What Does an Esthetician Do?

Have you ever struggled with your skin then searched the internet trying to self-diagnose and treat your skin only to make things worse?  Then you are aware of how difficult it can be to know what to do, what skincare products you will need, and what types of professional treatments you will need to fix your skincare woes.

This is where an esthetician can become a great resource and skincare guide who can quickly turn things around to make sure you have the correct products for your skin, and the right professional treatments to correct your skin condition. A good esthetician will even know when your skin condition is more critical and should be able to refer you to a medical professional if needed.

So, what is an esthetician and what do they do?

An esthetician also spelled ‘aesthetician’ is a licensed skin care professional who focuses on caring for the health, rejuvenation, improvement, and overall appearance of the skin. An esthetician can provide facials, waxing services, make-up application, eye lash or brow tinting, and expert guidance on the best skincare products and ingredients to use for the condition of their clients’ skin.

It is not uncommon for some estheticians to specialize in treating certain skin conditions, so if you already happen to know what your skincare concern is, then, you can search for an esthetician that specializes in treating that specific condition.

For example, it is not uncommon for estheticians to specialize in treatment of acne, rosacea, dermatitis conditions or anti-aging. In most cases a skilled esthetician will know how to treat all of the above and can customize treatment protocols and make product recommendations specifically for your skin so you can have the very best results.

What types of services do estheticians provide?

Estheticians provide multiple services, but most estheticians focus on highly customized facials and skincare treatments that improve the condition of the skin. Facials are the most popular treatments and can be customized to address certain skin conditions--some of the most common facials would address dry skin, acne, hyper-pigmentation, and anti-aging concerns.

The field of esthetics has evolved so much, and some of the most popular advanced services would include microdermabrasion, extraction of the pores, hydro-dermabrasion, superficial chemical peels, LED light therapy, micro-needling or micro-channeling, and micro-current.

What kind of education and licensing is required for an esthetician?

In order to hold an esthetics license an esthetician must enroll in an accredited cosmetology school that has an esthetics program, and most states require up to 600 hours of education, but the length of time spent in school will vary depending on the state and the requirements.

Some of what is covered in an esthetics program would include learning in detail about the anatomy of the skin, sanitization techniques, how to recognize and care for certain skin conditions such as: rosacea, acne, eczema, or hyper-pigmentation.  Also, the program would include instruction on proper waxing technique for hair removal and understanding what skincare products and ingredients will be effective for various skin types and conditions.

All esthetic programs require both classroom education and practical hands-on training, then, once an esthetician student is finished with their program, they must pass a practical and written exam provided by the state board where they reside in order to obtain professional licensing.

Most estheticians will continue to take advanced levels of training after they have achieved their state license, and for example, learn permanent make-up application, lash extensions, micro-blading, or complete courses on oncology esthetics where they learn skincare treatment protocols that will allow them to care for patients who are undergoing chemotherapy or other cancer therapy treatments.

What kind of equipment does an esthetician use when performing skincare services?

When it comes to equipment there are so many technological advances, and this is a constantly evolving market, but some of the most common devices you will find would be microdermabrasion machines, hydro-dermabrasion equipment (a wet microdermabrasion where serum is infused into the skin while exfoliating), ultrasonic spatulas or aka skincare scrubbers, facial steamers, LED light therapy, microcurrent machines, dermal wands used for micro-channeling, and that is just a few to mention.  There are so many new developments with technology and equipment that it is hard to keep up with.

Almost all the esthetic equipment you will find made for salon or professional use is considered to be non-invasive and okay for an esthetician to use in a professional setting since it does not penetrate, too, deep below the surface of the skin.

For equipment that penetrates below the surface, then, this is most likely a more invasive procedure or treatment and would require a licensed medical professional to operate this type of equipment in a medical facility.

What services are estheticians not qualified to perform?

Depending on the requirements and rules established by the state where an esthetician practices will determine what they are not allowed to do.  For example, my practice is based in California and we are not allowed to puncture the skin or use equipment that has an effect below the surface of the skin.  A licensed esthetician is not allowed to diagnose the skin with medical conditions nor can they write prescriptions.

During a skin analysis and consultation they are often the frontline defense in noticing precancerous skin growths and are able to refer their clients to the right dermatologist to get it treated and avoid skin cancer.

We are allowed to do most everything else such as: microdermabrasion, chemical peels, facials and other treatments that improve the condition of the skin.  Each state has their own guidelines of what is allowed for the esthetics field. But generally speaking, any treatment or procedure that has an effect or penetrates below the surface of the skin is for a medical professional to perform.

What is a medical esthetician vs. an esthetician?  What is the difference?

While in order to practice esthetics you need a state board license, there is actually no specialized licensing required to practice esthetics in a medical setting.  The main difference between the two (medical vs. regular esthetics) is that a medical esthetician has had training specifically to work in a medical setting such as a plastic surgery center, medical spa, dermatology practice or hospital.  A medical esthetician may perform services under physician supervision such as: laser therapy, administer chemical peels using high concentrations of acids, providing pre and post operative care after surgery, or work in a hospital setting for more critical wound care such as a burn ward.

finding the right esthetician for your skincare concerns

What are the best tips for finding the right esthetician for your skincare concerns with the right experience?

Of course, knowing what your skincare goals are before you begin your search is super helpful.  For example, if acne scarring is what you wish to eliminate, then, best to look for an esthetician who has worked in a medical setting or has the training and right equipment to help smooth out and eliminate superficial scarring.

Reaching out to friends and family who may know someone they could refer to is a great way to begin your search, of course researching on the internet for an esthetician in your local area, and reading reviews or testimonials is helpful.  If you are able to communicate with your esthetician via email or have a quick initial call, then that is also helpful to ensure they have the right experience to help you.

At my practice in San Francisco, I do not accept walk-in appointments, so I normally schedule a quick call with a new client allowing them the opportunity to ask questions, as well as have them send me pics so we can review their concerns during the call.  Some skincare practices are not set up this way and this is okay, too, but as long as you are able to determine that they have the right experience to address your concerns is what matters most.

In many cases when tackling a skin concern you will need a series of appointments kept in a short timeline to achieve a great result.  At my practice I always tell new clients “Make sure your schedule will permit and allow you to keep your scheduled appointments consistently” otherwise you will not achieve the results you wish, and that will only frustrate you and your esthetician, and not allow for the best possible result.

It is always a good idea to take the search process slow even though you may be ready to make your decision immediately to move quickly and get rid of your skincare woes.  It is always best to take your time and assess who can best help you with your concerns since it is an important decision and an investment of time and money on your behalf.

About Wendy Malla, LE

Wendy Malla

My name is Wendy Malla, I am a licensed esthetician, and specialize in multiethnic skincare services, products, and treatments. If you are trying to correct a skin concern, or looking to enhance your skincare routine, I provide you guidance and support so you are not wasting time and avoid frustration. I have developed result oriented solutions for mature skin, acne, dry skin conditions, and acne scarring using a progressive approach. I am certified to perform chemical peels, microdermabrasion, micro-current, acne scarring treatments, and LED light therapy. Transforming your skin to become healthy and beautiful is possible with the right guidance, support and knowledge so don’t wait any longer!

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