How to write a great training manual!

What is a training manual?

Of course, you already know what a training manual is. Yet, when we receive submissions for accreditation, some manuals leave a lot to be desired in terms of educational content.

Training manuals are not just pointers for you to teach from, or a quick recap of the essential course information, it serves a much more vital purpose for your students and reputation.

Think of all the courses you have ever been on. Think about the training resources that really stood out. Have you been ‘wowed’ with information on a course and come to respect the trainer for their wealth of knowledge?

Your training manual should be a part of and an extension of your training course. The information needs to be enough for the student to really understand the treatment and be able to troubleshoot post-training. Whilst many will support their student’s post-training, eventually, the student has to fly the nest and become confident in the knowledge of how the treatment works and how to overcome any issues.

Teaching resources do not always have to be in a manual format. They can be online videos, powerpoints, additional handouts or suggested post-training reading. 

 The importance of a manual:

  • Allows you to keep track of the course to ensure you cover everything the student needs to know about the procedure.
  • Student can use the manual to make their own notes so that they can make sense of or remember certain important parts of the treatment and how it works.
  • It helps students that have a preference for reading, over listening, absorb the information you are delivering.
  • A reference guide post-training to recap or look up knowledge such as protocols, contra-indications and trouble shootings.

What should you include in a manual?

This is always somewhat controversial. We get asked often if the manuals really need certain information. Especially when it comes to teaching already qualified students and you feel like you are repeating the A&P and Health & Safety. 

 It is our job as trainers to greatly improve industry knowledge and standards. I think we can all agree that knowledge varies greatly from person to person, depending on their background. Let’s take a look at the sections your manuals should include and why!

1. Introduction to the course and important information

Start your manual with a brief overview of the course and what and how the course will be delivered. Maybe include a brief overview of timings so that students can see when they get breaks or lunchtimes. This keeps the student more focused, especially when they know they can take a toilet break at a set time, rather than worrying about when to interrupt you to ask if they can go to the toilet.

Include your contact information in the manual so students know that you are available post-training. Maybe include the insurers that insure the course, a list of prescribers if you are teaching aesthetics or add in some suppliers or stock lists.

Every course I deliver, these are always common questions; including them at the beginning of the course can aid with student concentration and engagement.

2. Health and Safety 

When it comes to health and safety, we assume common sense is part and parcel of everyone’s knowledge. Reality is far from the truth. Whether we are teaching newcomers to the industry or experienced therapists, often there is a shortfall in their overall knowledge of health and safety. Laws also change all the time, and it is up to us, the trainer, to keep up to date with these changes and inform students attending our courses. 

For some, though, it really is a case of teaching your grandma to suck eggs. Teaching health and safety can be boring, and your students may feel like they have heard it 1000 times before. And they most probably have! 

It is still important to include this in your training manual, though, and you can ensure this is covered in your training in several ways:

  1. If your student(s) is/are new to the industry, then this should be covered in full at all times during the course itself. 
  2. When teaching old-timers, experienced therapists, or perhaps teaching the same students on different courses, then you can either briefly recap the information; inform the students they can read through this again at their own leisure or; you can cover the vital key health and safety that relates directly to your course. An example of this may be when teaching massage and you need to discuss licensing or if you are teaching aesthetics and need to cover needle safety, prescribing and storage of medicines etc. 
  3. Several academies are now launching themselves headfirst into the 21st century, delivering parts or all of your theory via online platforms, especially as mini videos or webinars, is a great way to create a course-specific for your students and has other great benefits to your academy also. This includes having more time on a course to teach the practical element, testing students knowledge on an online course which automatically grades them, and the student can learn at their own pace, research or look up things they may not understand and rewatch the training if they still feel they do not fully grasp the treatment itself. Online is a great way to deliver the parts of the courses you may not want to repeat or bore your students to sleep when they are hearing the same information for the fifteenth time that year! 

Teaching theory online or recapping theory should not mean that essential health and safety pertaining to the treatment should be missed out. It is always worth recapping the most important parts to your students, especially if working with needles. 

Points to remember:

  • Include a full list of health and safety and ensure it is kept as up to date as possible.
  • Have a section for essential health and safety information pertaining to the treatment itself.

What to include (UK Academies): 

  • Health and safety at work act
  • Trade descriptions act 
  • General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)
  • Sale and supply of goods act
  • COSHH Regulations 
  • Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 
  • Management of health and safety at work regulations 
  • Manual handling operations regulations 
  • Personal protective equipment at work regulations 
  • Health and Safety (Display screen equipment) regulations
  • Electricity at work regulation 
  • Health and Safety (First Aid) regulations 
  • Reporting of Injuries, diseases and dangerous occurrences regulations (RIDDOR)
  • Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) 
  • Consumer protection act 
  • Provision and use of work equipment regulations 
  • Cosmetic products safety regulations 
  • Disability discriminations act 
  • Equality act

All academies will need to include: 

  • Reporting accidents 
  • Hand washing 
  • Salon hygiene 
  • The appearance of the therapist 
  • Professional ethics and standards of practice 
  • Prevention of cross-infection 
  • Sterilisation methods 
  • Antiseptics and disinfectants 
  • Ergonomics 
  • Storage of products 
  • Insurance 

Aesthetics health and safety should include: 

  • Advertisements on prescription only medication 
  • Administration of prescribed products 
  • Storage of medicines 
  • Disposal of medicines 
  • Keeping records 
  • Providing consultations for aesthetic procedures if using prescribed products 
  • Working with sharps 
  • Environmental protection act (UK Only) 
  • Sharps disposal 
  • Bloodborne pathogens 
  • Dealing with body fluids 
  • Anaphylaxis
  • Managing complications 
  • Emergency plan
  • Regulations on other injectable products or using medical devices such as fillers, mesotherapy serums and micro-needling devices, for example. 

3. Anatomy and physiology 

Our knowledge and understanding of anatomy have greatly improved over the last 20 years, as scientists try to uncover the secrets of preventing skin disease and ageing. 

Keeping on top of this knowledge allows the practitioners to understand what is really happening with the skin and hair and how to treat it accordingly. 

In the same way, we cover health and safety; we should not miss the importance of anatomy and physiology and pushing the boundaries of our own comprehension. 

 For many courses, A&P will be very similar indeed, i.e. massage, nail procedures, eye treatments such as lash extensions, holistic treatments with chakras and auras and so on. 

It is vital to write your manual from the point of view that the student may be embarking on this as a new career and will need to go back to basics. It is also possible to skip sections or recap and even deliver this online, depending on your student’s past experience and education. 

When teaching advanced courses, you should look to expand the understanding of the student and take a deeper look into the anatomy of the body and include information on a more cellular level. A basic course may not need to understand inflammation cells, types of collagen or the way the skin ages, but a more advanced course will. This should all be taken into consideration. 

Points to remember: 

  • Anatomy and physiology should always be included in your manuals so that students can refer back to this when required. 
  • Anatomy essential to the treatment should take priority. We simply do not need to cover the ageing face when teaching pedicures or massage. Basic anatomy is not enough when explaining how peels or needling may work on the skin and certain skin conditions. 

What to include- the basics: 

  • Anatomy of the epidermis and dermis – this should be the basics with all courses, from the layers of the epidermis and their roles to the appendages of the dermis.
  • Cover the bones, muscles and/or fat layers relevant to your treatment. This should include functions, composition and labelled diagrams. 
  • The cardiovascular, lymphatic, respiratory, digestive and reproductive system where relevant. 
  • If teaching hair or treatment involving hair, then the hair structure, hair follicle, hair growth patterns, hair loss causes and conditions, hair strength, type and colour should all be covered. 
  • Nail courses will need to cover the structure of the nail, nail growth, functions, diseases and disorders, as well as covering the skin basics. 
  • Holistic courses should cover the chakras, meridian lines, or auras relevant to the procedure. 

What to include – advanced: 

  • Advanced skin treatments will require you to cover:
    • The wound healing process
    • Fitzpatrick, glogau and acne grading 
    • Causes of acne/hair growth/hair loss/rosacea/stretchmarks/cellulite
    • Cellulite grading 
    • Ageing process on cells, bones, muscle, fat and skin 
    • Pigmentation/Melasma/PIH
    • Scaring 
    • Collagen and elastin, production/types/ageing process 
    • Glycation on cells and ageing 
    • Skin barrier function 
    • Arteries and veins of the face 
    • The nervous system of the face/body
  • How the treatment you are teaching affects the body/skin cells 

4. Chemistry of products 

The chemistry of products used in the treatment is often overlooked, but quite important for the student to understand so that they know the risks, troubleshoot issues or adapt the procedures. 

Understanding not only the chemical compositions but the chemical reaction on/in the body is equally important, as are the risks or reaction, allergies, inhalation, or even getting the product in the eyes or accidentally ingesting it. 

Examples of chemical reactions include; Lash lifts & tints, lash glues, spray tan, skin peels, mesotherapy serums, hair dyes, keratin products, nail extension acrylics and gels, manicure gels, callous removers and even body oils. 

Anything we put on the client’s skin can cause a chemical reaction. A chemical reaction can also occur mechanically. i.e. through massage, electrolysis, galvanic facials, laser treatments and application of heat via infrared light or other methodology. 

Understanding the chemical composition of products, their risk of allergens and how the process works on the skin/nails/hair or body etc is a great way to get your students to really grasp the concept of why the treatment works. 

What to include: 

  • Chemical composition of any products that are used that have a chemical reaction to make a change to the body. 
  • How the chemical reaction works. 
  • They are working safely with the given chemical, i.e. labelling, stability of the product, MSDS sheets, risks with inhalation, ingestion etc. Safety precautions to take, i.e. PPE. 
  • How to store these chemicals safely. 
  • Patch testing for allergies.

5. Contra-indications and indications 

Not every treatment is suitable for every client, and this should be covered in your manual. Ideally, this should be more than just a list of contraindications to the treatment. Try to include in the manual the reasons why the treatment is contra-indicated so that the student can confidently turn people away or refer to the appropriate people prior to treatment. 

A list of whom the treatment can help or the conditions the client may be displaying that you can treat is also important so that the student does not work outside the scope of their practice. 

What to include: 

  • The list of contra-indications should include absolute contra-indications and also contra-indications that may require a different treatment plan/caution. Explain why the treatment is not suitable and if there is a required time frame before considering the treatment. i.e. in the event of pregnancy, cancer or the client taking certain contra-indicated medications. 
  • List skin, nail, hair diseases or disorders and how the student should or should not treat the client. 
  • Include who the treatment is suitable for and what conditions the treatment can treat, and how this works to achieve the results. 

6. Client consultation 

It is a given that everyone knows how to do a consultation, yet so few salons actually ask clients to fill in consent forms. 

Client consultation is a major key to improving the standards in the industry and hopefully gaining respect from other professionals. 

The correct consultation can highlight risks, as well as highlight potential, upsells for the therapist and is a great safety net to protect the practitioner in the event of legal action. 

Client consultation should be explained in the training manual and detail what information needs to be collected. 

A full consultation form should also be included, either within the manual or as a separate handout. Consultation forms should be relevant to the treatment and have a list of key facts and risks about the procedure and have a space to record treatment outcomes. 

What should be included: 

  • The importance of client consultation 
  • Why we obtain sensitive information and how this benefits the salon 
  • Storage of the data, how long this should be held for and how to follow GDPR rules. 
  • Recording patch tests
  • Copy of a consultation form

7. Pre/After Care and Contra-actions

Detailed information on the importance of pre or aftercare will need to be covered in the manual. This varies greatly from treatment to treatment, but students on the course should know what advice the client needs to follow and, more importantly – why! 

A list of contra-actions that can occur during and post-treatment should also be incorporated into your training manual. All treatments carry some risk. Some may be normal and will quickly subside, i.e. erythema, ingrown hairs, sensitive skin etc. At the same time, others may be more serious and require the client to seek medical attention—for example, allergic reaction, vascular occlusions or infection. 

 Including a list of potential contra-actions is not only beneficial to your student but to your own sanity. It will save panicked late-night messages as the student tries to make contact over a reaction their client has had that, given the information in the first place, would allow the student to take affirmative action. 

What to include: 

  • Details of any pre-care advice the client should follow prior to treatment and why
  • Details of post-care advice the client will need to follow after the treatment
  • Contra-actions that may occur post-treatment and what is ‘normal’ and what may need to be referred. 

8. Equipment/Room Requirements 

Students starting out, or even those learning a new skill, require a list of essential items they need in order to provide the service. Even if you include a kit with your training, this is still important so that the student can re-order the items at a later date, look for alternative suppliers or see what they need to add if it isn’t included in a kit. 

What to include: 

  • List of products and equipment the student needs to perform the treatment safely and correctly. 
  • Set up of the room/trolley and any council/board regulations if appropriate, i.e. sink in the room, ventilation, wipeable surfaces etc. 
  • Where the students can obtain such products. 
  • Safe storage, use and disposal of the items.
  • What each item may be for and its importance in the procedure. For example, pre-prep peel prior to skin peels to remove surface oils for a deeper and more even penetration. Or the application of a primer to the nail plate to remove oils for better adhesion of the overlay to the nail plate. 

9. The Treatment 

The most important part of any manual is, of course, the treatment itself. This should be covered in as much depth as possible. 

Treatments vary so greatly, so it really is impossible to give a full list of suggestions on what to include. I have given a brief outline below. The idea is to include as much information as possible that the student can take away and refer back to and fully comprehend how the treatment works.

What to include: 

  • Treatment history 
  • Indications 
  • How it works 
  • Product/machine information
  • Machine setup/maintenance/troubleshooting 
  • Patch testing 
  • Safe working practices, i.e. PPE
  • Who is suitable for treatment 
  • Where to obtain products 
  • Legalities such as licensing, cosmetic registration, insurance restrictions, age restrictions and so on. 
  • Treatment protocols, timings, how to, adaptions of treatment, treating certain areas. 
  • Troubleshooting/contra-actions
  • Treatment intervals
  • Pre-after care. 

You may also want to include:

  • Tips on marketing and getting clients. 
  • Costs of treatment and what to charge 
  • Dealing with unhappy clients


 Writing manuals takes time and a lot of research. Using a manual from the course you attended is a good base, but you should consider what the manual is missing and how you can improve this. Improving the manual improves your own course content, and academies will be revered for their knowledge and content. 

This blog is not exhaustive, and I am sure so much has been missed; as our sector covers so many different types of services, it is hard to include everything. I hope that this has given you a template to work from to write your own manuals. 

Try to keep the manual format in an easy to read font, include as many illustrations as possible as these help students understand treatments better, and also breaks up long pages of text. In regards to file size, there really is no definitive answer. I would suggest manuals being at least 20 pages long and upwards of 100. 

 Also, remember that other teaching resources can greatly add to the delivery of your course. Examples may be additional handout sheets, order forms, insurance leaflets, consultation form master copies, suggested reading lists or Support groups to join.

Many academies are opting to purchase pre-written manuals, and this is ok too. Companies such as Salon Expert have already met many accreditors strict guidelines on content and can save you time and stress writing your own. However, whilst buying pre-written manuals is the easy option, it is always still worth adding your own wow-factor to the manuals. Look to add in more content, add in your own personal images, include your preferred supplier lists of suggested reading material. This will give the off the shelf manual the personal touch and include your own personality and years of expertise in the area you are teaching. 

I hope this helps you to plan out your own informative training manual and take our industry to the next level. Happy writing! 

Author: Admin

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