What Is an Aesthetician?

Medically Reviewed by Dany Paul Baby, MD on April 08, 2022
4 min read

Whether you want to address a skin concern or enjoy some extra pampering, an aesthetician might be the next appointment you should make. So, what is an aesthetician? An aesthetician, sometimes spelled "esthetician," is a skincare professional that focuses on bringing out the beauty of your skin. Learn more about what these specialists do, and if you should visit one as part of your healthy skin regimen.

An aesthetician will evaluate your skin and offer advice on how to improve its appearance. An aesthetician has the following goals for your skin:

  • To decrease and prevent signs of aging 
  • To improve the appearance of your skin
  • To maintain your skin’s health
  • To minimize the effects of sun exposure

Aestheticians offer a variety of treatments to help your skin meet these goals. Services are provided in spas, salons, private practices, and doctor’s offices. All treatments and cosmetic procedures performed are superficial. They only deal with the topmost layers of the skin and are noninvasive. 

With almost 70,000 licensed skincare specialists working in the U.S., many people are enjoying the skincare guidance and services aestheticians provide. There are several reasons people seek out the expertise of an aesthetician.

Pampering. Some services provided by aestheticians, such as scalp massages and aromatherapy, are excellent ways to pamper yourself and relieve stress. Visiting an aesthetician regularly can offer opportunities to add calm and relaxation to your self-care routine. 

Advice. Aestheticians are excellent resources if you're seeking general skincare advice. For example, you may want help in identifying your skin type and guidance on which products are best for your needs. 

Concerns. You can also consult with an aesthetician for a variety of specific skin concerns including:

Whether you are seeking an aesthetician for pampering or a cosmetic treatment, you will find a variety of beauty and skincare services: 

  • Acne treatments
  • Aromatherapy
  • Body scrubs (such as sugar scrubs) and other types of exfoliation
  • Chemical peels
  • Extractions (removing blackheads)
  • Facials
  • Laser resurfacing
  • Laser skin rejuvenation
  • Light therapy
  • Makeup tutorials and application
  • Masks and full body wraps
  • Microdermabrasion
  • Moisturizing treatments
  • Pore cleansing
  • Scalp massage 
  • Waxing or chemical hair removal

For your health and safety, it’s important to visit a licensed aesthetician. While requirements vary by location, every state requires aestheticians to be licensed to practice.

Aestheticians complete an educational program, typically at a cosmetology school or community college. They might earn a certificate, a diploma, or a degree. Before graduating, they participate in an internship to receive hands-on experience with clients. 

Next, they must pass a state exam to demonstrate they're knowledgeable in both scientific concepts (such as microbiology and anatomy) and aesthetics practices (such as skin analysis and extraction procedures). Once these steps are completed, they can apply with the state to become a licensed aesthetician.

A few states offer a specialized advanced license option for aestheticians. In Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, and Washington DC, people may apply to become master or medical aestheticians. In these states, medical aestheticians are allowed to perform more advanced treatments such as lymphatic drainage. They can also evaluate your skin as it relates to certain medical issues.

Various certification programs are offered at beauty schools, community colleges, and through national organizations such as The National Coalition of Estheticians Association (NCEA). Someone who is a certified aesthetician isn’t necessarily licensed.

The NCEA awards a certified credential to skincare professionals after application and a qualifying exam. While this certificate verifies the completion of a 1200-hour training program, it doesn’t allow the holder to work as an aesthetician in any state. The certificate can be used as proof of training hours when applying for state licensure.

All states require aestheticians to be fully licensed, and not just certified, to practice.

Aestheticians can help you with a variety of skincare needs, but they are limited to cosmetic skincare. An aesthetician is not a doctor or a medical health professional, so they can't: 

  • Administer injectables such as botox or fillers
  • Diagnose medical conditions
  • Prescribe medications or treatments  
  • Treat medical conditions 

Sometimes aestheticians work in a medical setting, such as in a dermatology practice or a plastic surgeon’s office. They might even use a term like “medical aesthetics.”  Regardless of the setting or terminology used, aestheticians cannot diagnose or treat medical conditions. 

If you have a skin condition that's related to a medical issue, an aesthetician may be able to help with providing complementary treatments to support any medical treatments your doctor provides. 

The first time you visit an aesthetician, you will likely schedule a consultation. Arrive without makeup and be prepared to discuss the specific concerns you'd like the aesthetician to address. During the consultation, the aesthetician will evaluate your skin concerns and review your medical history. Be prepared to provide details on any skincare products you're currently using.

At the appointment, the aesthetician will make a recommendation for an appropriate skincare regimen. They might also recommend specific services. You can expect to follow up at regular intervals after you’ve started the new regimen to ensure your skin is responding as you and your aesthetician hoped. 

In situations where medical treatment is required, an aesthetician will refer you to a dermatologist or other appropriate medical professional for further evaluation. 

If you’re interested in improving the appearance of your skin or addressing cosmetic concerns, a licensed aesthetician can be the ideal skincare partner. Expert advice paired with a little pampering can allow your skin’s natural beauty to shine through.