Talking to… MILLIE KENDALL |

6 mins


The British Beauty Council chief executive and industry icon tells Ellen Cummings about the latest developments in policy, trends and raising the reputation of beauty

With over 30 years of experience in the beauty industry, in roles ranging from policy and marketing to writing and charity work, Millie Kendall is one of the industry’s strongest champions.

Of course, one of Kendall’s greatest achievements is the launch of the British Beauty Council (BBCo) – an organisation founded to represent the needs of all sectors of the industry at government level. Less than half a decade since it was launched in 2018, the British Beauty Council has helped to change the standing of the industry and bring about much-needed changes, including playing a role in winning £500 million of Government-backed support during the Covid-19 pandemic, influencing the ban on botulinum toxin and fillers for under-18s, and publishing reports into diversity and inclusivity, sustainability and mental health.

The council is continuing to liaise with the Government as the cost-of-living crisis takes its toll on beauty businesses. “The way we’re approaching it is looking at demand versus supply,” says Kendall. “What you can’t say to the Government is that it’s all doom and gloom because no government is going to give handouts. You have to provide proof that you are an industry with some potential for growth. So, what we need to do is combine the demand for services and look at the supply challenges the industry is facing and make a sound argument for why they should invest in our sector.”

In September, the Government announced the Energy Bill Relief Scheme to help businesses, including those in the beauty market, to pay their bills as energy prices soar. A key area the council is focusing on is convincing the Government to maintain this support. Kendall explains, “In April, when the six months of the energy scheme is finished, the Government is going to go through a list of industries and assess which ones can have more help. What we’re trying to do right now is ensure beauty is somewhere at the top, mainly because the energy consumption of beauty businesses is quite high.”

The council is also working with the Government on the future of aesthetics regulation. The Health and Care Act 2022 gave the Government power to implement a licensing scheme for nonsurgical cosmetic procedures, but the scope has not yet been finalised.

While there isn’t yet clarity on what procedures will be included and when this will take effect, Kendall says, “It will probably cover more than just injectables. I believe that most of the treatments carried out in Level 7 will be included, or the general consensus is that they should be. Legislation is a very long process, so it’s not going to happen overnight; I think it’ll be about a two-year process.”

Kendall outlining the British Beauty Council’s roadmap in June 2022

Supporting therapists

Although BBCo supports all sectors of the industry, it also works hard to specifically support beauty therapists. Kendall explains, “We work very closely with all of the trade bodies and advocate on beauty therapists’ behalf. The trade bodies provide certain services to their members and we meet with them regularly to talk about the things we can do to support therapists on the ground.”

The key area where Kendall believes BBCo particularly supports therapists is in helping them be heard and respected. She explains, “Firstly, we’ve given them a voice and raised the reputation of the sector, and we’ve really allowed those businesses, business owners, self-employed people and the workforce itself to be proud of what they do. Telling people that you work for an industry that generates £30 billion for Britain’s GDP is something to be proud of. I feel like for a long time we were looked down on, and I don’t think that’s the case anymore at government level.

“Regulation was on my to-do list when we first started the British Beauty Council, but I didn’t think we’d get anywhere near regulation for at least 10 years. But the fact that we are soon going to be licensed and regulated is something to be proud of because it gives us a bit more power and helps to raise the reputation of the sector.”

Looking to the future, the British Beauty Council is focusing on three key pillars for its work: talent, growth, and environmental, social and governance (ESG).

Alongside her work with BBCo, Kendall also contributes to the beauty industry in other ways – and the area closest to her heart is charity work. “I’m a trustee of Haircuts 4 Homeless, I’m on the advisory board of Beauty Backed, and I work with a charity which educates people on spotting the signs of skin cancer. I try to give as much of my time as I can,” she says.

The work doesn’t end there, though. “I also co-own a PR agency, so I understand what it’s like for small business owners,” Kendall says. “I have staff and do payroll, and I think it’s always good to keep your foot in the door in that kind of business so that you have perspective over what’s going on outside the policy stuff.”

Trend focus

The PR company also allows Kendall to keep up with trends in the industry, and she says the “two huge things” coming up often in conversation at the moment are supplements and the microbiome. “I think microbiome is really interesting,” she comments. “We have our own bacteria in our body and it’s there for a reason. When you’re buying products, I would put more thought into what you’re buying, and I would be more conscious of how often you wash your hair, body and face because we can strip our body of what it needs.”

In terms of beauty treatment trends, does Kendall have a favourite? “I’m actually quite low maintenance!”, she says. “There are different people I go to for different things, depending on what I’m in the mood for. Different facialists have different techniques.

“Su-Man Hsu is amazing; she’s so strong, so that massage is mind blowing. Sarah Bradden does a facial with acupuncture and reflexology, and that is probably one of my favourites in terms of pleasure, I find it really emotional. Then you’ve got Jasmina Vico who does microneedling and Teresa Tarmey who does laser, and obviously lovely Dija Ayodele who does pretty much all of the above.”

From the way Kendall talks about her fellow beauty professionals, it’s clear the industry’s community is her real passion. Indeed, when asked about what she loves most about the sector, Kendall responds with an emphatic, “Oh my god, the people! They’re the best people ever.”

Kendall receiving her OBE alongside British Beauty Council’s Helena Grzesk

The value of beauty

Kendall’s work in supporting the industry has been recognised at one of the highest levels, with her awarded an MBE in 2007 and an OBE in 2022. While the first award was personally given by the late Queen, Kendall’s OBE ceremony was overseen by the Princess Royal, who shared words of support for the beauty industry.

Kendall recalls, “Princess Anne said to me, ‘Beauty is a very popular industry, isn’t it? I talk to colleges all the time and there’s always young people that want to get into beauty’.” She adds, “That’s when you get quite excited about working in an industry that the Royal Family are aware of as being an industry that young people are interested in. It was really cool – I’m never usually at a loss for words but at that point I didn’t know what to say!”

“TELLING PEOPLE that you WORK for an INDUSTRY that generates £30 BILLION for BRITAIN’S GDP is something to be PROUD OF „

This pride in the sector is something Kendall wants to encourage all beauty therapists to feel and translate to their everyday work. “Know your worth,” she says. “Sometimes, we get a little afraid, because of the cost-of-living crisis, about pricing. We need to be very aware of not downgrading our pricing to the point of it being a detriment to our business, so know your worth and price yourself properly. Your clients will stick with you if you’re good at what you do – stick to your guns.”

This article appears in November 2022

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This article appears in...
November 2022
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