Aesthetician vs. Esthetician: Definitions and Differences

Updated July 31, 2023

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A patient relaxes while getting a massage, with jars of herbs in front of them. There's also a list with the title "Aesthetician vs. Esthetician" and these items:

Aestheticians perform medical skin procedures, helping with skin issues such as:
• Burns
• Scars
• Injuries

Estheticians perform cosmetic and cleaning procedures, helping with issues like:
• Dry or oily skin
• Age spots
• Wrinkles

Aestheticians and estheticians have similar-sounding job titles and duties in the skincare industry. However, aestheticians perform medical skin procedures, while estheticians perform cosmetic and cleaning procedures. If you are pursuing a career in skincare, it is important to know the duties and requirements of each and the differences between them to decide which one is best for you. In this article, we define esthetician and aesthetician and explain the differences between the two careers.

What is an aesthetician?

An aesthetician, also called a medical, paramedical or clinical aesthetician, is a licensed skincare professional who works in a clinical setting. They treat patients who have experienced facial skin damage because of chemotherapy, burns, surgery or other health issues. They also help patients maintain their skin after treatment through proper cleansing, moisturizing and makeup application.

Some aestheticians focus on one area of skincare, such as laser therapy, while others receive training in a variety of clinical skin procedures. They have medical knowledge, technical and safety training and strong interpersonal skills, and the average aesthetician earns $33,416 per year.

Aestheticians' clients often seek medical help before or after surgery or have serious skin issues such as:

  • Burns

  • Scars

  • Injuries

Related: Learn About Being An Aesthetician

What is an esthetician?

An esthetician, also called a skincare specialist or a facialist, provides facial skincare services in a cosmetic or salon setting. They assess clients' skin to identify issues and recommend cleaning and maintenance techniques based on the individual's skin type and needs.

Besides professional training and familiarity with facial tools and equipment, estheticians should have strong patience, interpersonal, calming, attention to detail and dexterity skills, and the average esthetician earns $35,823 per year.

Estheticians' clients typically seek services such as massages and facials, and have minor skin issues such as:

  • Dry or oily skin

  • Age spots

  • Wrinkles

Related: Learn About Being an Esthetician

Aesthetician vs. esthetician: key differences

While aestheticians and estheticians are both licensed skincare specialists, their jobs differ in several ways, ranging from the training and education they receive to where they work. Some key differences between an aesthetician and an esthetician include:

Work setting

Aestheticians most often work in medical or healthcare facilities such as:

  • Health centers

  • Hospitals

  • Clinics

  • Burn centers

  • Trauma centers

  • Reconstructive surgery clinics

  • Dermatology clinics

  • Medical spas

  • Rehabilitation centers

Experienced estheticians might own their own salons or beauty centers. They most often work in beauty or relaxation facilities such as:

  • Spas

  • Salons

  • Resorts

  • Fitness centers

  • Boutiques

Job responsibilities

An aesthetician's job responsibilities might include:

  • Providing skin tightening therapies that encourage collagen production under the loose skin

  • Skin rejuvenation

  • Skin resurfacing, which uses a laser to improve the skin's appearance and texture, leaving it looking younger

  • Microlaser peels, which use lasers to remove the top layers of the skin and leave it looking more youthful

  • Laser hair or tattoo removal

  • Manual lymphatic drainage, which is a type of massage that reduces lymph fluid accumulation after surgery or because of certain medical conditions

  • Scar or blemish reduction

  • Varicose vein treatment using sclerotherapy, which involves injecting chemicals into affected veins to cause the discoloration to disappear

  • Applying permanent or semipermanent makeup such as eyebrow fillings, eyeliner, eyelash extensions, lip color and microblading

  • Consulting with patients, answering their questions and recommending treatments

  • Keeping patient records up to date

An esthetician's job responsibilities might include:

  • Skin analysis

  • Skin cleansing

  • Skin exfoliation

  • Applying masks and scrubs to refine pores, hydrate the skin, create an even complexion and make skin look younger or firmer

  • Massage

  • Facials

  • Aromatherapy, which uses essential oils and other aromas to provide relaxation and improve well-being

  • Hair removal such as waxing, tweezing, threading and eyebrow shaping

  • Makeup application

  • Treating acne, sun damage, wrinkles and oily or dry skin

  • Preparing patients for Botox injections or dermal fillers and providing them with post-injection care

  • Body sculpting to reduce cellulite

  • Giving skin product recommendations and showing clients how to use them properly

Related: Medical Job Types and Roles With Descriptions

Training and requirements

Aestheticians and estheticians are all licensed skincare professionals who must complete formal training to work legally. The basic requirements for either professional to get licensed are the same and include:

  • High school education: To begin your educational requirements, you must earn your high school diploma or GED certificate.

  • Higher education: After high school, complete a state-approved cosmetology program at a cosmetology school, community college or vocational school to earn your associate degree in cosmetology, which typically takes nine months.

  • Get licensed: Once your education is complete, earn your license from your state's cosmetology board, which involves passing written and practical exams after completing either a formal cosmetology program or a year of apprenticeship training, depending on the state.

  • License renewal: You must renew your state license regularly, so you may decide to continue your education through conferences and workshops. If you want to improve your job options and pay range, you can also get a master aesthetician license, which includes 600 hours of advanced training.

Estheticians take courses on specific topics such as:

  • Proper disinfection

  • Sanitation

  • Salon management

  • Skin conditions

  • Massage

  • Facials

  • Hair removal

  • Makeup application techniques

Aesthetician programs are clinical and specialized, with students learning the same topics as estheticians but also study:

  • Physiology

  • Anatomy

  • Anti-aging therapies

  • Microdermabrasion

  • Pre- and post-surgical skin care

  • Advanced hair removal

  • Chemical exfoliation

Related: 14 Top Careers in Cosmetology

Career path

The Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupation Outlook Handbook predicts the employment outlook for skincare specialists such as aestheticians and estheticians will grow 17% between 2019 and 2029. This rate is much faster than the average for most other jobs.

After gaining several years of experience in a spa or salon, an esthetician might:

  • Open their own spa

  • Become a beauty educator who trains other estheticians how to use products and equipment

  • Become an instructor at a cosmetology school

After gaining several years of experience in a health clinic or rehabilitation center, an aesthetician might:

  • Get a master aesthetician license

  • Become a training inspector who visits medical skincare facilities to make sure they are following state regulations

Frequently asked questions

How do aestheticians and estheticians differ from dermatologists?

Dermatologists are doctors who've attended medical school, completed a residency and earned a license to practice as specialized skin experts. Unlike aestheticians and estheticians, dermatologists diagnose complex skin conditions and prescribe medication to treat issues like acne or rashes. They also earn a higher salary due to their education and expertise, making an average annual salary of $218,970 per yearFor the most up-to-date salary information from Indeed, click on the link provided.

What are some of the types of aestheticians?

Specialized types of aestheticians include oncology aestheticians, who work with cancer patients, and holistic aestheticians, who employ natural remedies. Aestheticians can also specialize in specific procedures, like tattoo removal or body treatments.

What are some types of estheticians?

Estheticians can also specialize, but they're more likely to focus on cosmetic procedures. Some types of specialized estheticians include skin care technicians, who apply targeted treatments to help with facial skin care issues like aging or texture, wax technicians, who perform hair removal wax treatments and spa therapists, who use massage and aromatherapy principles for relaxation.

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