What is An Estheticianand How is it Different from a Dermatologist?

Curated by Claudia Shannon / Research Scientist / ishonest

If you’re as confused as we are (guilty!) and wondering when you should see one specialist over the other, we asked two experts to clarify exactly what an esthetician can do for your skin—plus, how to find a credible esthetician, what types of procedures and pricing to expect, and the best at-home tips for maintaining your newly serviced skin.

What is an esthetician, anyway?

Estheticians are trained to work on the very top layer of skin (aka the epidermis) and help clients with issues that run the gamut from wrinkles to acne, Cox tells ishonest. In school, they learn skin histology— how the skin functions as both an organ and a system in the body—anatomy, skin types and conditions, and how to identify when something is beyond their level of education and should be referred to a dermatologist, adds Cox. Estheticians also practice the proper way to deliver facials, face or body waxes, and makeup application, and learn how to ensure a client is safe and protected throughout a treatment.

Are estheticians really that different from dermatologists?

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Dermatologists attend undergrad, medical school, and participate in a residency program, which in total could take almost 12 years of training to complete in order to become a licensed physician. Estheticians, on the other hand, are not medically trained or licensed physicians.

“While estheticians are limited to the top layer of skin, a dermatologist is trained to also go below the skin surface and diagnose skin conditions and diseases,” says Cox. If an esthetician comes across a suspicious-looking mole that could be skin cancer, they will recommend you see a dermatologist. Dermatologists also have the ability to administer prescriptions and medicine to treat a wide range of skin concerns, she continues.

How do you find a credible esthetician

When searching for an esthetician, Cox suggests starting by word of mouth and asking friends and family members if they have any recommendations. Then, browse online for skincare clinics in your area and review their websites and service menus to see if anything excites you, or use sites like Yelp to read reviews. Don’t feel limited to the internet, either: If there’s a clinic near your neighborhood or office, stop in and ask if you can view the treatment room to get a feel for the space.

Once you reach out to book an appointment, ask questions about their years of experience, as well as if they specialize in one area, like acne-prone skin or anti-aging skincare. And don’t be nervous to ask to see their license (although it’s required by law to post it in plain view), and make sure you feel comfortable and safe before committing to an appointment, says Cox.

Should you see an esthetician?

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Okay, you’re on the fence on whether you should visit an esthetician. Who’s the ideal candidate? One word: Everyone. Whether you’re a teenager with hormonal breakouts or a senior citizen with dryness and wrinkles, it’s an esthetician’s job to service your skin. From offering deep facial cleanses and massages to removing dead skin buildup to getting rid of blackheads, estheticians help restore brighter complexions, explains Cox.

What can you expect when you book an esthetician appointment?

Services vary from lunch-time mini appointments (from $50) to in-depth anti- aging treatments that can last from 90 minutes to 2 hours (from $100 to $300). You can book routine services like manicures ($25), waxes (from $20), and spray tans; or buzzier treatments, including infrared light therapy to address wrinkles and fine lines, microcurrent devices to tone and lift facial muscles, and oxygen treatments to rehydrate skin.

7 Esthetician-approved skincare tips

For maintaining youthful, radiant skin, estheticians offer seven tricks—from the best anti-aging ingredients to the exact skincare products you should be using in your 30s and beyond—to incorporate into your routine between appointments.

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