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Esthetician vs. Cosmetologist: What’s the Difference?

By Laura
October 3, 2023
7 minutes

Sometimes you want to get your skin or hair treatment done by the right professional, but you don’t know where to go. There are cosmetologists and estheticians who offer these services but who is the right person to fulfill your needs?

A professional that expertise in a specific field will not only provide you with detailed and proper guidance but also the proper treatment. They know everything in depth so they will be able to provide you with the best treatment with minimum damage. For instance, if you want to get your nails done, a nail specialist will know what shape will suit you, and what color will go with a specific skin tone or a dress.

Similarly, when you are getting your laser treatment done by a professional, it will be a lot different than done by a quack. Hence, this article provides an in-depth guide on the difference between an esthetician and a cosmetologist so that you can know the right place to go according to your requirements.

Table of Contents:

Who is an Esthetician?

An Esthetician is a licensed professional responsible for providing skin care services to clients. They analyze your skincare requirements, suggest different treatment plans, recommend high-quality skincare products, and perform treatments like laser, facial, and massages.

They get their license after undergoing training and completing their 600-1000 studying hours. A detailed study of the anatomy of the skin, methods suitable for glowing skin, and long hours of practice make estheticians distinct from the untrained workers you find at random salons or spas.

You can find medical estheticians, skincare technicians, master estheticians, and spa therapists in the field of esthetics.

Who is a Cosmetologist?

A cosmetologist is a professional who gets his professional cosmetology license after completing 1,500 hours of necessary training. They learn technical skills and techniques that include designing and decorating your nails, giving you different hairstyles and hair colors, and giving you the perfect makeup look for your important events.

Before learning to work with a client’s nails, hair, or skin, a cosmetologist learns proper hygiene and sanitation principles so that you get to style yourself in a clean and safe environment.

Why Are Estheticians and Cosmetologists Confused With Each Other?

Estheticians and cosmetologists are often confused with each other as they both provide you with skin care and hair care. Whether you are going to a cosmetologist or an esthetician, they are both going to perform a procedure that helps in improving your appearance and giving you a groomed look. 

Let’s see what similarities do these have:

  • They both are responsible for providing you with beauty services like skin care, hair care, hair removal, and makeup
  • They both learn the hygiene and sanitation regulations so you will find them doing their work meticulously and immaculately
  • Cosmetologists and estheticians are well aware of your skin’s anatomy which means a minimum risk of accidents while getting your treatment done by them
  • They can be found in salons and spas

What is the Difference Between An Esthetician and Cosmetologist?

Both cosmetologists and estheticians are concerned with your beauty services and can be found in similar places. People often think that they can replace each other. However, they are different from each other in various aspects. Let’s know the difference.

What Does Each of Them Study?

Estheticians and cosmetologists mainly learn about the anatomy of skin and methods of skincare in depth. An esthetician mainly focuses on everything related to skincare including the professional procedures or other treatments that affect your skin in one way or the other.

They can train in some specialties like electrolysis, laser hair removal, microdermabrasion, waxing, and the application of makeup. Unlike an esthetician, cosmetologists mainly study a wider range of topics and subjects regarding grooming services.

They learn about styling your hair, doing beautiful makeup, cutting and painting your nails, cosmetics, and other treatments.

What’s Their Main Focus?

From the above point, you might still not have a clear idea about who to go to get your work done. So, let’s narrow it down to the main focus of both these fields so that you can have a clear idea.

An esthetician mainly focuses on grooming your skin and hair removal which is also for making your skin look smooth and soft. They will guide you about some healthy ways to maintain the beauty and radiance of your skin.

On the other hand, a cosmetologist works on providing you with skin relaxation therapies and styling you. This includes hair styling, facial, and makeup.

Where Can You Find Them?

Estheticians are usually seen in salons or places that offer skincare and hair removal services like microdermabrasion, laser hair removal, laser skin treatment, chemical peels, waxing, skin tightening, and rejuvenation therapies.

Some medical estheticians can work in hospitals or other restorative treatment centers. On the contrary, cosmetologists are more commonly seen in cosmetic clinics, hotels, spas, resorts, and barbershops for styling and coloring your hair.

Who Can Work with Your Nails?

Do you want to get your nails done or want to treat yourself with a manicure and pedicure but cannot decide between an esthetician and a cosmetologist? No problem, we have got you covered.

An esthetician is responsible for skincare, without a doubt but your nail treatments do not come under skin grooming.

They are a separate part of your body and a skilled cosmetologist can provide you the right treatment for them. The cosmetology professional cuts your nails, shapes them, polishes them, and gives them beautiful paints and designs.

To find a good place to get your nails done, you need some tips. They will help you find the best place for your pretty nails. So, read How to Choose a Quality Nail Care Salon?

Who to Go for Laser Therapy?

YAG laserLaser hair removal is a very good replacement for waxing, shaving, sugaring, or epilation. But the procedure is only beneficial when you are going to the right person for the treatment. It is because heat is used in this procedure to get rid of hair follicles from the body.

If any accidents occur, you are prone to skin burns, hyperpigmentation, inflammation, and the formation of lesions. To make sure any of this does not happen, you need to go to an esthetician or dermatologist.

An esthetician can perform laser hair removal or be a laser hair removal technician after getting advanced training and certification but a dermatologist is still a better option.

Who is Better for Skincare Therapies?

Estheticians are only focused on studying the curriculum regarding your skin. They train to give their clients professional treatments including facials, massages, masks, and others.

The Cosmetologists, on the other hand, cover many other fields so you should prefer going to someone who has given more time to skin and its vital needs to stay healthy and fresh.

So, in our point of view, if you want to get some skin treatments done, go to an esthetician instead of a cosmetologist.

Who Can Style Your Hair?

Hair styling, trying different hair colors, and haircuts is such an amazing trend nowadays. You must have thought at any time in your life that you want this specific hair color or a style but did not get it from the fear of destroying your hair.

At such times, when you want to keep your hair safe and still want to experiment with your hair, you can go to a cosmetologist. Hair coloring is one of their top expertise so you can go to them whether you want to hide your grey hair or want a new hair color.

Estheticians also work with hair, but they offer hair removal instead of hair coloring.

Can They Replace Each Other?

There are some common fields in which both estheticians and cosmetologists offer their services. For example, both cosmetologists and estheticians can do facials, waxing, and work in spas. In various states, cosmetologists can work as estheticians without any problem.

On the contrary, an esthetician cannot work as a cosmetologist. Therefore, it is okay to go for waxing or facial to a cosmetologist but if you want hair coloring or nail art, then do not even think about an esthetician because they are specialists in only skincare. 


With the increasing trend of skincare, hair styling, nail styling, hair removal, and other grooming procedures, everyone is looking for the right place to go to. Various colleges are offering professional courses and licenses for these treatments. 

Esthetics and cosmetology is one of those licenses people usually get performing these methods. However, the general public is unaware of what they can do or not. 

An esthetician is mainly responsible for the good condition of your skin and making it glowing while a cosmetologist is mainly concerned with improving your appearance through makeup, cosmetics, hair styling, and nail designing.

Each of them has their own duties and you need to understand their capabilities so that you choose the right person to go to when in need.

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