How to Become an Esthetician in California

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Charming female Esthetician treating male skin with laser device

For information only. Not meant as advice in any form. Please consult your medical professional or lawyer.

Estheticians are skincare specialists that provide clients with skin and beautification services like facial treatment, makeup application, skin analysis, and more. But before they can do any of these things in California, they need an esthetician license first to show they’re qualified to perform the skincare treatment.

So how does an individual become a licensed esthetician in California? Aspiring estheticians in California need to enroll in a beauty school, apply for the licensure examination, and pass both exam components before they earn their license. But to be successful in their career, they also have to gain more experience, attend additional training courses, and renew their license as needed.

Your Guide to Becoming a Licensed Esthetician in California

California is one of the best places for aspiring estheticians to start a career thanks to the thriving beauty industry in the state, as well as its population who spend most of their time outside. Cosmetology centers in California also employ more estheticians than in other states, so there are more job opportunities for you as a skincare specialist here.

To help start your career as an esthetician in the Golden State, here’s a quick guide to follow:

Step 1: Enroll in a State-Approved Esthetician School

The first step to becoming a licensed esthetician in California is to enroll in an esthetician program approved by the California Board of Barbering and Cosmetology and the National Accrediting Commission of Career Arts and Sciences. Having these accreditations ensure that the esthetics program includes everything that students need to know as an esthetician.

Esthetician schools in California offer training programs that have at least 600 training hours for important topics, including chemical treatments, skin treatments, makeup application, skin analysis, hair removal, and more. Most of them also offer hands-on training so students can practice their skills on real clients under the supervision of an instructor.

What to Learn About in an Esthetics Training Program

Different esthetician programs have different curricula, depending on the institution or the instructor that created them. However, here are some of the most common topics included in most esthetics programs in California:

  • Skin conditions
  • Reflexology
  • Body treatments and aromatherapy
  • Waxing and hair removal
  • Human anatomy and physiology
  • Cosmetic sciences
  • Sales and salon management
  • Safety and sanitation

What to Look For in an Esthetics School

When choosing the best esthetician school for your goals, here are some questions to ask yourself or the beauty school:

  • What are the credentials and experiences in the industry of the school or the instructor?
  • Is the curriculum based on the latest facts and advancements in cosmetology and esthetics?
  • What kind of support does the staff offer its students during and after the training?
  • Does the beauty school offer hands-on training for its students?
  • What advanced esthetician courses or certifications do the school offer its students?

Where to Apply for an Esthetician Course

With many cosmetology schools to choose from in California, it can be difficult and confusing for a student to choose the best one for them. To help you out, here are some of the top-rated esthetician schools in California:

  • Advance Beauty College
  • Salon Success Academy
  • San Francisco Institute of Esthetics and Cosmetology
  • Career Academy of Beauty
  • Bellus Academy
  • ZMS The Academy
  • Federico Beauty Institute
  • International College of Cosmetology
  • Aveda Institute – Los Angeles
  • KC Beauty Academy

Step 2: Apply for the Esthetician Licensure Examination

After finishing the esthetician program, the next step is to complete the application for the esthetician examination and submit it to the state board. Applicants are required to pay an initial license fee of $115 before they’re allowed to take the exam.

Aside from completing an accredited cosmetology course, aspiring estheticians should also meet other state requirements like being at least 17 years old. Unlike other states that require a high school diploma, applicants may take the licensure exam for estheticians after presenting proof that they finished in the 10th grade. For other inquiries about the application process, participants may message the board at

Step 3: Take and Pass Both the Written and Practical Exam

Once the application has been submitted, processed, and approved, applicants receive a letter that includes instructions on how to schedule their written and practical exams. The state board of California partners with the National Interstate Council of State Boards of Cosmetology (NIC) for written and practical examinations.

Both the theoretical and practical exams are scheduled on the same day in one of the permanent testing sites in Fairfield or Glendale. After scheduling the exams, applicants can expect an admission letter that confirms the location, date, and time of their licensure exam.

The written examination for aspiring estheticians is composed of 100 questions, which should be completed within 120 minutes. As for the practical examination, students may take up to 90 minutes to finish the exam about client setup and protection, facial massage, facial mask, facial makeup, and hair removal around the eyebrows.

After passing both the written and practical examinations, the Board issues an esthetician license for the participant which they can use to begin performing skin treatments.

Step 4: Gain More Experience in the Beauty Industry

Estheticians in California have many job opportunities thanks to the thriving beauty culture in the state. After earning their license, they can work as an independent contractor or employee in a spa, esthetics salon, or general salon.

Working alongside plastic surgeons, dermatologists, and other skincare specialists gives licensed estheticians the chance to learn more about other treatments and techniques. Healthcare professionals also benefit from hiring estheticians because they’re equipped with the knowledge to provide support to procedures and therapies.

Step 5: Attend More Esthetician Training Courses

Special certifications aren’t part of the job description for licensed estheticians, but having one gives you a competitive edge. It also shows your passion and dedication to providing the best treatments for different clients. Advanced courses and specializations are needed for those who want to advance their career to become a medical esthetician or a master esthetician. 

There are many sub-specializations in the beauty industry that estheticians can explore. Attending additional training programs in cosmetology schools grants them different certifications that show their expertise in a specific sub-specialization. Here are some of the best esthetician specialties to consider:

  • Facial specialists are estheticians who are trained in in-depth facial techniques – from cleansing methods to physical exfoliators.
  • Medical estheticians receive extensive training before working beside dermatologists and other medical professionals. They often specialize in more complicated treatments like laser hair removal and chemical peels.
  • Skincare specialists are those who enjoy and work in the scientific side of cosmetology. They help clients manage chronic skin conditions like acne, rosacea, and different signs of aging.
  • Spa therapists offer a wide range of treatments like massages and aromatherapy to help clients relax and improve their quality of life.
  • Waxing specialists are consistently popular because they can build long-term relationships with clients. They focus on different waxing techniques for different areas of the body.

Step 6: Renew the Esthetician License Every Two Years

Like in other states, estheticians in California are also required to renew their license every 2 years in the month when their original license was issued. They usually accomplish this by paying a renewal fee of $50 and filing a paper application or going through the online licensing system.

There are no continuing education requirements for estheticians, but it’s still recommended that they finish a few more courses to keep up with the latest trends and techniques in the esthetics industry.

Learn About New Skin Treatments at FACE Med Store

Being an esthetician in California is a diverse and fulfilling career path for individuals who enjoy helping others look and feel their best. If you’re considering taking a few more courses to build your resume and improve your skills as an esthetician, then don’t forget to check out the online training courses we offer at FACE Med Store.

Aside from online training programs, we also provide high-quality medical tools and supplies to hundreds of medical spas, skin clinics, and other healthcare facilities around the country. Reach out to us today to know more about our products or training courses.

All content in this blog is for informational purposes only. It is not medical or legal advice. Please consult with lawyer or a medical professional.