How to Become a Skincare Professional

Throughout the centuries, cultures around the world have developed unique beauty regimens, all with the goal of keeping the skin healthy. Your skin is the face you present to the world – literally – but keeping up with the latest beauty trends and adjusting to changes in your own skin can be quite time consuming. That’s when it pays to have a skincare professional you can trust to give you personalized advice on the products and services that will help you meet your skin goals.

If you have a passion for health and beauty, you may have dreams of becoming that trusted expert. Pursuing a career as a skincare professional gives you the education and training you need to assess and address skin concerns, working alongside your clients to rejuvenate and reinvigorate their skin.

Esthetician vs. Cosmetologist

Skincare is part of the greater health and wellness industry and professionals may carry different titles depending on their licensure, training, and specialty. An esthetician is a licensed skin specialist trained to assess the skin’s condition and administer treatments or services including exfoliation, extractions, chemical peels, and more. Cosmetology is a similar field but has a broader scope.

While an esthetician focuses primarily on skin, a cosmetologist may also be trained in hair, nail, and makeup services. Professionals in either field have the option to pursue additional training and education to learn specialty services (like light-based devices such as IPL and LED and ultrasonic light therapy, micro-current, micro-needling) or to administer certain medical treatments (like Botox).

What Do Skincare Professionals Do?

Estheticians and cosmetologists are limited to services that don’t puncture the skin’s surface – unlike dermatologists who are trained medical doctors. Even so, skincare is still a career in which you have the potential to change a client’s life. Healthy skin is an essential aspect of total-body health and wellness, after all. When your skin looks and feels good, it boosts your self-esteem. As a skincare professional, you can not only help your clients achieve physical transformation, but also to improve the way they feel about themselves.

Training requirements vary from state to state and, to some degree, by individual school. It’s key to do your research to ensure the school offers an expansive curriculum. However, skincare professionals generally receive training in the following areas:

  • Anatomy and physiology of the skin
  • Professional Skin analysis including skin conditions and disorders (wholistic, person-centered analysis)
  • Marketing, sales, and salon management
  • Facial and body treatments
  • The use of esthetic devices to enhance results
  • Phyto-Aromatherapy – study of natural botanical extracts and essential oils; their features and benefits
  • Chemical and physical exfoliating options
  • Waxing and hair removal treatments
  • Makeup application (including permanent makeup)

Cosmetologists typically work in salons and barbershops, though many work in the entertainment industry as well. As an esthetician, you might work in the same location as a cosmetologist, but you also have the option to work in a spa or dermatologist’s office. If you plan to pursue a career specifically in skincare, your best option is to become a licensed esthetician.

Esthetician Education and Training

Estheticians are health and wellness professionals licensed by the state (except in Connecticut where licensure is not required). In order to become licensed, estheticians must complete a course of study and pass both a written and practical examination.

A high school diploma or GED is generally required to study esthetics, but you may not need a degree. Depending on the program you choose, you can expect to spend between $3,000 and $10,000 on esthetician or cosmetology school. The average number of training hours required to become a licensed esthetician is around 600 while a cosmetology license may require as many as 1,400 to 1,600. Some states may also require continuing education after licensure.

Where Can You Work?

According to the Associated Skin Care Professionals (ASCP), the majority of estheticians work in spas, salons, or private settings. As a licensed esthetician, you’ll use a wide variety of techniques and treatments depending where you work and the specific role for which you’re hired.

On top of basic steam facials and extractions, you may have the opportunity to perform trendy treatments like Gua Sha, bamboo body sculpting, acupressure, dermaplaning and micro-needling to name a few. Just remember, the more experience you have in specialty treatments and mechanical applications like light therapy or microdermabrasion, the more desirable you’ll be to potential employers.

Here’s an overview of some of the services you’ll likely perform:

  • Skin mapping/analysis
  • Manual or mechanical extraction
  • Customized facial treatments
  • Face and body masks
  • Pore cleansing
  • Exfoliation and body scrubs
  • Chemical peels and/or microdermabrasion
  • Comprehensive age-management treatments
  • Acne treatments
  • Facial and scalp massage
  • Aromatherapy, the synergy of the dermatologic and psychosensory actions for total wellness

The growing trend of luxury destination spas in the U.S. has triggered an expansion in the field of aesthetics as well. It is estimated that Americans visit the spa over 143 million times each year and many are regular customers. As an esthetician, you’ll have a variety of career options available to you and you may be able to supplement your income with freelance work as well.

Tips for Getting Started as a Skincare Professional

Becoming an esthetician takes dedication. In addition to completing your education and training requirements, you’ll be expected to keep up with industry trends and to maintain your skills throughout the duration of your career. Getting a strong start in the field will set you up for a successful future.

Here are some tips to keep in mind as you work toward becoming a licensed esthetician:

  • In addition to completing your coursework, be sure to work on your communication and interpersonal skills as well – you’ll need them when you start working in the field.
  • Practice as much as you can – recruit friends and family member as volunteers so you can practice your technique (you can even practice on yourself).
  • Consider obtaining a voluntary certification to boost your resume (and your salary) – the National Coalition of Estheticians, Manufacturers/Distributors, and Associations (NCEA) offers a training manual and certification program.
  • Learn as much as you can from your first entry-level position – you’ll need to gain experience to work your way up in the field and every job is an opportunity to expand your client base.
  • Attend the education classes offered by your spas professional skin care vendors
  • Don’t neglect your continuing education requirements – check with your state board to see how many hours you need and how often you need to renew your license.
  • Take every opportunity you have to learn new techniques and stay on top of industry trends – the more versatile your skills and expansive your knowledge, the more hirable you’ll be.

Whether you hope to work at a day spa or a luxury resort, your career starts with education and training. Becoming a skincare professional is not something you can accomplish overnight. All the time and dedication you put into it, however, will be well worth it when you accept your first paid position and can proudly introduce yourself to clients as a licensed esthetician.