Updated: June 20th, 2024

The job titles “esthetician” and “aesthetician” are often used interchangeably because they sound alike, and both work in the field of skincare. However, these two professions involve significantly different duties. Estheticians focus primarily on the cleaning of the skin and cosmetic procedures. Aestheticians, on the other hand, perform medical procedures on the skin. If you’re researching programs of study to become a skin care professional, it’s critical to understand the difference between the two. Here are more details to help you know which might be the best fit for you between aesthetician vs. esthetician.

What Is an Esthetician?

An esthetician is a licensed professional who focuses on skincare. You may find them called skincare specialists or facial specialists. Estheticians usually work in a salon, spa, or similar business focused on cosmetics and skin health. The primary goal is healthy skin, which may be achieved through procedures like peels and waxes. However, many estheticians also educate clients on the importance of diet, proper cleansing, and using the right makeup and other products.

Clients who see an esthetician seek help with skin issues, such as dryness or oiliness, signs of aging, or wrinkles. The professional advises clients on cleaning and maintaining the skin and may also give facials and facial massages. Estheticians must have a thorough understanding of different skin types to inform the individual clients correctly.

Esthetician training programs should include education on:

  • The different industry tools and how to use them safely to help clients reach their skincare goals.
  • How to manage the client relationship professionally.
  • The interpersonal skills needed to place clients at ease, even in emotionally charged cases.

What Is an Aesthetician?

An aesthetician is a medical professional who holds a license to work in clinical practice. Some professionals specialize in one area, such as laser therapy, while others are generalists who see various patients. Often, patients who visit an aesthetician have suffered some form of damage to the skin of the face. Such damage may be related to chemotherapy treatments, injuries, surgery, burns, and other medical conditions that cause scarring.

Aestheticians may also help patients maintain healthy skin after treatment by teaching them how to clean their skin and prescribing moisturizing routines and therapeutic makeup. Aesthetician training programs should include education on medical terminology, the safe operation of the equipment used in the field, and how to manage the client relationship.

Aesthetician vs. Esthetician: Key Differences

In every state in the United States, aestheticians and estheticians must hold a license to provide these skincare procedures. However, these careers are different in important ways, including where they work and are trained. Here are some of the critical differences.

Work Setting

Aestheticians usually work in clinical settings such as hospitals, medical clinics, burn units, trauma centers, and rehabilitation facilities.
Estheticians often work in salons, beauty boutiques, spas, or other businesses focused on relaxation and self-care. You also find these professionals in resorts, on cruise ships, and in fitness centers.

Job Responsibilities

Aestheticians perform clinical procedures such as these:

  • Skin tightening treatments to promote collagen growth under the skin
  • Techniques to rejuvenate the skin, such as microlaser peels, that remove the top layer
  • Skin resurfacing with lasers to smooth the texture and appearance and fight the signs of aging
  • Removal of unwanted tattoos and body hair
  • Lymphatic drainage through massage to reduce the accumulation of fluid after surgery or illness
  • Removal or reduction of scars and blemishes on the skin
  • Sclerotherapy, which uses injected chemicals to treat the discoloration of varicose veins
  • Application of permanent or semipermanent cosmetics such as eye makeup and lip color
  • Counseling patients and answering questions about possible treatments, risks, and outcomes
  • Medical documentation and updating records

Esthetician certification may involve learning how to do the following tasks:

  • Cleaning, exfoliating, and analyzing clients’ skin to remedy problem areas.
  • Using masks and scrubs to minimize the look of pores, hydrate skin, even out the client’s complexion, and minimize the signs of aging.
  • Massaging the face and performing facials to promote healthier skin
  • Using essential oils for aromatherapy to help clients relax and feel healthier
  • Removing unwanted hair using waxes, tweezers, threading, and eyebrow shaping techniques
  • Applying makeup for special occasions
  • Using various techniques and treatments to reduce acne, sun damage, signs of aging, and dry or oily skin
  • Preparing clients for more complex procedures such as fillers or injections and caring for patients after such procedures
  • Body sculpting to reduce cellulite
  • Advising clients on which skincare products best suit their skin and how to use them

Training and Requirements

Both aestheticians and estheticians need specialized training and a state-issued license to work legally. The professions share some common training elements.

  • Both need a high school diploma or GED certificate.
  • Both must also complete a state-approved educational program at a cosmetology school, vocational school, or community college. These programs usually take at least nine months and may lead to an associate’s degree.
  • Both must complete a written and practical exam process to earn a license granted by the state cosmetology board. Some states require a year of internship or apprenticeship before you can sit for the licensure exam.
  • Both must meet the requirements to renew the license each year, which may include continuing education hours. Some states offer a master aesthetician license for those who complete advanced training requirements.

Though the similarities are many, each of the two professions has its specific requirements.

Estheticians learn how to disinfect equipment and keep the work area sanitized correctly. They also learn how to manage the business aspects of a salon. Estheticians need specialized knowledge of various skin conditions, how to perform facials and massages, hair removal, and the application of makeup.

Aestheticians’ education is more clinical. They learn the same topics as estheticians and study additional fields, such as anatomy, physiology, anti-aging therapies, and microdermabrasion. Aestheticians may also provide care before and after surgeries, perform advanced hair removal procedures, and apply chemical exfoliants.

Career Path

The Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupation Outlook Handbook predicts a positive outlook for people who wish to work as skincare specialists. Job opportunities are projected to grow 17% by 2029, much faster than the average for other careers. Once a professional in either of these fields has a few years of experience, many career paths are available. For example, experienced aestheticians and estheticians may open their own salons or spa or become instructors or teachers. Because of their clinical background, professional aestheticians who pursue the master license may become inspectors who make sure that medical facilities follow state standards.

Where Can I Learn More?

Suppose you’re considering a career as an aesthetician or an esthetician. In that case, Rizzieri Aveda School is an excellent place to start in New Jersey, New York, South Jersey, Central Jersey, and Philly. We’ve been preparing cosmetology and skincare professionals since 1924. Our 99% licensure rate and affordable tuition give you confidence that every dollar you spend on your education is well spent. Contact us today to learn more about how to get started.



Request Info

Fill out the quick form below, get all the answers you need by email

Take the next step