What Is An Esthetician?

Outside of the skin care world, people never know what I mean when I say that I'm an esthetician. Here's a little bit about what that word means.

esthetician giving a facialOutside of the spa, I often tell people that I’m a facialist, simply because they don’t know what an esthetician is. If I say that I’m an esthetician, the next question is usually, “An anesthetician? Like, you put people to sleep before surgery?” No, I put people to sleep during facials. And that’s an anesthesiologist, by the way. It’s a very different kind of job! But this is a bit about what it means to be an esthetician.

I am a skin care specialist. I like to summarize what an esthetician is by saying that it’s like a nurse in dermatology. Except estheticians focus on the beautification of the skin, with some knowledge of diseases, while the medical community focuses on the diseases. My license allows me to work superficially on the epidermis (the outermost layer), while doctors can work on everything deeper.

  • I have a license from the Board of Cosmetology in the state I work. This is the board that also licenses nail technicians and hair stylists. I had to attend a state approved school for 1000 hours (hours required vary by state) to be able to sit for my boards, then I had to pass a written and practical examination.
  • My education focused on skin and all things pertaining to the skin, but it also included anatomy and physiology, ingredient knowledge, and chemistry. I learned all the muscles and bones of the face.  I learned about diseases and disorders. I also learned massage techniques, aromatherapy, and makeup. Just like any field, people might specialize in any aspect of their business. I’ve always been more clinically oriented.
  • I have a knowledge of prescriptions and can build regimens around them. I cannot prescribe medications or diagnose conditions. But I can help to control chronic conditions like eczema, acne, or rosacea in conjunction with your doctor’s recommendations. I can act as a first line of defense if you have a problem with your skin. Ultimately my advice should never replace that of your doctor, but I may be able to help and answer questions.
  • My scope of practice increases under the supervision of a doctor. The state board limits the strength of peels that I can do or lasers that I can run, based on my license. Working under the supervision of doctors broadens what I can do, even though only they do the intense stuff.

I’ve always preferred to call myself an esthetician, because I feel it incorporates more of what I do. It includes a lot of science, as well as a lot of intuition. I’m not just someone who massage creams on your face, waxes off undesired hair, or squeezes white heads. But I can be an important part of your skin care, as well as your health.



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