Choosing an Esthetician


We have all found our way here because of an interest in skincare and some of you may now be contemplating a career based on this interest. But even if you aren’t it is to your benefit to know a few things before you decide to trust your mug to just anyone! I do want to be clear though that these opinions are my own and that this is just one perspective, of which there are many.

The idea of doing this post came about when I answered a question on an thread from a user who was considering visiting an esthetician for help with their skin issues. I cautioned them, as did a number of other people, to first take some time to understand the basics of skincare pertaining to their own skin type. The user replied with the question:

“But isn’t that what estheticians go to school for? To know everything about skincare?”

Aaaand that’s why I’m writing this!

Licensed Esthetician General Requirements

Here in CA, in order to become a licensed esthetician you must complete 600 hours of training at an approved school. Once those hours are completed you then take the State Board Exam, comprised of written and practical parts, and if you pass and are all paid up with your school you are issued your license. These regulations vary from state to state, so check with your local equivalent of Board of Barbering and Cosmetology (BBC) for specifics. In cosmetology there was an option to do an apprenticeship without school — and that may be an option for esthetics — but again check your local BBC for info.

So to answer the question, “Isn’t that what estheticians go to school for?” The answer is yes and no. Yes, you do learn about skin, hair removal, facials, massage but most of it is within the context of passing the state board exam. Many techniques are painfully outdated and potentially harmful for skin (steaming with hot cloths? No!!!) So sure, you learn some basics but  you certainly don’t practice them long enough to become good at them. There were so many of us coming to class with scalded body parts during the waxing portion of our training — upper lips, brow bones, and worse … bikini area! Truly, most of what you learn in these programs is how to pass the state board exam, which has more to do with sanitary standards than anything else.

Most of us planned on doing an apprenticeship after the state board, but you don’t have to. This is why I am not super confident in the esthetician profession. Anybody can complete 600 hours (which is not a lot of time) and pass the state board and begin working. I would not have felt comfortable letting a new graduate do any procedures on me. To be fair, it is highly unlikely that any spa would hire you right out of school and let you begin working on clients. Most would put you through their training which could last anywhere from 6 months to 2 years. So keep in mind that an esthetician is only as good as their training. Which, after school, is not regulated apart from safety and sanitary standards and even then, that doesn’t always mean much. (Ever gone to a cheap nail salon? Double dip much?)

Choosing an Esthetician

The important thing to remember is that cosmetology school is not like medical school. Estheticians are not like dermatologists, dermatologists have to follow a strictly regulated curriculum, whereas estheticians do not. This is why it is so important to do your research because the quality of education for an esthetician can vary wildly.

With that in mind I’ve put some together some things to consider when choosing an esthetician and general advice so that you get the most from your experience:

  • Ask when, where, how long they did their training then look up that salon/spa and find out what skincare philosophy they espouse.
  • Ask how long they’ve been practicing. It might not be a deal breaker if they’re newer but it’s always good try to to get a big picture of their experience.
  • See what sort of products they sell. If they sell only one line and try to tell you it’s the best, run! We all know that every line will have it’s good and not so good products. If it’s a line you don’t recognize then look at the ingredients. Do they have a lot of potentially irritating ingredients? Fragrance? If they sell them that means they’ll use them on you too.
  • Look at online reviews. How satisfied are the clients? It’s not the best way to judge how good they are but at least you’ll get a sense of how happy their clients are.
  • Try to have a consultation before you commit to an appointment. Go over your concerns and what products/procedures they recommend, that way if you’re not familiar with something then jot it down and do some research.
  • A good esthetician will not get annoyed or angry at you for asking these questions so don’t be afraid! If they do, then find someone else.

I hope I didn’t scare you too much! Facials can definitely be a fun and relaxing experience and they should be viewed as that. They are not long-term solutions for the good, consistent care that you should provide on a daily basis nor are they substitutions for more complex skin issues that require a dermatologist.


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