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Industry • Perspective

Aesthetician vs. Esthetician vs. Dermatologist: Understanding Skin Care Experts

Beauty industry job titles can get confusing. Here’s a breakdown of aestheticians, estheticians, and dermatologists.

Spa owners know how tiresome explaining the differences of aesthetician vs esthetician roles to clients and new employees can be. Here’s a comprehensive look at how the jobs are different, how dermatologists fit in, and how you can explain what each term means without further confusing clients. We’ve also detailed the nitty-gritty of the jobs for anyone looking to glow up their skin care skills.

What's the difference between an aesthetician vs esthetician?

Estheticians, sometimes referred to as skin therapists, focus on cosmetic treatments while aestheticians focus on medical treatments.

An esthetician will perform services like skin treatments, facials, makeup application, and some hair removal, though the specifics vary by state. Meanwhile, an aesthetician is able to perform services that help with skin trauma and aging. The aesthetician toolset is also broader, with licensed aestheticians able to perform laser hair removal, administer chemical peels, and use certain potent acids. They may work with burn victims or cancer patients. You’ll typically see aestheticians referred to as medical aestheticians, which fully connotes their responsibilities.

In general, the more invasive or risky a service is, the more likely you'll need to find an aesthetician to perform it. Where estheticians stay on the surface of the skin, aestheticians have license to go beneath it for laser services, injections, and more. That heightened responsibility is reflected in where aestheticians work. Although they often work in medspas, they're also common in health clinics, doctors' offices, trauma, burn, and rehabilitation centers, and other locations tied more closely to medicine than to cosmetics. 

If you’re interested in pursuing a career as either, it’s important to understand what you’re signing up for as an aesthetician vs esthetician, especially as far as schooling, licensing, and salary expectations go. Both roles must be licensed, which will take place once you’ve completed schooling. Schooling for either role will include lessons on skin care, makeup application, and business skills, though aestheticians will also receive specialized training to prepare them for the medical and clinical world. There’s going to be a lot of salary variety based on the state you’re in. However, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, people in skin therapist or esthetician roles can expect to earn a median salary of $38,060 a year. Meanwhile, medical aestheticians working in the offices of physicians earn a median salary of $49,710 a year.

Types of estheticians

There are several types of estheticians, with each occupying a different focus. These specialties are branches from the same tree, and any can find success, but their day-to-day responsibilities are different.

Facial specialist

A facial specialist will have an in-depth knowledge of advanced exfoliation, cleansing, and treatment techniques. Take the specialists at Phoenix, Arizona-based spa Hi, skin, for example. They’re able to take a look at a client’s face, identify problem areas, treat them, and recommend products clients can use to maintain their skin at home. These skills help them keep a client’s face looking young, bright, and smooth. There’s also specialized machinery for facial specialists. Devices like facial steamers are integral to the practice, making it easier for estheticians to remove debris from pores.

Skin care specialist

Similar to a facial specialist, a skin care specialist’s main goal is to help clients keep their skin clear. However, skin care specialists are more focused on the scientific aspects, concentrating on treating conditions such as acne and rosacea. This is perhaps the most confusingly named of the different types of estheticians, as it’s easy to mistake it with the blanket term skin therapist. For a sense of what skin care specialists can do, just look at the wide range of services offered by the national spa chain FACE FOUNDRIÉ. Its menu includes cryogenic therapy, hydradermabrasion, and more.

Spa specialist

Spas like Germantown Day Spa are one of the most common places for estheticians to work, with many choosing to specialize in aromatherapy, massages, and similar treatments. Spa specialists have the most diverse suite of responsibilities within the field.

Waxing specialists

If you journey down the path of a waxing specialist, be sure your interest will never wane. Waxing specialists tend to form strong relationships with their clients, as they’ll see each other every few weeks. That can bring on the kind of steadily growing business enjoyed by salon Hello Sugar: Earning the trust of clients can lead to them referring more and more of their friends.

Esthetician vs dermatologist

Dermatologists are more than just one of the types of estheticians, they’re full-fledged doctors. Whether you’re an esthetician or dermatologist, you’ll be working with skin. But dermatologists typically require a referral for their services in order for them to be covered by health insurance. Dermatologists know how to identify and treat more than 3,000 skin conditions, completing 12 years of school before earning the job title. 

The road to becoming a dermatologist is long, but it also has a tangible payoff. On average, dermatologists earn $302,740 a year. Make no mistake, while dermatologists operate within the skin care world, their jobs are very demanding. If your passion is skin care, though, becoming a dermatologist is an excellent goal.

Differences between states

Aestheticians, estheticians, and dermatologists are at the mercy of both local and state legislation, which affects both the licensing process and day-to-day responsibilities. You should look into your state’s resources on the licensing process, which should be available on its health licensing website. Be prepared to pay application and renewal fees for a license, which typically hover around $50. According to career data site Zippia, the best state for estheticians and medical aestheticians is Delaware, boasting higher than average salaries. For dermatologists, Maine takes the top spot.

Regardless of the field, skin care professionals have positive growth outlooks between now and 2030, with a 29% predicted increase in skin care jobs. Clients are fueling this demand, looking to book more appointments now than ever. That's why self-care business owners need to invest in top-notch client experience software made for spas and medspas. Self-booking, client management, and silky-smooth payment processing are all features that help to keep clients happy. And they’re just a few of the many Boulevard incorporates to provide a best-in-class client experience.

Boulevard was built to help your business achieve profitability at scale without losing an inch of sanity. See for yourself! Get a free demo today.

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