Upgrade from Cosmetology to Esthetics to Work in a Medispa?

Upgrade from Cosmetology to Esthetics

Home > Ask the Guidance Counselor > Cosmetologist > Upgrade from Cosmetology to Esthetics to Work in a Medispa?

Hello Guidance Counselor,

I am currently working with my cosmetology license in a spa-like environment. I want to further my career and be more knowledgeable in the field of skin care. Specifically I would like to do chemical peels and work with different machines, more in a clinic/medical setting. I am wondering if just taking advanced classes would be the best route, or should l consider getting an esthetics license, or even both? I feel like I didn't learn much about skin care while I attended beauty school. I think if I did esthetics training I would feel more confident in every skin service I provide to my clients. From experience, usually when you tell someone coming in for a facial that you are a cosmetologist, they think you are a hairdresser. Even though you may have had the best continuing ed classes, people still think there's someone better out there because they hold a different certification than I do. Any suggestions? Thanks so much for your time.

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Hi Tierney,

Thanks for writing! There are a few different aspects to your question. It's true that most hairdressers are cosmetologists, but not all cosmetologists are hairdressers. A few of the women I graduated cosmetology school with became facialists with very loyal clients. If you enjoy doing facials and waxing and have some talent for it, explain that you are certified to treat hair, skin and nails and they are in the best of professional hands. I believe we should defend our profession. Tell your clients that you worked long and hard to become a professional cosmetologist and are licensed to do facials, waxing, and to apply peels and masks. You may not be able to puncture the skin or draw blood, but few estheticians need to do that in order to treat their clients.

You do have a point that you would be better educated about the nature of the skin with an esthetics certification. There is a technical difference in the licenses of estheticians and cosmetologists, in which estheticians are allowed to use implements and machines to treat the skin below the surface. Cosmetologists can only treat the epidermis (the surface layer that lacks blood vessels or nerves) with topical treatments, which are sometimes limited in their efficacy. I have considered becoming an esthetician because of my interest in waxing, but there are many techniques I can teach myself.

Also, if you have not had training from the products you use in the spa, ask for some product knowledge classes or to be sent to an institute in exchange for your continued employment. Many skincare companies have dedicated schools where you can learn advanced techniques and product knowledge. Check out the National Coalition of Estheticians, Manufacurers/Distributors & Associations for ideas on continuing education and professional guidelines.

Should you earn an esthetics license?

I suggest you begin your career advancement with those steps and see if you feel more confident about your abilities before committing to earn another license that is nearly as hours-intensive as is cosmetology (in my state, cosmetology requires 1600 hours, esthetics, 1500). If you are interested in laser treatments, chemical peels, permanent makeup or electrolysis, you will need both an esthetician license and several advanced certifications. Electrolysis even requires its own state board exam, upon which you must demonstrate electrolysis techniques on a live model.

Also, to work in a medispa environment you will need advanced knowledge about how the skin heals and sometimes the muscles underneath, if you will be advising patients on aftercare for Botox, fillers like Restylane and Juvederm, or healing processes for laser treatments or in-office procedures. I think it's great that you want to build on your existing knowledge and learn new skills. Outpatient treatments are growing in demand all the time, as more women (and men) fight aging with a number of little tweaks and tucks, so you will have plenty of opportunities for employment in the medi-spa field.

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