Aesthetician vs Esthetician: What Are the Key Differences?

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 13 November 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Aestheticians and estheticians are both licensed skin care employees who help patients improve their skin. These careers have different focuses, though, as estheticians focus on aesthetic treatments while aestheticians focus on medical skin care treatments. Understanding other differences between these careers, including their work environments, advancement opportunities and job duties, can help you decide which career path is right for you to pursue. In this article, we highlight the key differences between aestheticians versus estheticians and discuss essential skills that both use in their everyday work.

Differences between an aesthetician vs an esthetician

Here are some differences between an aesthetician versus an esthetician:

Job duties

While both aestheticians and estheticians are responsible for caring for patients' skin, their duties differ greatly.

Estheticians primarily clean and enhance the appearance of patients' skin. They may apply body masks, face masks, salt scrubs, sugar scrubs and compression wraps to help skin look healthier and more youthful. They also teach clients about different skin care routines, recommend cosmetic products to clients, perform facial massages and conduct hair removal treatments. An esthetician may apply makeup for clients for special events. They may also have skills in styling clients' hair that they can pair with their skin makeover abilities.

Aestheticians have a more medical focus with their work. They may specialise in services like scar reduction, tattoo removal, microlaser peels, skin resurfacing, skin rejuvenation and skin tightening. Aestheticians often help patients who have varicose veins by offering injections that help minimise the discolouration in patients' veins. They also perform manual lymphatic drainage for patients who experience excessive lymph fluid due to certain medical conditions or surgical procedures. While estheticians perform makeup for special events, aestheticians may perform semi-permanent makeup treatments like eyebrow microblading.

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Education

Both estheticians and aestheticians are licensed skin care employees. They cannot work without obtaining the proper certification that their state requires. To pursue either of these careers, you can first complete secondary school. Then, you may complete higher education by earning an associate degree in cosmetology from a university or completing a program at an approved vocational institution. Once you've obtained your education, you may apply for licensing in the state where you'd like to practise. The licensing process may vary, as some states require passing a written exam, while others may require a certain amount of apprenticeship training.

The subjects you study may vary between each profession. For example, estheticians may study topics like makeup application techniques, hair removal, facials, massage techniques, skin conditions, salon management, sanitation and disinfection. While aestheticians may study some of the same topics during their schooling, they may learn about other subjects more in-depth like chemical exfoliation, advanced hair removal, pre-surgical skin care, post-surgical skin care, anti-aging therapies, anatomy and physiology.

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Work environment

Even though some of their job duties can overlap, estheticians and aestheticians work in different environments. Aestheticians usually work in healthcare or medical facilities like rehabilitation centres, medical spas, dermatology clinics, reconstructive surgery clinics, trauma centres, burn centres, hospitals and general health centres. Estheticians tend to work in relaxation or beauty facilities like boutiques, fitness centres, resorts, salons and spas. Both employees usually work a traditional 40-hour work week during normal hours. An aesthetician who works in a tramua centre or a burn centre may work night shifts so that they're available to treat patients during emergencies.

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Career advancement opportunities

Both careers offer good advancement opportunities so that you can develop in your role, but the pathways can vary. For example, estheticians can open their own spa or salon where they can employ other estheticians to offer beauty services. An esthetician may also choose to become an instructor at a cosmetology school after they receive additional training. Still, an esthetician may become a beauty educator who visits salons and spas to teach other estheticians how to use and apply current skin care products and techniques.

An aesthetician may obtain a higher education by getting a master's degree in a topic like aging science or wound management. They can use this specialisation to find work in a managerial position in a medical spa or burn unit. They may also become a training inspector who visits skin care facilities to ensure that they're adhering to state laws.

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Patients with whom they work

Estheticians traditionally work with patients who are seeking visual enhancement of their skin. Aestheticians often work with patients who need treatment to improve the appearance and health of their skin. Aestheticians may obtain patients from other healthcare practitioners with patients who refer them for more specialised cases they're unprepared to handle on their own.

Related: List of Careers in Medicine (Salaries, Duties and Skills)

Skills for aestheticians and estheticians

Despite the differences in these two career paths, both employees can benefit from having the following skills:

Problem-solving

Aestheticians and estheticians have strong problem-solving skills. They may deal with several clients each day who have different skin needs, so these employees may need to take different approaches for each client. Once an aesthetician or esthetician forms a solution to a patient's problem, they have to create a treatment plan that the patient can easily maintain. For example, an aesthetician may have a patient apply scar cream at home after they perform a complementary treatment at a clinic to optimise the end results. Both types of employees may have to adapt their care plans as patients' needs change.

Related: Problem-Solving Skills: Definitions and Examples

Communication

Aestheticians and estheticians have strong verbal and written communication skills. They talk with patients regularly all day to offer them advice on the best skin care products and explain treatments to them. Both types of employees may also communicate with other medical employees. For example, an esthetician may have to refer a patient with a complex problem to an aesthetician or another qualified healthcare employee. The aesthetician then has to listen to the esthetician to learn about the patient's condition and develop an effective treatment plan.

Both employees also need to have strong written communication skills. They may take notes during a consultation with a patient to document the patients' concerns and needs. They may also record notes to give to patients so that patients understand how to continue treatment plans or partake in skin care practices at home.

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Time management

Aestheticians and estheticians can benefit from having strong time management skills. They can manage different patients' needs and ensure that they dedicate enough time to each appointment so that patients can receive comprehensive care and treatment. They can learn to delegate tasks as necessary to their colleagues so that they don't take on more work than they can complete.

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Empathy

Aestheticians and estheticians display strong empathy skills. They can understand the intense feelings that their patients may be experiencing about their physical appearances. They approach all of their work without judgement so that patients can feel comfortable. Aestheticians who work in burn units or trauma centres may especially benefit from exhibiting strong empathy at all times, as these patients are coming from traumatic situations and need to receive compassion and support from the employees who are treating their injuries. When these employees can reassure patients, they may be able to treat them more efficiently and effectively.

Related: What Are Empathic Skills? (With Benefits and Steps)

Attention-to-detail

Good aestheticians and estheticians show strong attention to detail as they complete their everyday tasks. They keep comprehensive records so that they and other medical employees can refer to this information as they perform their services. Both employees often see patients more than once since they complete ongoing treatments, so they exhibit strong attention to detail to perform follow-up services and ensure that patients receive optimal results from their treatments.

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