May 21, 2024

Esthetics vs Cosmetology: What’s the Difference?

Esthetics VS Cosmetology, What's the difference?

Becoming a beauty professional, you have several career paths to choose from. Among the primary differences is the divergence between cosmetology and esthetics. Cosmetology focuses on general beauty skills, from the top of your client’s head to the tips of their toenails and everything in between. Cosmetologists are often hair stylists, nail technicians, and beauty consultants. 

Esthetics, however, allows a beauty professional to focus more exclusively on skin care with greater attention to the health and wellness side of beauty. Estheticians are more likely to be found in spas and even medical clinics.

With such a profound difference, it’s important to choose the right field based on your personal interests and career goals. Academy of Hair Design is pleased to take you on a guided tour through the difference between esthetics and cosmetology to help you make the right choice.


What is Esthetics?

Esthetics is the study of skincare, personalized skin health, and highly skilled skin treatment services. Estheticians typically work in spas, medispas, and health clinics, where they provide clients with personalized skin care consultations and treatments. Estheticians are well-prepared to enter skin care product development, with an in-depth knowledge of ingredients and their effects on each type of skin.

Typical services offered by professional estheticians include facials, waxing, chem peels, spa skin treatments, and skin health consultations. These are the skills you will learn in beauty school, with many options for skin-related specializations. Estheticians also learn about eyelash and makeup treatments, as these relate directly to skin health.


What is Cosmetology?

Cosmetology covers a broader range of beauty services, and tends to focus more on beauty styling than on skin care alone. Cosmetologists often become hair stylists, makeup artists, nail technicians, or beauty and style consultants. In hair styling, they learn far more about hair cutting, occasion styling, hair coloring, and chemical treatments. They learn about nail and skin care, but also nail styling and facial makeup styles and application techniques.

Cosmetologists do learn about skin treatments and can perform facials and other skin treatments but may need specialized classes to gain the depth of skin care knowledge of an esthetician. However, estheticians do not train on hair or nails.


Training Requirements for Esthetics vs Cosmetology

The programs for esthetics training vs cosmetology training are very different.

Cosmetology Training

To gain a Nevada cosmetology license, a student must complete far more comprehensive beauty training, while esthetics has a shorter and more tightly focused program learning all about skin care.

Cosmetology training requires a total of 1600 hours, which can be completed in as little as 10 months, including classroom time and hands-on practice with guest clients. This includes a wide range of hands-on practice with each of the many treatments and techniques you will learn along the way.

Cosmetology program courses include:

  • Hair cutting and styling
  • Hair color and treatments
  • Facials, waxing, and microdermabrasion
  • Manicures and pedicures
  • Eyelashes
  • Makeup
  • Salon management
  • Laws and regulation compliance

Esthetics Training

Estheticians focus much more tightly on skin care without concern for the full scope of beauty services. This allows them to undergo a shorter program, which only requires 600 hours (as little as 6 months)  for a Nevada esthetician’s license. Training time includes classroom learning and hands-on opportunities to practice treatments on guest clients. Hands-on study is essential, with a chance to become skilled at advanced skin care techniques with expert focus on cleanliness, safety, and personalized attention to client health.

Esthetics program courses include:

  • Facial massage
  • Skin treatments
  • Microdermabrasion
  • Makeup application
  • Eyelashes
  • Waxing
  • Salon management skills
  • Sanitation and safety
  • Laws and regulations


Career Opportunities

Estheticians and cosmetologists enjoy very different career paths. While they often work side-by-side in salons and spas, each has a different set of specialties and, therefore, paths they can follow.

Cosmetologists become hair stylists, nail technicians, and makeup stylists. This career path could have a greater chance of advancing into entertainment, from high-end salons to platform stylists and stylists for television, movies, or even live productions. Event planning, such as wedding styling, is another fun path. Cosmetologists also have a greater chance of becoming beauty consultants or opening their own salon. 

Estheticians have a more medical focus and are more likely to follow a path into medi-spa treatments or even working alongside doctors and nurses in specialized clinics like dermatology offices. Estheticians are more often found in spas and medi-spas offering advanced and personalized skin treatments and skin care consultations. They are also likely to seek continuing education as they choose a specialty and stay abreast of the latest medical skin care advancements.


Choosing the Right Path

How do you choose between esthetics and cosmetology when entering beauty school? It all depends on the future career you see for yourself. Consider your personal interests and career aspirations. If you want to focus on beauty and glamour through hair, nail, or makeup services, if you have aspirations in the entertainment industry, or if you dream of opening your own salon, then cosmetology is likely the best path for you.

If you dream of quiet, exclusive spas and providing highly specialized health-focused care for your clients, then you may prefer to be an esthetician. Your opportunities will include medical clinics medi-spas, or even beauty product design if you trend behind-the-scenes into the more corporate world.

Consider your ideal working environment, the client relationships you want to cultivate, and where you envision your career end-goal as you make this important decision.


Esthetics or Cosmetology? Which is Best for Your Career Plans?

When deciding which program to pursue in beauty school, the first step is to understand the difference between esthetics and cosmetology.  One focuses exclusively on skin care and health, the other focuses on all things related to beauty styling and treatments.

It can take less time to become an esthetician, but likely involves more continual training to follow specializations. It can take longer to become a cosmetologist, but you can be well-equipped to start offering a full scale of beauty services and even plan to open your own salon.

Estheticians can trend toward the medical field, while cosmetologists can trend toward event or entertainment styling. Estheticians become skin care consultants, and cosmetologists become style consultants. Which is the right path for you? Explore program options and discuss your choice with industry professionals at Academy of Hair Design.

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