What is Esthetics?

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Thanks to aging baby boomers, many of which are seeking non-invasive treatments to help them look more youthful, along with an increase in disposable income among many Americans, esthetics is experiencing an “explosion of growth,” according to Associated Skin Care Professionals (ASCP).

Esthetics (or aesthetics as it is sometimes spelled) is rooted in the branch of philosophy that is directly related to the relationship between the senses and matters of beauty, art, and taste. However, in the beauty industry, esthetics refers directly to the health and beautification of the skin.

Esthetics, in more technical terms, refers to the application of various techniques to the epidermal layer of the human body. The practice of esthetics covers a wide array of techniques that may include (but certainly is not limited to) steaming, waxing, extraction, chemical peels, and pore cleansing.

Understanding the Role and Legal Limitations of an Esthetician

What Estheticians Can Do

Estheticians are state licensed health and wellness professionals, with the exception of Connecticut’s estheticians, who are not required to be state licensed. Estheticians must complete a course of training and/or education and pass specific state written and practical examinations to earn licensure through their state board of cosmetology or department of health.

A few states (including Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington State, and Washington D.C.) license master estheticians, as well, who are allowed to perform more advanced treatments, such as lymphatic drainage.

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The work of estheticians involves applying treatments and performing procedures to the skin as a way to maintain its health and vitality, improve its overall appearance, and combat the effects of sun exposure and aging.

Estheticians are trained in skin wellness, most often helping their clients combat complexion problems through a number of therapies and practices. In addition to engaging in therapies that are designed to improve the tone, texture, color, and youthfulness of the skin of the face and neck, estheticians may perform a wide range of body therapies, as well, such as salt or sugar scrubs, body wraps, and hair removal.

Waxing, threading, or using depilatories to remove unwanted hair is a common practice for estheticians, as is the application of makeup. In spa settings, estheticians often perform procedures and treatments that are just as much about the mind and the spirit as they are about the body. As such, therapies such as hot stone massages, mud baths, and aromatherapy are popular additions to the repertoire of many estheticians.

Many times clients seek out estheticians to perform treatments that fight lines and wrinkles or dry skin, eczema, or acne, while many clients make appointments with their favorite esthetician to enjoy a rejuvenated or refreshed complexion. Finally, some clients view a trip to the esthetician as a luxurious indulgence, where they can relax and unwind.

What Estheticians Cannot Do

Although the term “medical esthetics” is often thrown around, esthetics is not a medical practice and estheticians are not allowed to diagnose, prescribe, or treat skin conditions or diseases. Instead, medical skin care services are left strictly up to licensed medical professionals, such as dermatologists.

Estheticians are sometimes found working in offices of medical practitioners, such as dermatologists and plastic surgeons, but their expertise is solely in cosmetic skincare, with any type of invasive procedure always left to medical professionals who specialize in disorders of the skin.

Their work in these medical settings often includes providing patients with complementary and support therapies. However, estheticians are trained to recognize a number of medical conditions affecting the skin and may therefore refer their clients to a medical professional in these instances.

The Services Estheticians Perform and The Places They are Employed

Estheticians may use a variety of techniques and treatments on their clients, from basic steam facials to trendy treatments like seaweed wraps and paraffin facials. Their work involves the use of creams, lotions, masks, serums, and wraps, many of which are created with antioxidants, botanicals, essential oils, and infused scents that provide the client with a sensory experience that promotes relaxation and rejuvenation.

Estheticians also often use mechanical or electrical appliances and devices, such as microdermabrasion machines, brushing machines, electric pulverizers, atomizers, and galvanic current to achieve the desired effect.

A small sampling of the services provided by estheticians includes:

  • Microdermabrasion
  • Chemical peels
  • Laser resurfacing
  • Laser skin rejuvenation
  • Light therapy
  • Thermage
  • Waxing/threading/chemical hair removal
  • Facials
  • Face and body masks and wraps
  • Makeup application
  • Manual or mechanical extraction
  • Pore cleansing
  • Body scrubs (salt and sugar scrubs) and other types of exfoliation
  • Aromatherapy
  • Moisturizing treatments
  • Acne treatments
  • Scalp massage and treatments

The Associated Skin Care Professionals recognizes that the majority of estheticians provide skincare services in a spa, salon, or private practice setting, while the remaining generally provide more “health-care oriented” services and therefore work in clinical settings alongside medical doctors.

The increase in luxury destination spas throughout the U.S. has also allowed the field of esthetics to experience rapid growth. In 2009 alone, there were 143 million spa visits in the United States, with the majority of visitors going to day spas.

Estheticians may also find a wealth of opportunities freelancing for the film, music, theater, and fashion industries and some estheticians may focus their careers on a specific area of esthetics, such as hair removal, makeup artistry, or laser procedures.

In addition to day spas and salons, estheticians often enjoy successful careers in dedicated esthetics spas.

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