What Is an Esthetician?

An esthetician applies a facial
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An "esthetician" is another name for a skincare specialist. This occupation involves evaluating the condition of a client's skin, determining which treatments will best enhance that person's appearance, then explaining and administering those treatments to the client.

Estheticians give clients facials, remove unwanted hair, do microdermabrasion, apply chemical peels, and sell skincare products. They are also trained to recognize conditions that require treatment by a dermatologist, a physician who specializes in skin. Esthetics is a branch of cosmetology.

A Day in the Life of an Esthetician

The typical esthetician spends their day in a clinical setting using a variety of skin treatments to fit a patient's needs. The day usually starts with basic cleaning duties and other tasks that prepare the space for clients. Once it's time for your first appointment of the day, you'll greet the patient, inquire about their concerns and skincare goals, inspect the skin, then come up with a treatment plan.

Plans usually include special treatments that an esthetician performs in the clinic. The types of procedures are constantly evolving. Some treatments are as simple as applying skincare products, while others employ the use of specialized lights or acupuncture-style needles. Appointments may end with makeup application. Estheticians also educate clients about products and make recommendations for skincare routines at home.

Between patients, estheticians have to reset the treatment room. They replace any sheets, towels, and tools that the previous patient used. A quick clean should sanitize the space and keep the appearance professional.

How to Get Started in This Career

Before you can begin your career, you will have to complete a two-year esthetician 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 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.

To find out the education and licensing requirements for the state in which you wish to work, see the ASCP's Skin Care State Regulation Guide. The ASCP Website also has a list of skincare schools. In addition to the state's education and license requirements, individual employers may require new hires to complete on-the-job training.

Required Soft Skills

In addition to the hard skills you will pick up through formal training, you will also need particular soft skills to succeed in this field. Soft skills are personal qualities. Some people are born with these soft skill qualities, while others acquire them through life experiences.

  • Active listening: This skill will allow you to be tuned into what clients are telling you so you can fully understand and fulfill their needs.
  • Speaking: You must be able to convey information and instructions to your customers.
  • Customer service: As an esthetician, your goal will be to provide excellent service to your clients. Customer service skills help ensure customer satisfaction, thereby increasing the odds of those customers returning and referring their friends to your service.
  • Critical thinking: When trying to address a client's skin problems, critical thinking skills are essential. They will allow you to weigh the benefits of various treatments so that you can decide which one is most likely to have the best outcome. 
  • Time management: No one likes to be kept waiting. Your clients will be more satisfied if you can manage your appointments well and minimize their wait times without sacrificing your quality of service.

The Downsides of Life as 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 isn't uncommon 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.

Job Outlook

Here are a few fast facts about the current state of the esthetician industry, and where experts think it will be in the next decade or so:

  • Estheticians earn a median annual salary of $34,090 (2019). 
  • More than 71,800 people are employed in this occupation (2018).
  • Most work in spas, beauty salons, and medical offices.
  • Estheticians have a bright job outlook. The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts esthetician jobs will grow by about 11% between 2018 and 2028, faster than the average growth rate for all occupations.

Common Misconceptions

You will spend all your time providing skin treatments. In addition to treating clients, you will also have to tend to other tasks. They may include making appointments, selling products, and cleaning your workspace.

Clients will love you because you're good at your job. No matter how adept you are at choosing and applying the right treatment for each client, some will be unhappy with your services.

You can wear beautiful clothes to work. If your clothing comes into contact with many of the products you use, it will get damaged. You will have to either cover up your favorite clothes, accept that they'll be damaged, or wear something else altogether.

Your education ends when you complete your two-year training program. As new products and treatments come out, you will need to learn about them. Manufacturers and professional associations often offer continuing education to promote those new products and treatments.

Employers' Expectations

Employers expect aspiring estheticians to know how to operate within a clinical setting. You should take sanitation seriously and know how to sanitize a workspace. You also need to know the professional guidelines when it comes to patient confidentiality.

Employers place a lot of value on an applicant's customer service skills. In addition to skincare, customer service is at the heart of everything an esthetician does. You should feel comfortable interacting with customers and catering to their needs. You should know how to promote products and services without coming across as pushy.

Finally, employers expect estheticians to have a flexible schedule. This is especially true for beginning estheticians, who should prepare to work nights and weekends.

Interests, Personalities, Values of an Esthetician

Find out if you have the interestspersonality type, and work-related values that make this career suitable by doing a thorough self-assessment. These are the traits you should have:

  • Interests (Holland Code): ERS (enterprising, realistic, social)
  • Personality type (MBTI Personality Types): ESFJ (connects with others, follows rules), ISTJ (independent, responsible), ESTP (energetic, confident), ESFP (generous, values relationships), ENFJ (concerned for others, communicates well), INFJ (compassionate, creative)
  • Work-related values: Independence, relationships, achievement

Related Occupations

  Description Median Annual Wage (2017) Required Education/Training
Hairstylist Shampoos, cuts, colors and styles hair $24,850 State-approved cosmetology program; state license
Barber Cuts, shampoos, and styles men's hair $25,650 State-approved barber program; state license
Manicurist and Pedicurist Cleans, shapes and applies polish, extensions and other products to fingernails and toenails. $23,230 State-approved nail technician or cosmetology program; state license
Makeup Artist (Theatrical and Performance) Applies makeup to actors to alter their appearances $59,300 School of cosmetology


Article Sources

  1. Occupational Outlook Handbook. "Skincare Specialist." Accessed April 23, 2020.