What is a Beautician?

Beauticians are the professionals who work both in and out of beauty salons and barber shops to provide services that make others feel good and look great.

Beauticians (also often referred to as cosmetologists), armed with their tools and talents, create expertly arched eyebrows, an enviable blowout, the perfect smoky eye, or an impressively close shave. Often considered a confidant, a connoisseur of beauty, even a miracle worker by the clients they serve, beauticians are those personal service professionals who shampoo, trim, wax, massage, scrub, and buff us to perfection. Although cosmetic in nature, beauty services can give us confidence and uplift us by minimizing or correcting our imperfections, improving our complexions, and enhancing our best features.

The Various Beautician Specialty Areas

Beautician is a broad term often encompasses the following professions:

  • Hairdressers/hairstylists
  • Estheticians
  • Barbers
  • Makeup artists
  • Electrologists
  • Nail technicians (manicurists/pedicurists)

These personal appearance professionals are trained, educated, and licensed to perform specific cosmetic services. Beauticians licensed as state-licensed cosmetologists may perform hair, skin, and nail services, while other beauty professionals are licensed by the state to perform specific services related to skincare, nail care, and haircare:

Haircare Services

Haircare services include cutting, trimming, coloring, styling, conditioning, shampooing, and chemically curling or straightening. Cosmetologists providing haircare services may also work with wigs, hair extensions, or hairpieces. Most licensed cosmetologists focus their services on haircare and are commonly referred to as hairstylists or hairdressers. Beauticians who work primarily with men, cutting, trimming, and shaving hair and facial hair are typically licensed as barbers.

Nail Care Services

Beauticians who provide dedicated manicure and pedicure services are licensed as nail technicians. Licensed nail technicians provide a number of services, including shaping, trimming, buffing, and polishing the nails, applying artificial nails, and massaging the hands and feet.

Skincare Services

Beauticians who work exclusively in skincare services are referred to as estheticians. Estheticians may provide facials, waxing and tweezing of superfluous hair, and makeup artistry, and more advanced treatments like chemical peels and microdermabrasion. In many states, beauticians that perform laser hair removal must be licensed as electrologists. Makeup artists are often required to be licensed as estheticians.

State Requirements, Limitations, and Restrictions for Beauticians

Although there are broad job duties for beauticians in the U.S., these beauty professionals are ultimately bound by the state in which they provide their services. To date, all states in the U.S. license cosmetologists and barbers, although the requirements for licensure may vary significantly from one state to the next. Most states license cosmetologists through the state board of cosmetology, while some states license cosmetologists through the department of health or department of professional regulation.

All states recognize the completion of a formal cosmetology or barber program for licensure, while a few states also recognize the completion of an approved apprenticeship in lieu of an educational program. In general, educational hour requirements for a cosmetology or barber license range from 1,500 to 2,100, with apprenticeship hour requirements often significantly longer in duration.

Cosmetology and barbering programs are usually provided by beauty schools, barbering schools, schools of cosmetology, junior colleges, and vocational schools. A comprehensive cosmetology program includes both classroom training and practical experience.

After the completion of an approved cosmetology or barber education or apprenticeship, it is necessary for candidates to take and pass a written and practical state licensure examination, with many states utilizing the national examinations created by the National-Interstate Council of State Boards of Cosmetology (NIC).

The major differences in state cosmetology licensure occur among the cosmetology specialties. State license requirements for nail technicians, estheticians, makeup artists, and electrologists tend to be distinctly different from one state to the next.

For example, estheticians in Rhode Island must complete a program of 600 hours, while in Oregon an esthetician license requires the completion of a program of just 250 hours. Likewise, makeup artists in Kentucky must complete an esthetics program of at least 1,000 hours to qualify for licensure, while makeup artists in Louisiana need only complete a program of 40 hours to receive a state license to practice makeup artistry, and Connecticut makeup artists are not required to be licensed at all.

State licensing requirements may also include limitations on cosmetologists regarding where they can work, under what conditions they may work, and their specific job duties.

Beauticians in Business: The Professional Side of Beauty

Beauticians are not just focused on a pretty face; in fact, these beauty pros are often authorities in business. The Professional Beauty Industry, in its 2014 publication, Economic Snapshot of the Salon and Spa Industry, reported that non-employer salon establishments grew about 83 percent in the last decade, compared with just a 16 percent increase of employment-based establishments.

The trend toward non-employer salon establishments in the U.S. means that beauticians are working as their own boss more often than not. Instead of working as an employee of a salon, beauticians are likely renting a chair or booth space from a salon owner or working in a freelance capacity, providing their services to remote locations such as fashion shows, film and television sets, and theatrical productions.

Beauticians are often business owners, too, with everyone from hairstylists and estheticians to barbers and manicurists starting their own beauty business. Therefore, beauticians are skilled in not just beauty, but in business, sales, and marketing, as well.

The Qualities and Traits of Successful Beauticians

State licensure and regulation ensure that beauticians are adequately trained and educated to perform the personal care services they offer. However, beyond possessing the skills required to do their job, successful beauticians often possess a number of personality traits and qualities that allow them to gain a competitive edge in their profession:

  • Outgoing and friendly; positive attitude
  • Good listener; takes the time to listen to the needs and wants of their clients
  • Excellent interpersonal skills; works and communicates well with colleagues and clients
  • Confident, professional demeanor
  • Empathetic; understanding and considerate of the needs or problems of their clients
  • Clearly communicates all aspects of the services performed to their clients
  • Calm under hectic, stressful conditions
  • Punctual
  • Excellent multitasker

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