What Is an Esthetician?

An esthetician applies a facial
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Esthetician is another name for skincare specialist. This occupation involves evaluating the condition of a client's skin, determining what treatments will best enhance that individual's appearance, and discussing those alternatives with him or her.

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.

Quick Facts

  • Estheticians earn a median annual salary of $30,080 (2017). 
  • More than 61,000 people are employed in this occupation (2016).
  • Most work in spas, beauty salons, and medical offices.
  • Its excellent job outlook makes this a "Bright Outlook" career. The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts employment of estheticians will grow much faster than the average for all occupations between 2016 and 2026.

A Day in the Life of an Esthetician

What is it like to work in this occupation? These are some duties listed in job announcements on Indeed.com:

  • "Set-up treatment rooms at the beginning of each shift with all needed supplies and equipment"
  • "Conduct skin analysis"
  • "Inquire about contraindications"
  • "Educate guests about available products and recommend products for home use"
  • "Build lasting relationships with clients by contacting them to follow up on services, suggest new products, and invite them to upcoming events"

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 between 300 to 1500 hours in a classroom. Length of training varies according to 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 what the education and licensing requirements are in the state in which you want to work, see the ASCP's Skin Care State Regulation Guide. The ASCP Website also has a list of skin care schools.
  • In addition to your education and license, your employer may also provide on-the-training.

What Soft Skills Do You Need?

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 with which people are either born or acquire through life experiences.

  • Active Listening: This skill will allow you to be tuned in to what clients are telling you so you can understand and subsequently 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. This will not only ensure they leave happy and return in the future, but it will also help generate new business because satisfied customers are likely to refer their friends to you.
  • Critical Thinking: When trying to address a clients' 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 too long. Your clients will be more satisfied if you can manage your appointments well and minimize their wait times.

The Downside of Life as an Esthetician

  • Your work will require you to spend a lot of time on your feet.
  • Some of the chemicals you use to treat people's skin may have strong odors.
  • You will have to work evenings and weekends to accommodate your clients' schedules.
  • Many jobs will pay a commission based on the services you provide and the products you sell.

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 keeping your work area clean and tidy.
  • Every client 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 cover up if you want to keep that from happening.
  • 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. Often, manufacturers and professional associations offer continuing education.

What Will Employers Expect From You?

Here are some requirements from actual job announcements on Indeed.com:

  • "Must be customer service oriented"
  • "Possess high level of product knowledge"
  • "Comfortable selling skincare and up-selling services"
  • "Ability to work flexible days and hours"
  • "Maintaining cleanliness at all times with all Esthetic practices"
  • "Multi-tasking team player"

Is This Occupation a Good Fit for You?

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:

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

Sources: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor,  Occupational Outlook Handbook; Employment and Training Administration, U.S. Department of Labor,  O*NET Online (visited May 26, 2018); Associated Skin Care Professionals. Become a Skin Care Professional (visited October 15, 2015)