What Is the Difference Between an Esthetician and a Cosmetologist?

Contact Us
difference between an esthetician and a cosmetologist

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

It’s not so common to be confused between cosmetologists and estheticians. After all, they have many similarities. They can be seen together in the same places like spas and salons, and they are both dedicated professions aiming to give their clients better quality of life and confidence by helping them look more beautiful and pleasing to the eye.

So how do cosmetologists differ from estheticians? The two professions both aim to give their clients more confidence and quality of life by improving their physical appearance, but their key difference lies in their separate focus. Cosmetologists study beauty treatments and procedures for the nails, hair, and skin, while estheticians specialize in skin care and treatment.

What Is the Difference Between an Esthetician and a Cosmetologist

Cosmetologists and estheticians are often confused with each other. Parts of their job description often overlap, and in some states, their licensing services are sometimes covered under the same procedures. Continue reading below as we discuss the key difference between the two professions in the beauty industry.

What Is an Esthetician?

Estheticians (also called facial specialist/skincare specialist) are licensed beauty practitioners knowledgeable in skin treatment, physiology, and disorders, and are thus beauty service providers solely focusing on skincare. They work in a variety of settings ranging from spas, salons, and skin clinics. A medical esthetician works in clinics assisting a dermatologist and applying skin esthetics in the clinical setting and helping treat skin conditions such as skin cancer.

In esthetician school, estheticians’ training involves the knowledge of skin anatomy, skin conditions, cosmetic chemistry, and procedures such as waxing and hair removals. Like cosmetologists, they can also choose specializations and train for different skin procedures. A licensed esthetician is qualified to do the following:

  • Facial treatments
  • Skin care treatments
  • Waxing
  • Microdermabrasion
  • Chemical peel
  • Body treatment
  • Permanent makeup
  • Hair removal
  • Spa management

What Is a Cosmetologist?

Cosmetologists (also called beauty specialists) are licensed professionals offering a wide variety of beauty services focusing on hair, skin, and nails. They often provide services as hairdressers, nail technicians, and makeup artists, and often work in beauty salons, spas, hotels, and resorts.

Cosmetologists are considered the “jack-of-all-trades” when compared with estheticians, being knowledgeable in services for hair, skin, and nails, but they can choose to focus on a specific area.

A licensed cosmetologist is responsible for beauty services like:

  • Makeup application
  • Nail care
  • Hair care
  • Basic waxing
  • Hair coloring, bleaching, and drying
  • Hair cutting and shaving
  • Facials and basic skin care
  • Scalp treatments
  • Salon management

Qualifications: What Can an Esthetician Do That a Cosmetologist Can’t, Vice Versa?

While cosmetologists cover a wider range of beauty services for the hair, nail, and skin, estheticians focus on skincare and healthy skin maintenance.

A licensed esthetician/skin care specialist is trained to solve problems such as skin aging, wrinkles, skin discoloration, and skin care for skin disorders. They are qualified to provide services targeting their clients’ certain skin problems with well-established skin treatments such as chemical peels, laser hair removal, waxing, and microdermabrasion, and can specialize in more fields. A medical aesthetician, for instance, specializes in clinical practice and is also authorized to assist physicians in providing specialized skin treatment for patients.

While licensed cosmetologists are not qualified to perform these services, they also provide beauty treatment services that estheticians are not licensed to perform. Hair styling, hair coloring, nail treatments, and scalp treatments. Although cosmetologists’ qualifications in skin treatment services are limited, they can advance their knowledge by specializing in skin treatment.

To summarize, a cosmetologist focuses on beauty, while estheticians focus on skin care. Regardless of their differences, their similarities lie in promoting their clients’ healthy physical appearance, in which services require attentive listening and proper treatment according to their client’s needs.

Salary Expectations: Who Makes More Money Esthetician or Cosmetologist?

Generally, salary expectations for estheticians and cosmetologists vary by state. Furthermore, they also vary based on your practitioner’s level of experience and depth of specialization. For instance, master esthetician programs can cost more than the basic esthetician program.

However, to give you an idea on the national scale, estheticians earn more with around $37,300 ($17.93/hour) per annum salary, while licensed cosmetologists earn around $29,680 per year ($14.27/hour) as in the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics 2021 data. Estheticians also have a better job outlook for the next 10 years, with a 17% outlook than cosmetologists who have 11%. However, cosmetologist employment is far larger by hundreds in terms of employment population than estheticians.

Education: What Is Cheaper Cosmetology School or Esthetician School?

Generally, school costs vary according to several factors such as where you live, the cost of materials and equipment, and the availability of scholarships. For instance, enrolling in a rural community college can prove less expensive for you.

However, cost ranges for esthetician schools ($4,000-6,000) are shown to be less expensive than cosmetology schools ($5,000-$15,000). For esthetician schools, however, costs can also range from $6,000 to $12,000 at private schools, while for more prestigious cosmetology schools such as the Aveda Institute, it can reach more than $17,000.

Services offeredMakeup application; nail care; hair care;
hair coloring; hair cut; scalp treatments; salon management
Facial treatments; skin care treatments;
waxing; microdermabrasion; chemical peel; permanent makeup; body treatment;
hair removal; spa management
Salary Expectations$29,680 per year ($14.27/hour)$37,300/year ($17.93/hour)
Job Outlook (2021-2031)11%17%
School Costs$5,000-$17,000$4,000-$12,000

How Can a Cosmetologist Become an Esthetician?

If you are a cosmetologist looking to focus more on skin care and treatment, you might be considering a specialization in esthetics. To do this, you don’t need to worry about starting from scratch after getting a cosmetology license, as most states only require that you pursue more training to be able to obtain an esthetician license. To learn more about these procedures, you must check your state’s requirements for an esthetician license.

You must however remember that after licensure, continuing education is still important for you to constantly expand your knowledge and improve your career opportunities in your chosen career path.

Choosing What Is Right for You: What Is Better Cosmetology or Esthetician?

In choosing between cosmetology and esthetics, aside from your logistical capabilities, you must consider which of your characteristics and passions are in line with the specializations that each discipline has to offer.

If you have a creative mind in seeing the best makeover for your clients, cosmetology might be for you. If you are looking to pursue specializations and be able to treat your clients’ skin with the utmost care, you might want to pursue esthetics. Either way, you’ll have the opportunity of making your clients feel more comfortable with themselves by providing them with the best beauty treatments.

Advance Your Esthetician Career With FACE Med Store’s Online Courses

Being an esthetician requires a continuous desire for growth and knowledge to be able to accommodate your clients’ needs. Here at FACE Med Store, we offer not only state-of-the-art esthetician products, but also online programs aiming to help estheticians serve their patients with the best services they deserve.

To learn more about our products, services, and course offerings, contact us now.

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.