What Is an Esthetician?

What an Esthetician Can Do for Your Skin

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

Here's why you may want to pay a visit to this skin care professional, and how to become an esthetician yourself, if you're so inclined.

What Is an Esthetician?

Estheticians, also called skin care therapists, specialize in cosmetic treatments of the skin.

 If you have ever wondered about your skin type, or if you have trouble deciding which skin care product to buy, a visit to an esthetician will be super helpful.

This skin care professional can teach you all you need to know about the proper care of your skin. Estheticians (sometimes spelled aestheticians) can help you create a daily skin care routine and suggest skin care products that are appropriate for your skin type. In short, estheticians can help you maintain healthy skin.

Estheticians put in many hours of training before they're able to place their hands on your skin. All estheticians must be trained and licensed in the state in which they are working.

Most estheticians work at salons, day spas or skin spas, and medi spas. They do various cosmetic procedures like facials, body treatments, and waxing.  Estheticians offer a variety of spa treatments as well.

The salon is not the only place you'll find an esthetician.

 Some estheticians work closely with dermatologists, either in-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.

Services Offered by an Esthetician

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

Facials

The esthetician's signature treatment: the facial. The basic facial consists of a deep cleansing, exfoliating treatment, mask and facial steam, finished off with a moisturizing product. You may also be treated to a facial 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.

Extractions

Also a part of most facial treatments are blemish extractions. Your esthetician manually removes non-inflamed breakouts, like blackheads, and cleanses gunk from your pores. This can make an immediate improvement in the skin and might 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 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 and minor hyperpigmentation improving after as 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 down time. 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 on the entire body. You can have your skin exfoliated from head to toe, with salt or sugar scrubs. Clay body masks and seaweed body wraps wraps can help soften and brighten your skin. Not only do these treatments make your skin feel silky smooth, but they are incredibly relaxing. Your esthetician will have plenty of luxurious body treatments on the menu for you to choose from.

Waxing and Hair Removal

Got unwanted hair? Your esthetician can get rid of it pronto, through waxing, tweezing, threading, or chemical depilatories. Yes, your 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 nothing but hair removal.

Airbrush Tanning

Not all estheticians offer this service, but it's becoming more popular since we're all 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 a few weeks.

Makeup Application

For bridal makeup or a special look for prom, some estheticians offer makeup application as well. No need to supply your own makeup, most estheticians have their own makeup kit they work from. Book early if you're interested in this service as the good makeup artists fill quickly, especially during the busy spring/summer months.

Estheticians vs. Dermatologists

Although estheticians are skin care professionals, they are not medical doctors. There are some things an esthetician can't do: diagnose skin conditions, prescribe medications, or suggest treatment for any skin condition outside of cosmetic products.

So, 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.

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. They're limited to treatments that work on the skin's surface. Any and all invasive procedures must be done by a medical doctor, not an esthetician.

Got an unidentified rash or odd-looking mole? Need help with a skin problem like eczema or psoriasis? Have a boil or large cystic breakout that needs lanced? Pay a visit to a dermatologist instead. 

How to Choose an Esthetician

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. When choosing an esthetician, keep these points in mind.

  • Look for someone who is 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 which treatment she does most often. If you're looking for anti-aging treatments but 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. Most spa treatments require 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. Are they open during times that are convenient for you? And is the esthetician available during those hours.
  • Ask for referrals and recommendations.

How to Become an Esthetician

Do you think the skin is an interesting organ, and that working in a spa sounds divine? A career in esthetics may be for you.

Estheticians are required to be licensed in 49 states, with the exception of Connecticut. You will first have to complete 260 to 600 hours of training, depending on your state's requirements, at an accredited beauty school. After your training is complete you 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 even license master estheticians for those who complete advanced training.

An esthetics job is not all just serene spa music and fragrant skin care products. You must also love working with people, and providing physical touch through your treatments, while making your clients feel comfortable and at ease. You'll be happiest in this career if you sincerely enjoy caring for and helping people.

As an esthetician you'll be expected to provide treatments that bring you into close and personal contact with a stranger's body—extracting blackheads, providing bikini and Brazilian waxes, and body treatments that require some level of nudity on the client's part. If any of this makes you feel uncomfortable or squeamish, you may want to rethink this as your career path.

To earn a salary on the higher end of the pay scale, you'll also need to be a skilled salesperson. Guiding clients through their skin care choices and selling products is another key part of the job. Even if you're not interested in pushing products, you'll need to upsell treatments and re-book clients to build your business. A steady clientele means a steady paycheck for you.

The average salary for estheticians, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, is just over $30,000 a year. This isn't include tips, though, which can add 10 percent to 20 percent (or more) to your annual salary. The highest-earning estheticians can make up to $100,000 per year. For this type of salary, you'll need to work in a large, and affluent, metropolitan area with a steady clientele.

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 of your skin care goals. This will help your customize a treatment plan for you. Also remember that you'll need to commit to a series of treatments, done at regular intervals, to get noticeable improvement of your skin.

Source:

Gerson, Joel, et al. Milady Standard Esthetics: Fundamentals. 11th edition. Clifton Park, NY: Milady Publishing, Cengage Learning, 2012.

Mayoral FA, Kenner JR, Draelos ZD. "The Skin Health and Beauty Pyramid: a Clinically Based Guide to Selecting Topical Skin Care Products." Journal of Drugs in Dermatology. 2014 Apr;13(4):414-21.

“Occupational Outlook Handbook - Skincare Specialists.” U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor. 24 Oct 2017.

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