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Esthetician School vs. Cosmetology School

If you’re interested in a career in beauty, you may be considering apply for esthetician school or cosmetology school. But what’s the difference between the two? What do you learn in each? There is some overlap, but generally speaking, these programs of study are very different. The instructors at Skin Science Institute explain exactly what you do — and don’t — learn in esthetician school.

Pursuing a Career in Beauty

Searching for a new career is exciting! Whether you’ve recently graduated high school and are searching for the right career path for you, or if you have worked many years in another field and are ready for a change, Skin Science Institute’s esthetician school might be just what you’re looking for.

You know that estheticians work with skin, but so do cosmetologists. How does the field of study differ?

Cosmetology Licenses in Utah

All 50 states require those who cut hair for money to have a license. In Utah, a barber’s license allows you to open a shop in which you provide haircuts and shaving services. A barber’s license doesn’t allow you to perform hairstyling services such as dying, perming or otherwise chemically treating hair. If you want to perform these services, you need a cosmetology license.

In a way, a cosmetology license seems like a bit of a misnomer, since it is hair stylists who are required to hold these licenses. But they are so named not because they focus so much on cosmetics, but because they learn cosmetic procedures. In cosmetology school, you learn about hair, skin and nails (although to become a nail tech, you can attend a much shorter program targeted just to nails).

Cosmetology school teaches hairstyling and cutting, as well as braiding and weaving. You’ll learn how to create different hairstyles, mix and apply color, curl and straighten hair with perming chemicals and create elegant braids for special occasions such as weddings and proms.

Cosmetologists are also certified to do nail care, including manicures, pedicures, nail art and nail extensions.

The area of study in which cosmetology school and esthetician school overlap is skin care. Students in cosmetology school learn very basic skin care services, such as giving facials, exfoliating and performing waxing services.

Beyond this, they also learn makeup application techniques. Cosmetology students study subjects such as color theory, face shape, shading and tinting, eyelash and eyebrow shaping, airbrushing, how to cover skin imperfections, bridal makeup and more.

Esthetician Licenses in Utah

Esthetician school is more specialized and focuses on the skin — hair is not part of the curriculum, although at Skin Science Institute, we include eyelash extensions classes.

To get your esthetician license in Utah, you must complete 600 hours of classes and pass your state exam. The curriculum includes classes about facials, waxing, eyelash treatments and the basics of skin anatomy.


A big part of esthetician school — and cosmetology school and nail tech programs — is teaching students about proper sterilization techniques and safe work practices. It’s the reason you need a license to do hair, nails, facials and other bodily treatments.

If beauty shops were not licensed, anyone could open one and patrons wouldn’t know if it was clean and safe. Beauty salons, spas and medical offices are open to state inspection, and licenses can be revoked if proper sanitary procedures are not followed.


Beyond sterilization procedures, esthetician school delves deeply into skin care. When a client books a facial at a hair salon, these are most often done by cosmetologists with minimal training with facials. Although these services are safe, they usually not as beneficial as a facial with an esthetician.

An esthetician will discuss the client’s goals for a facial and choose the ingredients based on these goals. Whether the client wants brighter skin, tighter pores, blemish treatment, extra hydration — an esthetician formulates each facial for each individual client.

Eyelash Treatments

Although other types of professionals are allowed to perform eyelash extensions, eyelash tinting and eyelash perming, estheticians’ training in this area is usually more extensive. While the procedures themselves are not overly complex, the fact that the practitioner is coming so close to the client’s eyes with glues and chemicals makes this a risky procedure to have done by a novice.

Business Management

Esthetician school also teaches students how to set up a business and run it. Whether Skin Science Institute graduates work as employees at a dermatology clinic, independent contractors for spas, or they have their own skin-care business, we show them what they need to do to protect themselves and to make a solid living as an esthetician.

Master Esthetician School

To get a master esthetician license, estheticians must complete an extra 600 hours of training. Once they pass their state exam, they will be licensed to perform more complex procedures such as chemical peels, microdermabrasion, laser hair removal, skin rejuvenation, microblading, intense pulsed light therapy, acne treatments, tattoo removal and more.

They may also assist dermatologists with medical procedures such as lip and facial injections and fillers, spider vein treatment and other procedures.

The Time it Takes to Become Licensed

In Utah, it takes 1,600 hours to obtain a cosmetology license — more than twice as much time as it takes to become an esthetician. The reason for this is because cosmetologists learn about several disciplines while estheticians learn only one. However, estheticians delve much more deeply into the techniques of skin care than cosmetologists do.

At Skin Science Institute, we teach makeup classes, but if you want to further your knowledge of makeup artistry, you can take separate classes post-graduation. A license is not required to be a makeup artist, and you can pursue learning on your own.

Is Esthetician School for You?

Now that you understand the difference between esthetician school and cosmetology school, are you ready to apply to the Skin Science InstituteContact us today with any questions you have about esthetician school.

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