How Do I Become a Skin Specialist?

Skin specialists are beauty professionals in the cosmetology industry. Learn about the job duties of a skin specialist, and find out what you need to become one. Explore the training options, licensure requirements and typical salary for a skin specialist. Schools offering Esthetics degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is a Skin Specialist?

A skin specialist, also known as a skin care specialist or esthetician, is an expert in nonmedical skin treatments. They typically work in salons or spas, where they offer a wide range of services to promote skin health and beauty. For instance, they may provide hair removal treatments or apply makeup. In addition, they advise their clients on skin care techniques and products; they may also refer clients to dermatologists if they notice a serious skin problem. After each treatment, they are responsible for disinfecting equipment in order to ensure a safe work environment. Some skin specialists are also salon owners, so they are responsible for staff oversight, skin product inventory and advertising.

The table below provides some more information about a job as a skin specialist.

Degree Required Postsecondary certificate or associate's degree
Educational Field of Study Esthetician or Cosmetology
Key Responsibilities Evaluate skin conditions; recommend treatments; implement treatments (hair removal, makeup application, facials); advise clients on skin care techniques and products
Licensure Requirements Licensure required by all states except Connecticut
Job Growth (2014-2024) 12% (for all skin care specialists)*
Median Annual Salary (2015) $30,090 (for all skin care specialists)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Are the Job Duties of a Skin Specialist?

As a skin care specialist, or esthetician, you're responsible for using cleaning, moisturizing and treatment techniques and processes that help improve, repair and maintain the condition of skin. Unlike a dermatologist, a skin care specialist's work is primarily cosmetic in nature. Although you might qualify for some positions in a physician's office, you'll typically find work as a skin care specialist in a beauty parlor, spa or salon.

You'll provide clients with chemical peels, facials, massages and cleanses. Other job duties might include waxing facial hair or using laser treatments. Using your expertise of skin types and products, you'll make personal recommendations for moisturizers and cleansers to help clients maintain healthy skin and a youthful appearance.

What Education Will I Need?

In order to work as a skin care specialist, you need to complete a state-approved esthetician or cosmetology program, which may result in either a postsecondary certificate or associate's degree. While enrolled in such a program, you're generally required to study skin care theory and the anatomy of the face. You'll learn about safety and sanitation techniques, chemical agents, skin care products, facial techniques, makeup application and light therapy, as well as how to prepare a salon and utilize specialized treatment machines. Courses typically consist of a combination of lecture-based and hands-on training. Some programs also include internships at affiliated salons or spas. If you choose an associate's degree program, you will also be required to complete general education courses.

What Licensure Will I Need?

Unless you plan to work in Connecticut, you'll need to gain a state license in order to work as an esthetician. Each state has its own qualifications for skin care specialists and cosmetologists. Most states have a minimum age restriction and require that you obtain formal education from an approved school. You'll need to take a written exam, and some states also include practical testing in your field. You might be required to complete some continuing education courses to maintain your license.

What Salary Could I Expect to Earn?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), there were 40,190 skin care specialists employed in the United States in 2015, and the median annual wage was $30,090 (www.bls.gov). The BLS reported that the vast majority of skin care specialists worked for personal care services, such as day spas and beauty salons; however, the highest salaries were offered by colleges, universities and professional schools.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Instead of becoming a skin specialist, you could become a hairdresser or hairstylist. Like skin specialists, you would usually work in a salon environment, but your services would typically include washing, cutting, coloring and styling hair. You might also recommend products that support hair health and improve appearance. For this job, you would need to complete a postsecondary training program. Alternatively, you could consider getting a job as a massage therapist. Massage therapists use tissue manipulation techniques to relieve pain, reduce stress, promote injury recovery and generally improve the health of their clients. Some rub oils or lotions on their clients' skin as part of the treatment. In order to work as a massage therapist, you need to complete a postsecondary training program, and most states also require licensure.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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  • Steiner Education Group

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    • Maryland: Linthicum
  • Virginia College

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  • Westside Tech

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    • Florida: Winter Garden
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    • Tennessee: Jackson
  • West Georgia Technical College

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    • Georgia: Waco
  • W Academy of Salon and Spa

    Campus Locations:

    • California: Danville
  • Victoria's Academy of Cosmetology

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    • Washington: Kennewick
  • Wiregrass Georgia Technical College

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    • Georgia: Valdosta
  • VICI Aveda Institute

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    • Wisconsin: Greenfield