What Is Cosmetology?

Cosmetology comes from the Greek word “kosmētikos” which means “skilled in adornment.” In modern day use, it refers to a field of study of cosmetics and their use. While the term “cosmetics” is now used broadly to refer to makeup, it is actually anything that beautifies and improves a person’s physical characteristics and features. The cosmetology profession includes not only makeup but beautifying the hair, skin and even nails.

Based on historical accounts, scholars believed that the formal establishment of cosmetology as a profession happened in Ancient Egypt. Back then, Egyptian women members of the royal courts asked helpers to fashion their hair into different styles and smoothen their skin with different skin creams that they themselves had created.

These days, cosmetology schools have formalized the art of beautifying men, women and children by offering cosmetology degrees. These programs teach aspiring beauticians the art and science of hair care, nail care, skincare and makeup application. Some schools allow students to concentrate on a particular area while others discuss all topics. It’s best for students to ask the school about the breadth and scope of their cosmetology program before proceeding with enrollment. At the very least a cosmetology course lasts nine months, although an associate’s degree in cosmetology may take a couple of years to finish.

In a cosmetology associate’s degree program, students will not only take up courses related to beauty. They will also be taught business principles, such as accounting and managing in a salon or beauty care setting. They will also learn sanitation rules and safety regulations of operating a beauty establishment as well as techniques in providing excellent customer service. They will also be taught the basics of chemistry as makeup and other applications used in the industry have chemical components that beauty professionals need to understand.

Cosmetology schools train their students not only in theory but in practice as well. Demonstrations are given by instructors on how a particular task is carried out and students are then asked to do the procedure themselves. It is during hands-on practice when instructors see where they need to be corrected or improved on. The feel of a real salon setting is often provided in these practice sessions as students are asked to work on real clients.

Getting training from a cosmetology school approved by the state is important for aspiring cosmetologists because it is a requirement for licensure. All states require barbers, hairdressers and cosmetologists to obtain their license before they can practice their profession. While requirements vary from state-to-state, they generally require students to have their high school diploma, be at least 16 years old, graduate from a cosmetology school and pass a state licensing exam.

Cosmetology professionals also have to be prepared for various hazards that come with the profession. Regular tools of the trade like hair dyes, acrylic glues and hair removal creams contain harsh chemicals that can cause breathing problems with prolonged exposure and skin irritation when handled without the necessary protective wear. Scissors and other cutting implements can potentially injure cosmetologists and hairdressers when they’re not careful. To avoid the possibility injury, salons often ask their employees to wear gloves, aprons and other protective wear. They also restrict the number of services that beauty professionals can do within a particular day so they don’t get overexposed to the harsh chemicals.

Individuals who are aspiring to break into the field of cosmetology must be able to effectively use the techniques and skills they learned in school to different kinds of people. While they may know how to apply makeup, the challenge lies in making the person with different kinds of facial shapes look beautiful.

For example, a person who is already endowed with high and well-defined cheekbones will only need a little blushing to highlight its prominence while someone who has a rounder face may need to be contoured a little bit more. Someone with angular features may also need to be softened using blush and foundation to achieve the desired look.

Cosmetology is a very rewarding field because it helps make people more confident. People are always encouraged to put their best foot forward when they look and feel good. This is what cosmetologists strive to do in their day-to-day tasks.

Career Spotlight: Cosmetologist



As a cosmetologist, you will provide a variety of beauty treatments for your customers. Most often cosmetologists are licensed as hairstylists, in which they perform haircuts, color treatments, highli[...]

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