From anti-aging and rejuvenation skincare services for the face and body to waxing and makeup artistry, the skincare services industry is more popular than ever and growing at an impressive clip. According to the BLS, there were 61,300 estheticians in 2016; by 2026, this number is projected to increase by 13.7% to 69,700.
The median salary for these skincare experts is $31,290 ($15.05), with the top 10% earning $59,790 ($28.75). But among those whose job is focused on the beautification of the skin, these salary stats don’t often tell the whole story.
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This is because total earning potential for estheticians is often enhanced with tips, bonuses and commissions on products and services, all of which can add 10%, 20%, or more to the bottom line. Depending on the market, location of the salon or spa, and cost of services, gratuities, bonuses, and commissions can significantly elevate base pay. In hot markets like Miami and Los Angeles, home to high-end salons and spas, it’s not uncommon for estheticians to earn well into the six figures.
Esthetician Salaries by Industry
Estheticians work in a variety of settings, although the two most popular are medical spas and skincare salons/spas. Those working in salons and spas earn a median salary of $40,300, while those in the offices of dermatologists and plastic surgeons earn a higher median salary of $43,880.
Estheticians in salons and spas usually provide facials, exfoliation treatments to the face and body, pore cleansing, and waxing. Many upscale salons, particularly those in resorts or hotels, offer additional luxury treatments, such as aromatherapy, body wraps, and trendy facials that are often associated with generous gratuity.
Today’s medical spas are a blend of a traditional salon and medical clinic. Medical spas are always staffed with a licensed medical doctor who operates within a specific scope of medicine, usually dermatology or plastic surgery.
In addition to advanced cosmetology procedures, such as Botox, which must be performed by a licensed medical practitioner, medical spas often provide a number of esthetics treatments, such as microdermabrasion, acid peels, and facials. In addition to providing these types of services, estheticians working in medical spas or physician’s offices may also assist the physician when performing these procedures. Estheticians in plastic surgeon offices also assist the physician by cleaning and sterilizing the equipment and providing pre- and post-operative care instructions to patients. This kind of responsibility comes with a higher salary, though gratuity in these settings isn’t customary.
Esthetician Salaries by Compensation Structure
Pay structures for estheticians vary on the settings in which they work.
Independent Contracting/Booth Rental
“Booth renters” is a term used to describe estheticians that work as independent contractors and pay a salon or spa a flat rental fee, usually on a weekly or monthly basis. Estheticians working as independent contractors purchase their own supplies, set their own hours of operation, set their own fees, and provide their own business insurance. As such, skincare professionals working as independent contractors are completely in control of their earnings. This type of compensation is usually most beneficial to established estheticians.
Team Member Compensation
Another common compensation structure seen in salons and spas is “team member” compensation, which means that salon or spa beauty professionals are paid a base pay, along with a commission salary package based on their position and the services they perform.
This type of compensation allows the employer to track the esthetician’s performance and pay them accordingly. Estheticians under this type of salary structure may also be tracked through their:
- Pre-booking percentage (the number of clients who booked their next appointment before leaving)
- Premium service percentage (determined by identifying service categories that come with higher prices)
- Retail sales percentage (determined by the amount of retail products sold)
The theory behind a commission-based structure is that employees perform better when the employers offer incentives for making more money. Therefore, estheticians who regularly complete pre-bookings, perform higher-priced services, and sell retail products for the salon or spa may enjoy a much higher income than their colleagues.
Hourly Pay Plus Commission
A straight commission salary structure is a standard for many salon and spa establishments, largely because it’s the most straightforward form of compensation. In a straight commission scenario, estheticians earn a small hourly salary, along with a percentage of their gross sales for work they performed during a specific time frame.
Some estheticians earn a straight salary, usually when working in more professional atmospheres, such as doctor’s offices and medical spas. Many times, a straight salary structure is readdressed on a quarterly basis, with the employer reviewing the esthetician’s productivity and sales and coming up with a salary structure that would directly reflect their sales average during the preceding period.
Esthetician Salaries by Location
Esthetician salaries are often influenced by geographic area. Cities and towns with higher household incomes and upscale resort towns are often home to higher-end salons and spas, which sets the stage for higher salaries for the estheticians who work there.
It comes as no surprise that the states with the highest median salaries for estheticians include Colorado ($52,020) and Hawaii ($51,930), both of which are home to upscale resort towns.
The following BLS table provides a further breakdown of esthetician salaries, by state and percentile:
Salary and employment data compiled by the United States Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics in May of 2018. Figures represent accumulated data for all areas of employment for skincare specialists https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes395094.htm. BLS salary data represents state average and median earnings for the occupations listed and includes workers at all levels of education and experience. This data does not represent starting salaries. Employment conditions in your area may vary.
All salary and job growth data accessed in July 2019.