Laurel now home to Maryland’s first electrology school
By JESSIE NEWBURN
From difficulty and challenge, new opportunities arise. Such was the case for Eileen Collins, owner and lead instructor at the newly opened Maryland Electrolysis Education Center in Laurel.
For 30 years, Collins, an electrologist, was in business with her mother, in whose footsteps she followed. She loved her profession, including the flexibility it gave her to make her own schedule, the opportunity to help people feel better about themselves and the income it provided her.
When her husband died in 2018 after an extended illness, she found herself with more time on her hands and a lot of grief in her heart.
“I couldn’t just fall apart. I had a son. I had to bring in income. I had to think about his future, my future,” she said, so she picked up a long-abandoned dream of finishing her degree in psychology. She dove into her studies and supporting her son as he prepared to transition to college.
When COVID-19 and mask mandates hit the nation, her electrolysis business — one where the majority of clients have hair removal done around their mouth and jaw line — pretty much screeched to a halt. Now, she had time on her hands and no money.
After about a 10-week shutdown, electrologists were allowed to resume providing services, but new mandates about cleaning equipment and service rooms, along with many patients’ reticence to resume treatments, created a difficult financial situation for Collins.
Connected to other electrologists through her many years of volunteering for both the state and national trade associations for professional electrologists, including her current role as president of the Maryland Association of Professional Electrologists, Collins saw that those offering online instruction, particularly in support of the continuing education units licensed electrologists need to earn each year, were making money during the early months of COVID-19, while those only offering direct services weren’t, and, thus, another long-considered but distant dream started to form more clearly in her mind.
Collins knew the only professional schools accredited by Maryland’s licensing board were in New York, Massachusetts, Florida and California, making the financial hurdle to become a licensed electrologist too high for many.
“It’s not just the tuition costs, but all the attendant costs of travel, accommodations, food and such that really add up for students who have to travel far to receive in-person instruction,” Collins said. It was time, she felt, for Maryland to have a professional electrology school.
“We’re desperately in need of more licensed electrologists in Maryland,” said Debra Larson, a board member of the Electrology Practice Committee for the Maryland Board of Nursing, which licenses the profession. “Fifteen years ago, there were about 240 practitioners; now we have about 70. All of us have waiting lists for new clients and many of us want to retire, but there are few new practitioners who can take over our practices. With the new school, we’re hoping to see 10, maybe 20, new professionals in the state each year.”
Collins went on a journey of more paperwork, jumping through hoops and learning the ins and outs of the accreditation process than she’d ever thought humanly possible. But such was the process, and such was the cost.
She first needed to become a licensed instructor, which took about a year to accomplish. Then, to open a private career school, she needed to get her curriculum together and complete a 64-page application to the Maryland Higher Education Commission (MHEC), which took about six months to complete.
The second part of the credentialing process required she have a signed lease, all necessary permits and all equipment needed to run the school before MHEC would grant her the license. She was also finishing up her B.S. in psychology, which she received in December 2022.
After almost 11 months of correcting a number of issues for the commission , Collins received final approval to open the Maryland Electrolysis Education Center in October 2023.
Within a week of receiving her final approval, Collins had enrolled her first three students, and two more enrolled in the next month. These first five students are currently finishing up the 250 hours of self-paced study and online theory. After that work is completed, each student will receive 400 hours of in-person, small-class clinical training, taught by Collins and another licensed practitioner.
“My mother became an electrologist when I was 12, at a time when career options for women were far more limited than they are now. It was actually my dad who encouraged me to join my mother in this field. He’d pointed out how my mother could make her own schedule, have her own business in an ever-growing field and have more control over her time and life,” said Collins, who joined her mom in the same business, Executive Electrolysis, with locations in Laurel and Columbia, where they both still work today.
Selecting Laurel as the new school’s location was a no-brainer for Collins. A Prince George’s County resident all her life, she’s lived in Laurel for the past 26 years, and was volunteer extraordinaire at her son’s school in earlier years, having served as PTA president and earning the Parent Involvement Matters Award from Laurel Elementary. She was also recognized as a volunteer of the year by the Laurel Historical Society and has served in other local community-service activities.
Laurel’s convenient location in a densely populated area between the District and Baltimore and easily accessible from many major highways made her hometown an easy choice.
“I don’t think I truly had a sense, some 30 years ago, how much my life would benefit from the decision to become a licensed electrologist,” Collins said. “I’ve had both freedom and income, and I’ve helped thousands of people feel more confident,and not be plagued with unwanted hair. I’ve made friends and developed relationships that have deepened my commitment to our profession, and now I get to share that opportunity to do the same with others. It has been a journey to get to where I am now, but one worth every step of the way.”