Joan Scott - CEO and Chair of HABIA


Over the last few months, we have interviewed some amazing women in our industry who inspire us, and hopefully you, to make the most of being in the world of beauty.  
Today we are launching our interview with Joan Scott - CEO and Chair of HABIA. HABIA is the government-recognised standard-setting body (SSB) which develops national standards and promotes education, excellence and professionalism



"I'm currently CEO and Chair of the Hair and Beauty Industry Authority. I host regular "Education Forums', keeping educators aware of current challenges and opportunities. I'm an author of The Official Guide to Spa Therapy and have contributed to many other beauty textbooks. My passion for our industry has seen me visit spas across the UK and all around the world, including Abu Dhabi, Budapest, Dubai, Iceland, India, Morocco Sri Lanka and Thailand. I'm a huge supporter of the benefits of skills competitions and I'm the North West Champion for the AoC/World Skills UK. I work as a Skills Consultant with a group of Colleges, helping them to focus on technical excellence and enhance their skills competition activity. in addition I'm a lead Assessor for the annual AoC Beacon Awards. I'm from Cumbria, live in Manchester and love to travel whenever I get the opportunity."


Marlene Paulsen of Lash Perfect Norway and Calma BeautyMarlene Paulsen of Lash Perfect Norway and Calma Beauty


Tell us about your business!

The Hair and Beauty Industry Authority (HABIA) is the government-recognised Standard Setting Body (SSB) for the Hairdressing, Barbering, Beauty Therapy, Nails, Aesthetics, Wellbeing and Holistic industries. For more than thirty years we have been developing national standards that reflect the job role and form the basis of competency-based qualifications across the UK. Habia is an independent, not-for-profit organisation. We work with industry stakeholders, organisations, individual employers, learning providers, awarding bodies and Government and its agencies across the UK. The HABIA logo is a long-established, well-recognised sign of high-quality standards, excellence and professionalism.  We focus on - Standards, Education, Excellence and Careers, working with partners to support our members across the industry, endorsing and promoting high-quality training and professionalism. Lash Perfect is endorsed by HABIA.


How did you get into the beauty industry?

From the age of 11, I knew I wanted to be in the beauty industry, initially as a makeup artist but after seeing all the different career routes, I changed my mind. After doing A Levels, I went to college to study hair and beauty, which I felt was the best course available, combining both specialisms. After working in industry, including a couple of years in a private physiotherapy clinic, and having my own beauty business, I went into teaching. I was in the FE sector for many years - my last role was Assistant Principal, leading on Apprenticeships and Adult Education. I now work for myself and feel I've got my dream career, combining lots of my passions  - beauty, spas, education, skill competitions and travel.

I'm blessed that my beauty therapy qualification has given me so many opportunities, with lots more to come. My path hasn't followed my original plan, but I wouldn't have it any other way. I urge everyone to embrace every opportunity that comes along - push outside your limits and allow yourself to find what's truly meant for you. 


What are your hopes for the business in the next 5 years? 

At HABIA we're continually busy developing National Occupational Standards (NOS) and reviewing apprenticeships in Scotland and Wales. Our HABIA Endorsement is also very popular, many companies want to be endorsed by the Standard Setting body (SSB) so we can recognise the high-quality training they offer, and ensure their training is aligned with the most recent NOS.

We will continue to champion high standards, promote regulated qualifications, encourage regular updating of skills and promote client safety. We seek to raise awareness of the need to be fully qualified, so your qualification is fully recognised and you can gain insurance from a range of reputable insurance companies.

We're aware some insurance companies haven't asked for evidence of a qualification, which is frightening. In this case, I fear neither the practitioner or their clients would be covered or protected. There's lots going on! We'll embrace all the opportunities to support the hair and beauty sector over the coming years.


Lash Perfect Norway - Calma Beauty Treatment PicturesLash Perfect Norway - Calma Beauty Treatment Pictures


What advice would you give to women who are thinking about getting started in the beauty industry?

It's a wonderful, fast-paced, innovative and creative sector, with so many different paths and opportunities. The industry is continually evolving with roles in science, technology, research and journalism, as well as the more well-known roles such as beauty therapist, nail professional, spa therapist, etc. If you prefer to work as part of a team, there are lots of roles to consider, or if you want to have your own business, there are lots of exciting opportunities. If you have a good work ethic, excellent technical skills and great customer service skills, you can be very successful. 

For anyone wondering what the beauty and spa world holds for them …it holds fantastic opportunities, amazing experiences and a chance to live the life you dream of.


Inclusivity and diversity have also come under the spotlight within the beauty industry, but it’s still not the standard. What do you think needs to be done for the industry to be completely inclusive? 

Recently we updated the Hair and Beauty NOS/Standards - and the panel of experts involved were determined that they would be inclusive. With the hair standards, they made sure all hair types were included. Many current qualifications have no compulsory requirement for students studying hairdressing to be educated on cutting and styling afro and textured hair. This leaves a significant gap in professional knowledge and hairdressing services, leaving this demographic largely uncatered for. The new National Occupational Standards (NOS) for Hairdressing published in 2021 now "meet the needs of the UK's diverse community in one standard". The NOS are just the first stage in this long overdue change, the next step is for Awarding Organisations (AO) to review their qualifications and align the curriculum content with the new inclusive NOS. Qualifi has already aligned their qualifications with the inclusive new NOS. The National Occupational Standards (NOS) for several key areas of beauty and spa therapy have been completely refreshed to reflect industry changes, with a particular focus on inclusivity, mental, emotional and physical wellbeing, and a more bespoke approach to treatment.

HABIA's new standards for Beauty Therapy, Nails, Aesthetics, Wellbeing and Holistic industries were released following a consultation process involving employers, and can now be used as a basis for many of the beauty qualifications taught. 

The key changes include a focus on ensuring salons, spas and therapists take an inclusive approach to who they treat and how they treat them, in terms of race, gender and physical and mental health conditions, looking at the person rather than the identity. 

The standards around skin, for example, have been refreshed to be more explicitly inclusive, without being prescriptive. Therefore rather than focusing on skin colour, the new standards revolve around phenotyping and genotyping, meaning learners on courses that adopt these standards will be taught to base their treatments and recommendations around the individual skin of the client, rather than categorising just on culture or background. 

The standards also recommend the use of gender-neutral language and a less prescriptive approach to male and female treatments.  


How do you manage being a businesswoman with your home life? 

I try to be organised and plan ahead! Everything goes in the diary - personal and professional activity. I want to be able to dovetail it all together. It's important to do what you say you will do, and not to let anyone down, so if I want to fit it all in and not miss anything, then I have to be organised. Sometimes life can get very busy, but when it gets crazy I'll take myself off for a spa treatment or visit a salon. I justify it to myself as essential research (...and who can argue?)

I love trying different treatments - be it micro-needling, bamboo massage, Access bars, Balinese or Lomi Lomi massage - I love it all! I also love travelling, road trips, and adventures....both within the UK and abroad. I've recently climbed Ben Nevis and next is a cycling trip to Croatia, with hopefully a few Croatian spa treatments included.


What would you say is your proudest moment or event in your professional life?

There's been so many that it's hard to choose just one. I was so proud to win a creative makeup competition when I  was leaving college, I'll never forget the sense of achievement. Having my own business was also exciting, with many celebrity clients. In education, I was very proud to have a large successful hair and beauty department of 1000 learners. A huge moment was when our college was the first college in the country to achieve five Grade 1/Outstanding grades under a new Ofsted framework - to us it felt like winning the World Cup! It was a huge team effort.

More recently I was thrilled to win the TES/Worldskills Hero award and the Worldskills Europe Honorary award. I was also very proud when my Spa Text book was published - it was such a long, labour of love. Recently I've been a contributing author on 'Beauty and the Best' and  'Fit for Purpose Leadership'

It's such a wonderful sector with so many opportunities to stretch yourself and try new challenges. 


Find out more about HABIA on their website and on Instagram.