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Medical Esthetician vs. Esthetician: The Key Differences

Updated: Sep 26, 2022

While some facials, spa treatments, creams and techniques are applied in a spa setting, others may be applied in a dermatologist’s office. What are the differences between the workers who are allowed to touch a client’s skin in each environment? In essence, it’s the difference between a spa esthetician and a medical (also sometimes called paramedical) esthetician.

For those who take skincare seriously, this extra layer of formal training can open the door to more job opportunities, offer more thorough education and involve developing hands-on skills in more diverse settings. Let’s talk about the core differences between a medical esthetician vs. esthetician found in a spa or salon.

What is a medical esthetician?

A medical esthetician will provide advanced, medical-level skincare. They are trained to be familiar with chemistry, nutrition, pharmacology and advanced makeup techniques, working with chemical peels, exfoliants and other, more intensive treatments. They can work for doctors and on patients with more complex skincare needs.

What is an esthetician?

A non-medical esthetician, on the other hand, primarily provides skincare services to those with healthy skin in a non-medical settings. They will likely work in a spa, salon, business or other non-medical setting. They’ll be familiar with facials, waxing, extractions and some basic chemicals, but not have the training to work alongside a dermatologist. They might not be comfortable with, for instance, advanced chemical peels, advanced semi-permanent tinting or acne treatment.

What does a medical esthetician do?

Because they have more of a clinical focus, they can be allowed to work with everyone from burn victims to cancer patients to those with severe acne. On a day-to-day basis, they will be found addressing rashes, severe acne, burns and major blemishes via medical treatments with the advisement of the doctor. They can be found in hospitals, rehabilitation clinics and medical spas as well as dermatology, oncology or plastic surgery offices. They may train in everything from Ayurvedic treatments to microdermabrasion.

Other Differences Between a Medical Esthetician vs. Esthetician

  • An esthetician will work with clients, whereas a medical esthetician will work with a doctor’s patients.

  • A medical esthetician can work in medical settings like hospitals or trauma centers whereas an esthetician cannot without more training.

  • A medical esthetician may be trained in advanced hair removal, lymphatic draining, pre- and post-surgical skincare, tattoo removal and complex chemical peels.

  • Medical estheticians may use products and equipment specific to that dermatologist’s practice.

  • Medical estheticians can usually expect a higher salary as the job is more specialized.

  • Medical estheticians may also educate patients on at-home skincare routines.

  • Medical estheticians may have training in more advanced medical spa techniques, like laser light energy treatments, galvanic treatments or radio frequency treatments.

What are the main medical esthetician requirements?

Typically, becoming a medical esthetician involves getting all the training of an esthetician and then going above and beyond in terms of specialization. Our medical esthetician program, for instance, requires a total of 975 hours, whereas the normal esthetician program requires 300 or 600 hours. In both cases, hands-on experience is a vital part of the training.

How do you become a licensed medical esthetician?

Each state has its own licensing exams and procedures, but most states require that the test taker is at least 16 years old and has completed the 10th grade. Many states require licensure by the National Interstate Council of State Boards of Cosmetology, though not all do. Your specific state may also have more requirements. For instance, Virginia and Washington DC have a two-tiered licensing program, allowing you to get more advanced training.

These are the basics of how to become a medical esthetician, but if you have more questions about what kinds of jobs you would be trained for, which program is right for you or how long each program will take, connect with us. We’ll have more insights and be able to help you plan your career in the next few months.


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