How to Find the Right Esthetician for You

  • 6 min read

When it comes to finding any beauty or wellness professional, caution is the name of the game; and evenmore sowhen you’re looking for someone who will care for the most visible component of your body – your skin! 

Finding the right esthetician can be an intimidating process – especially given the deluge of information on the internet about products and celebrity-endorsed skin expertsguaranteed to change your life

Ahead, what an esthetician is (and isn’t!), where to find them, considerations to have in mind when selecting one, and how to hold onto your perfect esthetic match.

What Does an Esthetician Do?

Estheticians are licensed to provide services that enhance the skin’s outermost layer. This includes facials, microdermabrasion, some peels and laser treatments (depending on training and the state where they practice), and even high-level cosmetics, like eyelash extensions, brow treatments, and makeup application.

What’s the Difference Between an Esthetician and a Dermatologist?

While estheticians train for hundreds of hours, must graduate from an accredited esthetics school, and take an intensive two-part exam – plus fulfill whatever obligations are imposed by the state in which they practice – they are not licensed to diagnose medical conditions or issue prescription treatments.

Dermatologists, on the other hand, are medical doctors who must undergotwelve years of training and sit for an exam issued by the American Board of Dermatology before they’re released to diagnose and treat skin, hair, and nail conditions.

It may be tempting to thinkbigger is better,assuming that a doctor will always be your best bet, regardless of your skin goals (twelve years is a lot of education, after all), but that isn’t the case. Estheticians and dermatologists are complementary to one another, but they ultimately serve different purposes. 

How Do I Know If I Should See a Dermatologist or an Esthetician?

You should see a dermatologist for skin check-ups (like cancer screenings) and/or if you’re experiencing symptoms of a medical condition – such as cystic acne, psoriasis, or skin lesions – or expressions of suspected underlying systemic issues. (Think: hair loss or excessive changes in your skin’s texture.)

Estheticians should be your go-to for concerns like mild acne, imbalances (if you’re exceptionally oily or dry, for example), and routine maintenance that addresses those issues – facials, exfoliating treatments, superficial peels, and recommendations for at-home care.

A knowledgeable esthetician knows his or her scope and will refer you to a licensed dermatologist when he or she believes you need more intensive care. Similarly, a dermatologist may examine and diagnose conditions that are affecting your skin’s health and appearance, then refer you to an esthetician to put together a skincare plan that will support your recovery and/or maintenance.

How to Find an Esthetician

Recommendations from friends or family (especially if their skin ailments or goals are similar to yours) are a fantastic place to start. If you have a trusted professional in the beauty and wellness space, you might also lean on their guidance.

Review sites like Yelp can be helpful, as can paying attention to the social media accounts ofcredible estheticians – especially those who spend more time promoting sound client education rather than their newest line of $300 eye serums. 

(And please, we beg, do not choose an esthetician based solely on follower count or celebrity advocacy.)

The internet and social media can provide a massive trove of possibilities – and therein lies the problem. Considering the vast expanse of the web and ubiquitous marketing savvy in every corner of social media, it can be difficult to even begin to home in on a manageableselection of options, let alone discern a viable one. 

Here are some tips that may help you to narrow your search… 

What to Consider When Choosing an Esthetician


It isnoteasy to become a licensed esthetician. Prerequisites to licensure vary by state, but all estheticians must engage in formal classroom education, as well as hundreds of hours of practical experience, and take an intensive, state-issued exam in order to qualify.

An esthetician who has completed their state-level esthetics education (or is within 100 hours of doing so) may also elect to becomenationally certified, through the National Coalition of Estheticians Association (NCEA). 

Some states – Washington State, Utah, Virginia, and Washington D.C. – also recognize the Master Esthetician status, which isequivalent to NCEA certification. Master Estheticians pursue such education inadditionto their state-sanctioned esthetics license, complete with hundreds more practice hours, so they’re permitted to provide a slightly wider variety of services, such as medium-depth peels and some laser treatments.

Licensure should be the veryfirstthing you examine when looking for an esthetician. If there is any ambiguity about an esthetician’s educational experience or license, we advise striking them from your list of options.

Your Skin Type, Concerns, and Goals

Look for an esthetician who is clearly experienced with your specific condition and goals. For example, if your dermatologist has recommended microdermabrasion, you’ll want to look for an esthetician who is skilled with (or even specializes in) that practice.

If you’re concerned only with routine maintenance (facials, waxing, general education on your skin type, etc.) a reputable day spa will suit your needs just fine. If you’re looking for a one-stop shop for your general skincare needsand treatments that require medical supervision – such as laser hair removal or CoolSculpting – you’ll want to go themedical spa route.


This may be difficult to gauge for freshly minted estheticians, or those who aren’t great at encouraging word of mouth referrals and don’t have an established online presence – but it’s still an important consideration! If you find an esthetician who may be a great match, try to dig up reviews, reach out to mutual connections, and do anything else that may give you a better idea of his or her past performance.

Holistic Concern

Skin issues are not always skin-deep. A good esthetician should be concerned with yourwhole self, not just your skin. Look for estheticians who project a holistic approach – and then pay attention during your first visit. Are they asking only about your skin, or are you talking about your overall health and lifestyle, including sleep habits, exercise, diet, etc.?

What’s Their Skin Care Philosophy?

Not only do we all have different skin careobjectives –like targeting acne or combatting dryness – we also have differentvalues, and it’s important to find an esthetician who aligns with those values. When you’re examining a new esthetician, ask yourself:Do they seem to care about the things I care about? For example, any (or none!) of the following might be important to you:

  • Are they “clean”-focused in a way that resonates?
  • Do they advocate for simplicity, or do they thrive in combining a variety of approaches?
  • Are they all about thelatest technologyor do they stick close to thetried and true?*

*Regardless of their practice, we strongly recommend looking for an esthetician who at least demonstrates a soundunderstanding of the latest developments in skincare.

How to Set the Tone for a Long-lasting Relationship with Your Esthetician

Don’t Esthetician-hop

Once you find a good one, stick with them. Not only does this help to build long-standing rapport, but it also means that they will be able to effectively track changes over time, make recommendations based on what theyreally knowof you, and more.

Set Clear Expectations

First, get clear with yourself about what you’re looking for, then make sure your chosen esthetician’s practice scope, philosophy, and experience matches your needs. 

Don’t be afraid to say what you need! Skin issues can be embarrassing and complex, but your esthetician will be attentive, ask thoughtful questions, andwant to help you succeed. 

Be transparent about your struggles, your budget for treatments and subsequent maintenance, and how much time you have to dedicate to both – as well as anything that will negatively impact your experience (music playing during your service, for example). 

Be Courteous

Not much to this! Make sure you’re well educated on best practices for tipping, show up on time for your appointments, make sure you understand your esthetician’s cancellation policy – generally treat their time and effort with the same respect you’d want to receive. 

Finding the right esthetician can be a daunting process, but a little forethought and research, along with a clear understanding of your goals (and your chosen esthetician’s practice!), will set the tone for a long and glowing relationship.