Cosmetology Degree Programs

What are "personal appearance workers?"

The term “personal appearance worker” is a very broad description for professionals who perform services associated with beauty and personal grooming. The term is widely inclusive and is used to describe cosmetologists, all manner of sub-specialties of cosmetology, hairstylists, manicure/pedicurists, estheticians and shampooers.

What is a cosmetologist?

A cosmetologist is a licensed professional who specializes in beauty treatments. “Cosmetology” is a broad term that encompasses a number of sub-specialties. A cosmetologist can offer a full array of services and treatments, or specialize in one or more areas.

Cosmetology as an industry includes hair styling, including cutting, styling and chemical treatments such as coloring and permanents; nail treatments including manicures and pedicures; cosmetic services, including skin and color analysis, eyebrow or eyelash tinting, application training and special event cosmetic application; and skin

What is the difference between a cosmetologist and an esthetician?

While a cosmetologist has license to offer a wide range of general services and may offer skin care treatments or sell skin care products, an esthetician – or facialist – is a professional who has specialized in skin care and treatment of the face exclusively. In some states, becoming licensed to perform esthetic treatment of the face and surrounding areas – including hair removal by use of depilatories (chemical or wax), electrolysis or mechanical tweezing – requires specialized training and licensure.  In all cases, skin care treatments by a cosmetologist or esthetician can only affect the topmost layer of skin, the epidermis. This may include exfoliation, chemical peels or microdermabrasion. Any treatments that involve live skin cells (the dermis) can be rendered only by medical professionals.

Do I need a license to offer beauty services?

The delivery of beauty services is a sophisticated process that requires a basic understanding of anatomy and human biology as it pertains to the skin and skin conditions.  These skilled professionals are granted licensure based on their masterful understanding of sanitation practices, proper use of equipment, proper use of products, and potential conflicts in treatment when used in combination with other treatments and certain products. 

In short, estheticians and all other cosmetologists must have a full understanding of the limitations inherent to the delivery of beauty services as it pertains to the treatment of possible medical conditions. For these reasons, all states require the professionals who offer these services to be licensed. The scope of the license varies from state to state, with some states offering vary broad licenses for “beauticians” or  “cosmetologists” that include the full array of services that might be provided, and with some states offering licenses with a more narrow scope that only apply to services performed to the face or hands. In all states, the license application requires applicants to provide evidence of an education through state-approved institutions including a specified number of hours spent in hands on clinical training, as well as proof of having passed a competency exam administered by the state.

What other types of services can a cosmetologist provide?

In addition to the more traditional services of hair care, skin care, nail treatments and cosmetic services, a cosmetologist can pursue supplemental training to provide more specialized services including electrolysis and laser hair removal, tooth whitening treatments and spa treatments. In most of these cases, being allowed to perform these specialized procedures is dependent on attaining specific certifications through targeted programs.  Many state boards do not include these procedures in the standard cosmetology license; so being legally qualified to provide these specialized services is dependent on specialized training and certification.

Continuing education through cosmetology schools is common in the personal appearance industry as techniques, styles, trends and procedures are constantly evolving. Professionals in spa-type salons may also work closely with massage therapists or other body workers to provide a holistic approach to beauty and wellness all in one place. It is important to note that although a cosmetologist or esthetician may offer some massage treatment to the upper body, face or neck, most states require specific licensure for massage therapists who perform whole body massage or deep tissue manipulation. Some cosmetologists may even pursue training to learn how to apply “permanent make-up,” or cosmetic tattoos, usually eyebrows, or eye or lip-liner.

Cosmetology Schools