What Is An Esthetician?

Skin Care Specialists Need Experience, Good Hands and Sanitary Habits

Esthetician giving facial
••• An esthetician is trained to deal with the skin, while massage therapists deal with underlying muscle tissue. Don Bayley/E+/Getty Images

An esthetician gives facials and other skin care treatments, and can help your skin look its best.  They can help clear up acne, get rid of blackheads, make dull skin look brighter, and advise you on which products are the best for you and how to use them

Estheticians are licensed only to work on the superficial layers of the skin and massage your face, neck, shoulders, arms and head.  That means they can give facials and light chemical peels that deal with the superficial layers of the skin.

 They can give exfoliating body treatments like scrubs, as well as body wraps, which involve an application of a detoxifying mud or hydrating cream.  They are not, however, not licensed to massage the underlying muscle tissue of the whole body.  That is the realm of massage therapists.

There is increasingly a move toward dual-therapists -- often massage therapists who get their esthetician license.  Spa directors like it because they can legally do all the treatments on the menu, but I prefer someone who specializes exclusively in skin care, unless I know them personally.  I also don't recommend getting a facial from someone who was trained in cosmetology school, where  the primary focus is on hair cutting and coloring.  

Training To Become An Esthetician

Most estheticians have gone through a program of training that ranges from 300 to 1000 hours, depending on the state. Six hundred hours is typical.

Unfortunately, a few states don't require any training for someone to give facials.

In school, budding estheticians learn how to analyze skin and give a facial, but they are primarily being trained to pass the state's written and practical exam. You really want an esthetician who has been practicing several years and has gained experience.

Cosmetologists, who are trained primarily in hair, are also licensed to give facials. While they receive a little training, it is not as thorough as an esthetician program. My recommendation would be to find an esthetician who has gone to esthetician school and has a few years experience.

I would also be very careful about who I get a facial from. You are trusting them with your skin and relying on them to be clean and sanitary in everything they do, and, as one of my teachers put it, "there are a lot of lazy estheticians out there." You want someone who is skilled, experienced, has good "hands" and is a stickler for sanitation.

To find a good esthetician, start by asking your friends if there is anyone they recommend. Good possibilities are estheticians who have their own skin care practice, or a day spa that has longtime, experienced staffers.

There can be excellent estheticians at resort spas, because they tend to hire experienced estheticians. But it's ideal to work with someone on an regular basis rather than get a facial once in a while, always with someone different. They get to know your skin and can help you make adjustments to your skin care routine by season.

Signs of A Good Esthetician

* She is impeccably groomed, warm and friendly.

 (Not all estheticians are female, but the majority are.)

* She is a stickler for cleanliness and sanitation. She keeps a clean table and washes her hands before she begins touching your face. If you see a dirty environment or sticks in a messy wax pot, that's not a good sign.

* The esthetician gives you a relaxing facial customized to your skin. She can do extractions without causing too much discomfort and is responsive to your pain threshold.

* She can answer any questions you have about what he’s doing and why.

* The good esthetician follows your lead in terms of how much “chat” there is. It’s your time!

* She asks about your home skin care routine and advises you on how to take care of your skin between facials. She advises you on what products are best suited for your skin without being pushy.

* A good esthetician recognizes skin problems that require a dermatologist. If you have a problem that needs a medical doctor, the esthetician lets you know.

Licensing requirements for estheticians vary by state. Most states require 600 hours of training, but Florida is considerably less strict, with just 260 hours of training. Feel free to ask where they were trained and what kind of program they went through.

If you're interested in becoming part of the spa industry, read more about finding spa jobs , going to massage school, or going to esthetician school .