One of the first activities you may consider in exploring this career is to get a facial or other service provided by a cosmetician. As a client yourself, you will be able to observe the work setting and actually experience the procedure. Often people are best at providing services when they enjoy receiving the service or believe in its benefits.
Next, you may want to research this field by looking at association and trade magazines (such as Dermascope, http://www.dermascope.com, and Skindeep, http://www.ascpskindeepdigital.com/read/account_titles/166043), the publications cosmeticians read to stay current with their field's trends. Trade publications will give you an idea of what current technical, legal, and fashion issues cosmeticians face.
You may choose to contact cosmetology schools to find out about cosmetician or esthetician programs in your area. Request informational brochures or course listings from the schools and speak to school advisers about the training involved and the nature of the work. A good way to locate cosmetology schools is to conduct an Internet search.
Also, once you have found a cosmetology school that interests you, ask to set up an information interview with an instructor or recent graduate. Go to the interview prepared to ask questions. What is the training like? What does this person enjoy about the job? What is the most difficult aspect of the work? By asking such questions you may be able to determine if the field is right for you.
You may also be able to set up an information interview with a cosmetician who works at a spa or salon near you. Again, go to the interview prepared with questions. By networking in this fashion, you may also develop a mentor relationship. Then you may be able to spend time with your mentor at his or her place of work and observe everyday activities.
Getting a part-time position at a salon or spa on weekends or after school is an excellent way to explore the field. Because you are working at the spa or salon on a regular basis, you will learn more about what various jobs are like and how the business functions. While on the job, you can observe the interaction between clients and cosmeticians, the interaction among coworkers, the different levels of management, and the general atmosphere. This can help you decide whether this is an area you would like to explore further.
Participate in competitions that gauge your knowledge of skin care theory and techniques. The following organizations offer skin care competitions: SkillsUSA (www.skillsusa.org) and Skills Compétences Canada (http://skillscompetencescanada.com).
Cosmeticians may also be known as estheticians (also spelled aestheticians) or skin care specialists. The word esthetic comes from the Greek word meaning harmony, beauty, and perfection. Esthetics is based on an understanding of the skin's anatomy and function. Cosmeticians work to improve the skin's condition and restore its functions. This discipline requires the cosmetician to get to know the client's skin and lifestyle and tailor treatments specifically for the client's needs. Cosmeticians offer appearance-enhancing services to correct damage from aging, sun exposure, or acne.
The cosmetician's job may involve facials, massages, wraps and packs, hydrotherapy treatments, scalp treatments, hair removal services, color analysis, makeup services, and product sales. Before beginning to work with a client, the cosmetician will consult with the individual to determine his or her goals and concerns. It is important that cosmeticians are clear with their clients as to what they should expect from their treatments.
Before beginning treatment, the cosmetician must determine the client's needs. After the initial consultation for a facial, for instance, the cosmetician will need to perform a skin analysis to assess the client's water and oil levels and skin conditions—whether there are blackheads, lines, wrinkles, etc. Once this information is determined, pre-cleansing, deep cleansing, exfoliation (the removal of dead skin), and extractions may follow, depending on the client's skin type. Cosmeticians often blend special cleansers and moisturizers themselves, according to their clients' individual skin types.
The application of an appropriate mask for the patron's skin type may follow cleansing and exfoliation, along with neck, facial, and shoulder massages. Foot and hand massages may be included as well. In most states, cosmeticians are only licensed to perform hand, foot, and facial massages, and training for these services is usually provided in cosmetology programs. Full body massages require both further training and a special license.
While performing such procedures as extractions, which involve the removal of blackheads, whiteheads, and other skin debris, cosmeticians must be careful to protect themselves by using gloves and the proper sanitation. These procedures are covered in cosmetician training programs and are regulated by law in most states.
Other services cosmeticians offer include wraps, packs, and hydrotherapy treatments. Often made of herbs, mud, or algae, these treatments remove or redistribute fat cells and retained body water in order to create a temporarily slimmer look. Some wraps and packs actually remove impurities from the body. Hydrotherapy treatments cleanse the body using seawater, fresh water, hot tubs, whirlpool baths, and hydrotherapy tubs.
Cosmeticians also provide cosmetics and makeup consultation and application services. They may assist clients in deciding what colors and makeup to use and how they should apply it to achieve the best results, whether it's for accentuating their features or covering blemishes.
Hair removal services, usually waxing and tweezing, are also offered. Electrolysis is another popular form of hair removal; however, since a special license is required to perform electrolysis, cosmeticians generally wax and tweeze unwanted hair from the face, eyebrows, and other parts of the body.
In addition to working with clients, cosmeticians are expected to keep their work areas clean and implements sanitized. In smaller salons, many make appointments and assist with day-to-day business activities. In larger salons, cosmeticians must be aware of keeping to appointment schedules. They may be juggling two or more clients, at different stages of treatment, at the same time.
Salon managers or owners have managerial responsibilities—accounting and record keeping, hiring, firing, and motivating workers, advertising and public relations, and ordering and stocking supplies and products.
It's important that cosmeticians have good people skills. A critical part of cosmeticians' jobs is to cultivate and maintain a growing clientele for themselves and their salons or spas. Cosmeticians should be sensitive to the client's comfort and have dexterity and a sense of artistry. If the cosmetician's style of skin care is not suited to the client, he or she should be willing to refer the client to another specialist. This builds goodwill toward the cosmetician and the salon or spa.