What Is an Esthetician?

Estheticians are trained to help you maintain healthy skin

In This Article

An esthetician is a person who specializes in the beautification of the skin. Estheticians (sometimes spelled aestheticians) are not medical doctors; instead, they perform cosmetic skin treatments, such as facials, superficial chemical peels, body treatments, and waxing.

Thanks in part to aging baby boomers, many of whom are seeking non-invasive treatments to help them look more youthful, there are more than 60,000 estheticians in the U.S.—and the demand for them is growing faster than average.

Concentration

Estheticians, also called skin care therapists, specialize in cosmetic treatments of the skin. If you've ever wondered about your skin type, or if you have trouble deciding which skin care products to buy, a visit to an esthetician will be helpful.

Although the term “medical aesthetics” is commonly used, esthetics is not a medical practice and estheticians are not allowed to diagnose skin conditions, prescribe medications, or suggest treatment for any skin condition outside of cosmetic products. Estheticians are limited to performing treatments that work on the superficial layers of the skin. They can't give any types of injectables like Botox or facial fillers, nor do deep chemical peels. Any and all invasive procedures must be done by a licensed medical professional, such as a dermatologist.

If you have a rash, your esthetician can't tell you what it is or how to treat it. She also can't prescribe medications. Instead, if your skin problem has already been diagnosed, your esthetician can suggest skin care products that are appropriate for you.

Most estheticians work at salons, day spas or skin spas, and medi-spas. But the salon isn't the only place you'll find an esthetician. Some estheticians work closely with dermatologists, either in the dermatology office or through a referral system. Your dermatologist may even have one on staff. They can also work in medical practices, where they perform procedures complementary to your dermatologist's treatments.

Procedural Expertise

Although many estheticians specialize in certain areas, and every spa will have different offerings on their menu, there are some fundamental treatments estheticians provide.

Services offered by an esthetician
Illustration by Jessica Olah, Verywell

Facials

The facial is an esthetician's signature treatment. A basic facial consists of a deep cleansing, facial steam, exfoliating treatment, mask, and moisturizer or serum. You may also be treated to a facial massage, arm and shoulder massage, and application of specialty products. Facials are tailored to suit your skin's needs and your preferences. Every esthetician has her own unique method as well.

Extractions

Extractions are usually also part of most facial. Your esthetician manually removes non-inflamed breakouts like blackheads and cleanses blockages of dead skin cells and oil from your pores. This makes an immediate improvement in the look and feel of skin and can help prevent inflamed blemishes from developing in the future.

Acne Treatments

Regular treatments by an esthetician may help clear acne breakouts. Exfoliating procedures, along with extractions and over-the-counter acne products, can often clear up mild acne and blackheads. Moderate acne to severe acne, on the other hand, should really be treated by a dermatologist. But you can still utilize the skills of an esthetician for treatments that work along with the prescription acne medications. She can also help you choose skin care products that help combat acne treatment side effects like extra dry skin (all providing your doctor gives the OK, of course).

Microdermabrasion

Microdermabrasion is a specialty—and wildly popular—treatment offered by some estheticians. During a treatment, superfine crystals (or a diamond-tipped wand) is passed over the skin, gently removing dead cells. The skin immediately feels softer, with fine lines, minor hyperpigmentation, and enlarged pores improving after a series of treatments.

Superficial Chemical Peels (AKA "Lunchtime Peels") 

Superficial chemical peels are some of the more popular treatments offered by estheticians. During a peel, an alpha hydroxy acid (most often glycolic, lactic, or salicylic acid) is used to rapidly exfoliate the skin and give it a healthy glow. When done consistently, these peels can have anti-aging benefits. They're often called lunchtime peels because they have no downtime. You can have them done over your lunch hour and return to work straight away.

Body Wraps, Masks, and Scrubs

Estheticians don't just work on the face, they care for the skin over the entire body. You can have your skin exfoliated from head to toe with salt glows or sugar scrubs. Clay body masks and seaweed body wraps can help soften and brighten your skin. These treatments don't just make your skin feel silky smooth—they're incredibly relaxing as well. Estheticians usually have a number of body treatments on the menu for you to choose from.

Waxing and Hair Removal

If you've got unwanted hair an esthetician can get rid of it through waxing, tweezing, threading, and laser hair removal. An esthetician can remove hair from just about anywhere, and no, she won't be shocked if you ask her to remove hair from "down there." Bikini waxes and Brazilian waxes (removal of all pubic hair) are quite common, probably second only to brow shaping. For men, back and chest waxing is number one. Many estheticians specialize in hair removal.

Airbrush Tanning

Not all estheticians offer this service, but it's becoming more popular since the public has become well versed in the dangers of tanning. This is a safer way to get a golden glow. The esthetician sprays your skin with an ultra-fine mist of sunless tanning product. Once dry, you'll have a convincing "tan" that lasts up to two weeks.

Makeup Application

For bridal makeup or a special look for prom, some estheticians offer makeup application as well. There's no need to supply your own makeup, as estheticians work from their own makeup kit. Schedule early if you're interested in this service as good makeup artists get booked quickly, especially during the busy spring/summer months.

Training and Certification

Estheticians are required to be licensed in 49 states, with the exception of Connecticut. They first have to complete 260 to 600 hours of training, depending on the state's requirements, at an accredited beauty school. After training is complete estheticians will also need to pass both a written and a practical, or hands-on, exam. Estheticians are licensed through the state board of cosmetology or department of health.

Receiving a license is just the first step. A good esthetician also completes many hours of post-graduate education and strives to stay abreast of the latest developments in skin care. A few states recognize master estheticians, those who have completed advanced training.

Appointment Tips

To get results you're happy with, and enjoy your time in the treatment bed, you'll need to find the right esthetician for you. One good rule of thumb is to ask friends and family for referrals and recommendations. Other good advice:

  • Look for someone knowledgeable in the area that's most important to you (i.e. acne treatment, anti-aging procedures, chemicals peels, etc.). Before booking your appointment, ask the esthetician if she has any specialties or which treatment she does most often. If you're looking for a little facial rejuvenation and the esthetician spends the bulk of her day doing body treatments, she may not have the experience to help you get the best results.
  • Find someone you feel comfortable with. Nearly every spa treatment requires some level of undress. You should feel at ease with your esthetician, and she should place your comfort level first and foremost.
  • Consider the salon's hours. Is it open during times that are convenient for you? Also, ask when the esthetician is available; many are self-employed and set their own hours independent of salon hours.

A Word From Verywell

While salon treatments by an esthetician aren't a necessity, they're a nice way to pamper yourself. When utilized correctly, they can also help your skin look brighter and healthier. Make sure you let your esthetician know your skin care goals. This will help her to customize a treatment plan for you. Also remember that you'll usually need to commit to a series of treatments, done at regular intervals, to get a noticeable improvement of your skin.

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