Making Maths Count

The beauty of maths in the salon

July 4, 2016 by No Comments | Category Business

Rachel Irvine has run her own beauty business and is studying for an HND in Beauty Therapy with a view to lecturing. As she explains, in her line of work you use maths on a daily basis from budgeting to calculating percentage weight loss.

At school maths wasn’t my worst subject but it wasn’t my best. I probably thought, ‘I’m not going to need this’ – but I regret that now. The higher you progress in education, now doing my HND, the more you realise you need it. If I’d had a better knowledge from day one maybe it would have helped.

Image of Rachel Irvine

Rachel Irvine sees the daily relevance of maths in beauty therapy

After studying my HNC in Beauty Therapy at Edinburgh College I went out into industry, initially running a self-employed business within a hairdressers and then running my own shop.

Maths for business

When I started out I had to set up the business side of things. I had to apply for a loan and this meant building up a business case which incorporated figures and cash flow plans and looking at profit and loss, to prove the business would potentially work.

Once I was up and running I had to use maths on a daily basis: working out how much to charge for a treatment; making sure you’re not running at a loss; and basic things like taking cash and doing the banking every day. When I was looking at buying in products I had to budget to make sure I was getting enough of what I needed and I had the money to cover it.

Aside from the financial side of running a business, in aromatherapy you’re mixing oils and therefore dealing with measurements. Getting those wrong is a health and safety issue as it could cause harm.


When you’re working with electrical treatments you’re taking body measurements and calculating weight loss and inch loss. With electrical treatments, such as facials, how they work is very scientific and you want to be able to understand that.

Image of beauty therapy (courtesy Edinburgh College)

Measuring treatments accurately is important (image courtesy Edinburgh College)

Time is also critical. When planning out your appointments you need to make sure you have enough time for whatever treatments you’re doing at each appointment so you can complete them, but you also want to maximise your time.

Now I’m doing my HND there’s a lot of written assessments and essays. People might have this stereotype that it’s just doing nails, but there’s a lot of theory involved in studying Beauty Therapy and maths has a place in that. I think some people on the course did get a bit of a surprise at the start but College has been very good at helping.

There are definitely some things we covered in maths at High School that I’m not using in my particular line of work. But there are plenty I am and I do think it makes it a bit easier and more enjoyable when the maths is a part of what you’re doing and it has relevance to something you’re interested in.

Maths as a parent

Besides my studying I’m a mum and you need maths for that. My daughter comes back with homework and I end up learning new skills. I can’t always help with her homework but luckily I have two older sisters who are good at maths. But I try to still encourage her and to be positive.

I would like to see more of a positive relationship between parents and the school. If there were extra opportunities, such as after-school clubs to help with maths, parents might be keen to sign their kids up but you need to know what’s on offer.

If I could give those at school any advice about maths it would be:

– Don’t give up

– Practise, practise, practise

– Know that everybody, no matter how clever they are, has things they struggle with and elements of a subject they find hard.

Maths open doors

They also need to realise that maths opens doors to so many things. I was interested in doing midwifery and was encouraged that I could do well at it. But I needed to have Maths and English Highers, which I don’t. I’d have needed to go back and do these, despite years of useful experience, and doing that when you’re an adult, with children, before you can then start on the midwifery qualification, isn’t easy. Looking back I think I could have got it when I was younger, with a lot of work. So I really feel kids need to see that having a good qualification in maths is going to mean options are open to them down the line.

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