Andrew Hansford on the trends shaping the aesthetics market

Andrew Hansford, beauty and aesthetics trainer and founder of ACHaesthetics, tells Lollie Hancock about the importance of proper training, becoming a brand ambassador and educator and finding your passion.

With a career spanning a quarter of a decade, Andrew Hansford has a wealth of knowledge within the beauty and aesthetics industry – and he’s set to impart some at Professional Beauty North’s Advanced Treatments stage on Sunday 25 September 2022, where he will be talking about the truth behind actives and how can they are be used in treatment and mandatory homecare.

Having worked in the US and UK, Hansford has a good grasp on how the industry differs on both sides on the Atlantic, with his career beginning with eight years working in the aesthetic industry in California before returning to the UK. 

“When I came to the UK in 2002, the industry here was much further behind,” says Hansford. “I thought coming back everyone would love me because I had all the American education, but it was the opposite. They assumed that I was going to be aggressive and arrogant.” 

This cold welcome back to home soil eventually led to Hansford proving his methods by opening his own clinic in Brighton in 2005, housing hair, beauty and aesthetics under one roof. Initially, the UK market was reluctant to welcome in the aesthetics elements that had proven so popular in the US, which Hansford put down to cultural differences. 

“(At that time) a lot of the innovations and new launches in the industry came from California, and slowly filtered down through other states and countries,” says Hansford.

“Europe is at the forefront for a lot of areas, with some of the best equipment coming from the UK, but when it comes to things that are a bit more marketable, and out there, that comes from LA. 

“When I first opened [the clinic in Brighton], the aesthetics side didn’t go very well, everyone thought ‘Botox! Are you mad?’, but two years later it had grown massively in the UK.”

The initial lack of interest in the aesthetics offering allowed Hansford to take the time to mould his team based on the training he had received. 

“I retrained all the therapists and got them to a point where they were more clinically led rather than beauty, and that’s really where everything started from.” 

Now, 25 years on, Hansford has become a leading educator in the sector, having set up his own academy, ACHaesthetics, in 2019 after finding that the education within the industry needed to be approached from a different angle following his time working in both the US and UK. 

“My education wasn’t historically beauty led – I didn’t understand the concept of how the industry works as I only knew it from a degree perspective,” he shares. “I was quite shocked by the lack of education, as a lot of the content was 60 years old and outdated.” 

Innovating in aesthetics

When launching ACHaesthetics, Hansford was on a mission to break the stigma surrounding beauty therapists, as he believes “therapists have this amazing passion and ability”. 

He adds, “I got really bent out of shape over the ridiculous belief that beauty therapists only do what they do because they left school and couldn’t do anything else,” highlighting the time, education and talent it takes to be a knowledgeable and skilful therapist. 

Hansford is keen to step back from the idea that a beauty course is a last resort for people unable to get into university, sharing, “It’s three years of your life, and the courses aren’t easy. It’s a hell of a lot of work people put in to become a beauty therapist, and the money they invest in education is unbelievable.” 

Because of how much he respects both the time and financial investment made by therapists, Hansford wanted to create a training space where people could be trained by educators just as passionate as they are, as he says, “They are so hungry for training, and that’s why I wanted to be the person able to give them that without just being a moneymaking scheme.” 

Hansford’s approach to training is from a technical aspect, as he says, “I don’t always agree with brand training – if you’re focusing on one brand, it can be phenomenal, but when it comes to peels, meso, needling, radiofrequency, LED and more technical procedures, you should learn about the equipment and protocols, not just the product.” 

It is clear short courses are not a route Hansford believes in, as he adds, “I definitely agree with Ofqual accreditation – that’s your starting point without question. I don’t agree with a two-day course and the next day people are doing filler – it’s a huge issue.”

Andrew Hansford at PB London 2022

Andrew Hansford speaking on the Advanced Treatments stage at Professional Beauty London

Problems with aesthetic training courses

An even bigger issue Hansford feels strongly about is the rise in under-trained and under-qualified non-medics performing invasive treatments like Botox and filler. 

“In a way, it’s our fault – we’re the only country in the world where beauty therapists can inject toxin and filler so, by allowing that, we’ve completely muddied the waters and being a proud therapist is being overshadowed.” 

Acknowledging the fact that many beauty therapists believe they should be able to inject toxins and filler, Hansford adds, “I made the decision a good few years ago – I couldn’t sit on the fence. I know some beauty therapists who are absolutely phenomenal at toxin and filler – I would go there in a heartbeat as I know they’ve spent a lot of time and money on their education and upgraded their skills to such an extent that I’m okay with it – the problem is the therapists who haven’t.” 

“The biggest difference between medical training and beauty training is diagnostics. Of course, sometimes medics make mistakes too – it’s human – but they have the tools and knowledge to be able to fix it.”

Touching on the new proposed amendment to the Health and Care Bill, Hansford says, “Unfortunately, even with these new sanctions in place, I don’t think the two-day courses are going to change, but it’s still a step in the right direction.” 

The blurred lines don’t mean beauty therapists should feel they can’t perform aesthetic treatments, with more and more implementing advanced techniques into their offering now. 

“For those considering adding aesthetics to their treatment list, I make them sit down and ask themselves what they already have in the clinic, what’s doing the best and what makes them the most money,” says Hansford, as he recommends adding to the things you’re already doing well in your business in a natural way, rather than creating a completely new division.

“Realistically, the most profitable treatments are the ones that give the best results – the peels, needling, mesotherapy, radiofrequency and LED, so a lot of therapists are moving on to the equipment.” 

Aside from education and training, Hansford is a brand ambassador and educator for both Fillmed and Hypo 21. 

“For me, being part of a bigger team and respected for the role within that team is overwhelming,” he shares. 

“Being a brand ambassador isn’t all fun and travel; you have to know that brand inside out because you are their voice. It’s a commitment and if you’re doing it for a brand you’re not passionate about it’s not going to be enjoyable.”

Looking at the relationship a brand ambassador role creates, Hansford adds, “Don’t think you’re going to get loads of free stuff – it’s not about that. It’s about you and a brand being together in unison. You’ve got to love it.”

The impact of social media on aesthetic medicine

The one thing Hansford has been continually asked through his career, at events and as a brand ambassador, is where his passion comes from – something he attributes to his early career. “It stems from my modelling years – it’s still based on this stupid reality of beauty,” he says. 

“Modelling is a horrible industry – the dysmorphia, the insecurity – I could write a book about just that one industry and how I came out the other side disparaged and insecure about how I looked and felt,” he reflects. “It’s made me realise that my passion is regenerative medicine.” 

Hansford says that with all the filters and airbrushing used in modern photography and on social media, it’s hard for people to be proud of their appearance if the image is not true to life, but with aesthetic treatments, the industry can offer a real-world appearance to be proud of. 

“Now we’ve got ‘physical filters’ in the form of Botox and fillers, we can give people back their flow and their sexy skin; that feeling we give them is why I’m so passionate.” 

Looking to the future, Hansford is in the final stages of planning for a new aesthetics training and networking space, set to open on London’s Mill Street, close to London Bridge. 

His vision is to create a space for like-minded people to connect, learn and collaborate, as he shares, “It will be a dedicated place where people can come and shadow me, observe or access advanced education for free. It will be a network of some really cool people that all have the same mindset.”

Don’t miss Andrew Hansford speaking at Professional Beauty North on the Advanced Treatments stage at 1pm on Sunday 25 September 2022.