Cosmetology vs. Esthetics

Beauty is big business. It grew from $483 billion in revenue in 2020 to $511 billion in 2021. Its revenue is expected to top $750 billion by 2027.1 

Careers in the beauty industry are also expected to grow by leaps and bounds over the next 10 years. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that opportunities for estheticians will increase by 17%2 and that opportunities for cosmetologists will increase by 11%.3

If you love beauty, pursuing a career as an esthetician or cosmetologist may be the right move. But is one role different from the other? Read on to learn what an esthetician is and what a cosmetologist does.

What Is Esthetics?

Esthetics refers to techniques and methods that enhance the beauty of the skin. Specifically, people who work as estheticians focus on providing cosmetic treatments to the surface layers of the skin, also known as the epidermis. 

Some of the cosmetic treatments that fall under the esthetics branch include:

  • Facials: During a facial, an esthetician applies products that clean, exfoliate and moisturize the skin. They may also lightly massage the shoulders and face during the treatment and may use steam to soften the skin.
  • Waxing: Estheticians may wax the body to remove unwanted hair. Common areas include the upper lip, legs, eyebrows, and bikini zone.
  • Acne treatments: While estheticians won’t provide medical treatments to clear up acne, they may perform extractions to clear clogged pores or apply acne-fighting products during a facial.
  • Body wraps and scrubs: The work of estheticians isn’t limited to the face. They may also scrub the skin of the body or apply body wraps to help moisturize the torso, arms, and legs.
  • Makeup: Some estheticians also apply makeup or can make recommendations for cosmetics.
  • Microdermabrasion: Microdermabrasion is a light skin treatment that removes the upper layer of dead skin cells. The esthetician uses a special tool to exfoliate the skin.
  • Chemical peels: Chemical peels also exfoliate the skin, helping to minimize the appearance of fine lines and dark spots. Estheticians can perform superficial peels, meaning the treatment doesn’t go beneath the epidermis. 

What Is Cosmetology?

While esthetics focuses on cosmetic skincare treatments, cosmetology focuses on hair care. Cosmetologists typically provide the following services:

  • Haircuts: Cosmetologists cut hair and can recommend haircut styles to clients based on their goals or facial structure.
  • Hair coloring: Cosmetologists use dyes to change hair color. They may use multiple processes to help a client get the desired color.
  • Hair styling: Cosmetologists also style clients’ hair. They may curl the hair or straighten it using heat or chemicals.
  • Hair removal: Cosmetologists can offer hair removal, too. They may use wax, tweezers or other techniques to get rid of unwanted hair.
  • Nailcare: In some cases, cosmetologists offer nail services, such as pedicures and manicures.
  • Makeup: Makeup application and artistry also falls under cosmetology. 
  • Wig styling: Some cosmetologists specialize in the styling and care of wigs.
  • Skincare: Cosmetologists occasionally offer skincare services, including facials. 

Esthetician vs. Cosmetologist

One way to decide whether you should train to become a cosmetologist or esthetician is to ask yourself whether you’re more interested in haircare or skincare. While cosmetologists can and do offer skincare services, their primary area of focus on the hair.

The path to becoming an esthetician is slightly different from that of becoming a cosmetologist. If you’re interested in hair care and styling, enroll in a cosmetology career certificate program.

The program takes about one year or 1,200 hours. At the end of it, you’ll be ready to take the Florida Cosmetology License exam.

If skincare is more interesting for you, enroll in the Facials specialty certificate program, then the Advanced Esthetics certificate program. The two certificates require about six months of full-time study each. Upon completion, you can register as a facial specialist in Florida.

One last thing to consider when choosing between a career as a cosmetologist or esthetician: Your earnings potential. According to the BLS, cosmetologists earn a median hourly wage of $14.26.3 Higher earnings are possible if you work in a high-end salon or develop a loyal following. 

Estheticians earn a median hourly wage of $17.93.2 Again, higher earnings are possible, particularly for estheticians who develop a loyal following or work in areas where there’s a high demand for their services.

Whether skin or hair is more your thing, Orange Technical College can help you get on the path to a fulfilling career in the beauty industry. Reach out today to request more information.


  1. 2022 Beauty Industry Trends & Cosmetics Marketing: Statistics and Strategies for Your Ecommerce Growth, Common Thread,
  2. Skincare Specialists, Bureau of Labor Statistics,
  3. Barbers, Hairstylists and Cosmetologists, BLS,