COS vs EST pic

Esthetics vs Cosmetology: What’s the Difference?

April 11th, 2020


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What are the differences between studying esthetics and cosmetology? This is one of the most common questions many future beauty professionals face when it comes to deciding which direction to take their career. While there is some overlap of skills studied by esthetics and cosmetology students in the classroom, the two roles tend to be quite different from one another in practice. Understanding the fundamental differences between pursuing each license is a crucial step when it comes down to choosing which program is the right fit for you.


Cosmetology and esthetics professionals often work in similar environments and can expect a high likelihood of ending up working alongside each other in a spa or salon setting. The two professions share comparable salaries, although it is important to keep in mind that salary generally reflects skill in the beauty industry and can vary dramatically depending on your level of expertise and years of experience. Whether you’re training for a career in esthetics or cosmetology, your courses will likely go over a handful of overlapping skills. For example, it is not uncommon for cosmetology students to receive lessons related to general skincare and makeup application, although as an esthetics student, your lessons on these topics will go much more in depth and take longer to complete. Both career paths require a license before you can start practicing legitimately, but the key similarity that ties the two lines of work together is the fact that they are strongly people-centered careers with the end goal of making your clients look and feel beautiful.

How Esthetics Differs

Esthetics is all about caring for your client’s skin and treating their concerns in the most beneficial ways possible. As an esthetician, you will specialize in advanced skincare treatments, such as microdermabrasion, facials, chemical peels, body wraps, microneedling, the application of lash extensions, waxing, light therapy, and more. It is not uncommon to gain a skill set that consists of niche treatments not offered at traditional salons. Because esthetics programs focus primarily on skincare, students gain in depth knowledge and experience in their field without needing to spend as much time in the classroom as a cosmetology student would before earning a license. Esthetics programs tend to be more affordable for this reason.

How Cosmetology Differs

Cosmetology is strongly focused on hair, although compared to esthetics it is a much broader program in terms of the variety of skills learned. Some cosmetologists choose to place a heavier focus on makeup or nails, but the profession consists primarily of styling, cutting, and coloring your client’s hair. A cosmetologist’s skincare knowledge will not go as in depth as an esthetician’s, but basic treatments and general skincare practices will still be included in the curriculum of a quality program. As a cosmetology student, along with in-depth lessons revolving around understanding and working with hair, you can expect to gain basic esthetics and nail technology training, as well as comprehensive shop management and client relations education.

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