What Is an Esthetician?

Definition & Examples of an Esthetician

An esthetician applies a facial
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An esthetician is a wellness professional who specializes in cosmetic skincare. Learn about what an esthetician does.

What Is an Esthetician?

Estheticians evaluate the condition of a client's skin, determine which treatments will best enhance that person's appearance, and administer those treatments to the client. They may give clients facials, remove unwanted hair, do microdermabrasion, apply chemical peels, sell skincare products, and more. They are also trained to recognize conditions that require treatment by a dermatologist, a physician who specializes in skin.

Alternate names: Aesthetician, skincare specialist

Esthetics is a branch of cosmetology, or the cosmetic treatment of skin, hair, and nails.

How Estheticians Work

Estheticians typically spend their day in a clinical setting using a variety of skin treatments to fit clients' needs. They inquire about their clients' concerns and skincare goals, inspect their skin, and come up with treatment plans, which can include procedures done in the clinic and at-home regimens. They may also educate clients about products and make recommendations for skincare routines at home.

The types of procedures estheticians perform are constantly evolving, and they range from facials to full-body treatments such as scrubs. Some treatments are as simple as applying skincare products, while others employ the use of specialized lights or acupuncture-style needles.

Many estheticians work in spas and beauty salons, and some work in medical offices. However, estheticians are trained to perform cosmetic procedures only. They can't legally perform medical services such as the diagnosis and medical treatment of serious skin conditions or diseases. They must refer clients who require these services to licensed medical professionals.

Estheticians usually must tend to other tasks beyond treating clients, including selling products, making appointments, and cleaning. In addition to skincare, customer service is at the heart of everything an esthetician does. Ideally, estheticians should feel comfortable interacting with customers and catering to their needs.

Estheticians earned a median wage of $16.39 per hour in 2019.

Requirements for Estheticians

If you want to become an esthetician, you must complete an educational program that has been approved by the state in which you want to work. According to the Associated Skin Care Professionals (ASCP), a membership organization that represents people working in this field, you can expect to spend anywhere from 300-1,500 hours in a classroom. The exact length of training varies due to differences in state licensing requirements.

After you complete your education, most states will require you to get a license. To do so, you will have to take written and practical exams. And in some states, you may need to complete a number of hours in continuing education to renew your license. The only state that doesn't require estheticians to obtain a license is Connecticut.

The ASCP Skin Care State Regulation Guide lists education and licensing requirements for estheticians by state. The ASCP website also offers a list of skincare schools.

In addition to your state's education and licensing requirements, employers may require new hires to complete on-the-job training. You'll be expected to follow professional guidelines when it comes to patient confidentiality, cleanliness, and safety in the workplace.

Many employers will also expect you to learn about new products and treatments as they come out. Manufacturers and professional associations often offer continuing education to promote those new products and treatments.

Disadvantages of Being an Esthetician

Life as an esthetician isn't all about sharing beauty tips. There's a lot of hard work that goes into the job, and even a few risks that come with it. Here are some examples:

  • Estheticians spend a lot of time on their feet.
  • Some of the chemicals used to treat people's skin may have strong odors or pose potential risks if used improperly.
  • It's common for estheticians to work evenings and weekends to accommodate clients' schedules.
  • Many jobs factor commissions into pay structures, based on the services provided and the products sold.
  • No matter how adept you are at choosing and applying the right treatment for each client, some will be unhappy with your services.

Key Takeaways

  • An esthetician specializes in cosmetic skincare but is not a medical professional.
  • All states except Connecticut have education and licensing requirements for estheticians.
  • Estheticians may use a variety of cosmetic skin treatments to fit clients' needs and must keep up on the latest treatments and products.
  • The downsides of being an esthetician can include spending a lot of time on the feet, working evenings and weekends, and dealing with unhappy customers.