for pedicurists who are considered part of the paramedical sector:

  • you may also join a medical centre or home.

Designation of the premises

The best advice we can give you is to never commit to a lease agreement or sale offer without first verifying the designation of the premises with the city planning service in the municipality concerned. If you sign a commercial lease for a location with a designation that doesn’t match your activity, you’ll lose money because you’ll be forced to pay your lease even though you can’t open up! In general, a regularization request for the designation of the premises involves a city planning permit and can take several months. As for denials, they’re rare but it’s best to be careful. 

If your (future) premises are located in a commercial zone, your premises must be designated as “service retail”. Any other designation, including “merchandise retail”, will require submitting a request for a city planning permit to the municipality.

If your (future) premises are located outside a commercial zone, you can provide your services within premises designated both as “service retail” and “merchandise retail”. A city planning permit is not required if the premises are designated “merchandise retail”.

To find out if your (future) premises are located in a commercial zone, you can use the following tool: Brugis (Layers > Brussels Planning and Heritage > Shop signs > Commercial centre strips. Commercial zones are indicated in blue) 

Please note: This is front-line information. Before taking a decision, it’s best to consult with the city planning department of the municipality where your future premises will be located to determine your status. 

And my home?

These occupations are not considered liberal professions from a city planning standpoint. It’s therefore unlikely that the municipality will allow you to exercise your profession at your home because only liberal professions and companies providing “intellectual services” are permitted to do so.

There is one possible exception: pedicure services provided by an entrepreneur with a paramedical diploma. In this case, it’s best to pre-emptively consult with the municipality’s city planning department, since interpretations vary.


Are other steps necessary? Yes. As with basic management skills, there is a series of steps every entrepreneur must take, regardless of their business sector. These include:

For this reason, we strongly recommend contacting a support organisation. The organisation will assist you during every phase of your project’s development. Your adviser will be your point of reference and support you at every step.

These support organisations can be found through our Who can help me? wizard. The wizard is easy to use because it searches according to your needs!   You should already know that RCOOP is a cooperative of entrepreneurs that is precisely focused on the hairdressing, aesthetics, care and personal service trades. They therefore accompany candidates who wish to start their own business. But if you need a helping hand to figure things out, don’t hesitate to ask our advisers for assistance.

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