What Is The Difference Between A Dermatologist And An Esthetician?

"I am interested in a career that allows me to help people with their skincare problems. I’m confused between studying esthetics or taking up dermatology because they seem to be the same. What is the difference between an esthetician and a dermatologist?"

asked by Joanne D. from Carlsbad, California

Estheticians and dermatologists are both skin specialists. They help clients address the different issues and disorders affecting their skin. They also need to attend school and be licensed before they can practice their respective jobs. They are actually both very different professions in terms of the education needed and the responsibilities they do.

The most basic difference between estheticians and dermatologists is the number of years required to study the profession. Estheticians need to attend a trade school that offers standard esthetic programs. The required time to complete the course is anywhere from three to six months. During that time, they must finish 250 to 1500 hours of training. In order to get into an esthetics program, students must hold a high school diploma or its equivalent and be at least 17 years old.

A dermatologist is actually a medical doctor. An aspiring dermatologist needs to spend many years in school in order to get this degree. Before one can get into medical school, she needs to obtain a four-year undergraduate degree. Formal medical school typically takes three years. This will be followed by around one or two years of residency and internship in order for one to specialize as a dermatologist.

The kind of training received by estheticians and dermatologists also determines the job they can do. Estheticians can analyze skin conditions, apply makeup and perform facials and body wraps and procedures. With advanced licensing, estheticians can also do laser hair removal, microdermabrasion, chemical peeling and other procedures.

Dermatologists, meanwhile, can do more extensive procedures.

For example, they can diagnose disorders, abnormalities and diseases of the skin. They also treat these problems with various procedures and write prescriptions to treat skin conditions. If warranted, they can perform surgery on skin problems. For example, they can remove moles or cysts. They can also detect skin cancer by performing skin biopsies as well as help in its treatment.

Another difference between these two positions is the fact that estheticians typically work under the supervision of dermatologists, particularly in medical spas.

Customers are often advised to see a dermatologist first if they have skin problems because they are the ones who can diagnose the problem and prescribe treatment solutions. It’s not uncommon to hear of some customers having their skin damaged because they got treatment from an esthetician who was not trained to perform a particular procedure.

Career Spotlight: Esthetician



People come to see estheticians in order to enhance the beauty and appearance of their skin. Estheticians perform a variety of facial treatments. They perform chemical peels, waxing, and body treatmen[...]

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