In this section
- Treatments that involve light
- Treatments that involve electricity
- Other treatments
- Declaring your epilepsy
- Your rights under the equality laws
- What to do if you feel you have been discriminated against
Some people are told they can’t have a particular cosmetic treatment because of their epilepsy. This information looks at different types of treatments. It gives a brief mention of some treatments and what, if any, risks there are if you have epilepsy. It also gives information about your rights if you have been refused treatment because of your epilepsy.
If you have epilepsy, you may be told that treatment involving light is not suitable for you, because you might have a seizure. This is only true if you have photosensitive epilepsy and the lights flash or flicker. Photosensitive epilepsy affects around three in a hundred people with epilepsy . So, if you don’t have photosensitive epilepsy, flashing or flickering lights would not affect you.
Sun bed lights in good working order don’t flicker, so they won’t trigger seizures, even if you have photosensitive epilepsy. If the lights are faulty and flicker, and you have photosensitive epilepsy, they could trigger seizures. Before using a sun bed, you could ask staff at the sun bed centre to check that the lights are working properly, and not flickering.
The beam of light used in laser treatments is very small, and it doesn’t flicker. So lasers shouldn’t trigger seizures, even if you have photosensitive epilepsy.
If your epilepsy is uncontrolled, it’s a good idea to discuss this with the laser treatment centre. You and the staff can then consider if there might be a risk of injury to your skin. This might happen if you moved during the treatment because you had a seizure.
People with epilepsy are warned against using some treatments involving electricity. There is no evidence that treatments involving electricity can trigger seizures. Examples of treatments that use electricity are electrical body toning products, rotary epilators, foot spas and electrolysis.
If your epilepsy is uncontrolled, it’s a good idea to discuss this with the therapist. You and the staff can then consider if there might be a risk of injury to your skin. This might happen if you were having electrolysis and moved during the treatment because you had a seizures.
Epilepsy Action has not heard of anyone having a seizure because of having a part of their body pierced.
It’s worth considering that if you have your tongue pierced and still have seizures, the tongue stud could cause injury to your mouth. It’s possible for the studs to damage your teeth during a tonic-clonic seizure.
Epilepsy Action has not heard of anyone having a seizure because of having a tattoo.
Some tattoo artists may worry that a seizure might happen while you are having the tattoo and cause you injury. If your seizures are well controlled this should not be an issue. If your seizures happen at a particular time of day or night, discuss this with the tattoo artist. You can then choose a time when you are less likely to have a seizure. If your seizures are unpredictable and not controlled it would be safer for you to wait until your epilepsy is more stable.
Therapists usually carry out a consultation with their clients before starting a treatment. Therapists are taught that it’s not advisable for people with certain medical conditions, such as epilepsy, to be given certain treatments. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean that you can’t have treatment.
If your epilepsy is well controlled you should be able to have most treatments without any restrictions. So, in this case, you may decide you don't want to tell the therapist about your seizures, and this is fine.
If your epilepsy is uncontrolled and it’s likely that you may have a seizure during treatment, it’s a good idea to discuss possible risks with the therapist. You could also talk to your family doctor or epilepsy specialist about whether they feel the treatment is advisable for you.
If you tell the therapist, it would be helpful to explain what happens when you have a seizure and what they should do to help you.
If you have epilepsy and live in England, Scotland and Wales, you are covered by the Equality Act. In Northern Ireland you are covered by the Disability Discrimination Act. These laws mean that organisations such as employers, colleges, or treatment salons must not treat you less favourably than other people because you have epilepsy. All organisations that provide goods, facilities or services to the public, must work under the terms of the equality laws.
Under the equality laws organisations must not place blanket restrictions on people because they have epilepsy. They must consider each person’s case individually. An example of a blanket restriction might be saying that no-one with epilepsy can have a certain treatment. Another example is to say you need a doctor’s letter before you can have the treatment. Unless everyone who has treatment requires a letter from their doctor, it may be discrimination to only ask you. It can be an unnecessary inconvenience, not to mention expense, as doctors often charge to provide letters.
The equality laws also mean that service providers must try to make reasonable adjustments for people with epilepsy. This might be to provide extra help or make changes to the way they deliver services. An example of a reasonable adjustment might be for the therapist to agree to give a client laser treatment, once their seizures are better controlled.
More information about the equality laws is available from Epilepsy Action.
It’s important to find out why you have been refused treatment or told that you must have a doctor’s letter. It’s not enough to simply be told that it’s because you have epilepsy.
The salon might refuse treatment because of a mistaken belief that light or electricity involved in the treatments could trigger a seizure. You could explain that lights and electricity in treatments aren’t a problem.
See Treatments that involve light and Treatments that involve electricity above.
The therapist might have concerns about what to do if you have a seizure during the treatment. You can explain how they can help you. It might be that the salon has not trained staff in epilepsy awareness or first aid.
First aid training material is readily available from Epilepsy Action.
If you can’t solve the problem by talking to the therapist first, you can contact the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) or Equality Commission for Northern Ireland (ECNI). They are independent bodies set up to stop discrimination and promote equality of opportunity for people living in the UK.
Equality and Human Rights Commission
0808 800 0082
The EHRC is available at equalityhumanrights.com/
Equality Commission for Northern Ireland
Enquiry line: 02890 890 890
The ECNI is available at equalityni.org/site/default.asp?secid=home
If you cannot resolve your dispute with your therapist or salon, and the EHRC or ECNI is unable to help you, you may wish to contact a solicitor. They should be able to advise if you have a legal case.
Epilepsy Action has a position statement on cosmetic treatments. Our position statements summarise what we believe about the treatment and rights of people with epilepsy. We believe that people with epilepsy should have the same rights as everybody else.
If you would like to receive a copy of the position statement on cosmetic treatment, please contact Epilepsy Action.
If your treatment provider would like more information about epilepsy, please ask them to contact Epilepsy Action.
Epilepsy Action would like to thank Dr Rhys Thomas, Clinical Lecturer in Neurology based at Morriston Hospital, Swansea, for reviewing this information.
Dr Thomas has declared no conflict of interest
This information has been produced under the terms of The Information Standard.
Updated December 2012To be reviewed May 2014