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Careers as a Medical Spa Therapist and Esthetician

Woman Getting Esthetics Treatment
Adriana Costenaro
Campus President, Bryan College

You’ve decided to enter the medical spa career. As you’ve researched colleges and universities to further your education, you’ve come across job titles such as medical spa therapist vs. esthetician. Are these roles interchangeable or are they referring to different jobs?

Medical spa therapists and estheticians may perform some of the same job duties; however, medical spa therapists have additional training that allows them to broaden the scope of their duties.

This article will go into detail about what medical spa therapists and estheticians do on a daily basis. It’s our goal to guide you in making a career decision, so keep reading!

What Is a Medical Spa Therapist?

Medical spa therapists are also known as medical estheticians. This job is usually a bit different and more advanced from the role of general esthetician usually due to the additional training that an aspiring medical spa professional will undergo.

On the cosmetic side, medical spa therapists will provide aesthetic, nonsurgical treatments. If they’re employed by a rehabilitation center or hospital, then a medical spa therapist may also treat patients who have recently recovered from an illness or trauma.

Here are example services a medical spa therapist might provide:

Cauterizing Varicose Veins

Varicose veins are a superficial type of visible vein caused by elevated blood pressure. These veins can make many people self-conscious since they’re very noticeable. A medical spa therapist will cauterize the veins, usually in the legs, using various laser technologies.

Cauterizing varicose veins can reduce accompanying symptoms such as swelling and pain.

Advanced Hair Removal

Tweezing and shaving hair only remove it short-term. For more permanent hair removal, a medical spa therapist will use an advanced treatment such as laser hair removal or intense pulsed light.

Tattoo Removal

Although tattoos are permanent, a person’s sentiments for them might not be. When selecting a facility for tattoo removal, it’s best to go with the pros, which is why med spa therapists frequently use laser treatments to fade tattoos.

Sun Damage Treatment

The sun can cause long-term damage to one’s skin. Medical spa therapists will assess the patient’s skin and decide the best treatment option for sun damage, such as tretinoin, intense pulsed light, microdermabrasion, chemical peels, and/or laser skin resurfacing.

Pre-Op and Post-Op Surgical Skincare

When a patient receives surgery for abrasions, burns, or other skin trauma, they need a professional to tend to them before the procedure. This is a specialty of medical estheticians. In addition, medical spa therapists can also care for a patient’s usually tender and sensitive skin after surgery.

Permanent Makeup

Medical estheticians can also perform permanent makeup procedures that add pigment to the eyebrows, eyes, lips and other areas of the face. Microblading, although not always permanent, is included under the umbrella of permanent makeup as well.

What Is an Esthetician?

Next, let’s talk about estheticians. This job role encompasses more basic skincare services compared to a medical esthetician or medical spa therapist. Some of those services can overlap with the ones above, as we touched on in the intro. For instance, an esthetician might administer permanent makeup if they’re trained in that area.

Estheticians don’t usually undergo the advanced training of medical estheticians, which limits the scope of the work they do.

Let’s present a detailed overview of some of the duties working as an esthetician may entail.

Eyelash Extensions

For longer-lasting eyelashes than a set of falsies can provide, patients may visit a medical spa for an eyelash extension. An esthetician will apply the lashes–which are usually made of synthetic material–to the eyes with semi-permanent glue.

The eyelashes are chosen according to the patient’s current eyelash curvature, color, and thickness. Since the glue is only semi-permanent, an eyelash extension treatment may require touching up from time to time by the esthetician.

Waxing

For touchable soft and smooth skin, waxing is a popular hair removal method. This isn’t considered advanced hair removal as waxing involves no lasers.

The results are not as permanent, so a patient who receives a wax from an esthetician might return to the medi-spa regularly for maintenance.

Spray Tanning

A golden tan improves the visage of just about anyone, but spending hours burning in the sun can be detrimental to the skin. Spray tanning can produce a lovely tan without sunburn. Estheticians will ensure the patient receives an even application of the spray tan so they look great at every angle.

Body Wraps

Body masks or body wraps are a spa treatment where the esthetician will apply a nourishing formula to the skin. Then they’ll cover the patient in plastic film, mylar bandages, or cotton to seal in the moisture of the oil and allow the minerals to penetrate the skin.

Microdermabrasion

Microdermabrasion can reduce the appearance of melasma, acne scars, age spots, fine lines, wrinkles, and sun damage. The treatment does not involve needles like Botox does, making it appealing to the needle-phobic.

Hot Stone Therapy

Estheticians can also provide hot stone therapy or hot stone massages. The esthetician will place heated stones across a patient’s body to alleviate pain. Damaged soft tissue can be eased.

Facials

One of the most popular med spa treatments by far is the facial. The esthetician will select a facial that matches the patient’s skin needs, be that a face peel, a face mask, or exfoliation. Facials can reduce the appearance of wrinkles and dark circles, lessen acne, and open pores. 

What Are the Differences Between a Medical Spa Therapist and Esthetician?

Now that we’ve introduced the job roles of medical esthetician and regular esthetician, let’s cover the differences between these two jobs.

Job Scope

The clearest way to differentiate medical spa therapists and estheticians is this. If the job responsibility falls into the category of cosmetics, then either a medical esthetician or a regular esthetician can do it.

For those job roles that skew more medical, then medical spa therapists can administer these treatments, at least usually. Exceptions include dermal fills and Botox, which only doctors or nurses are allowed to provide.

The job scope of a medical spa therapist is thus greater than an esthetician, to reiterate.

Education and Training

The extent of a medical esthetician’s education and training usually outpaces that of a regular esthetician. While it may vary by area, the general number of hours an aspiring esthetician is required to spend in an advanced medical spa program is 600 hours.

Esthetician students will learn techniques for specific treatments such as hair removal, facial cleansing, skin disorder treatments, and more. Related topics such as salon management will also be covered during the 600 hours of training.

It’s not all book learning, of course. Soon-to-be aestheticians will get to administer the treatments they've become educated in, usually to patients at a student clinic.

An esthetician usually will apply for licensure. Since medical spa therapists have no specific licensure differentiating them from general estheticians, they should still apply for their license and then potentially obtain certifications to expand the range of services they can offer.

Place of Work

Where a medical spa therapist vs. esthetician works can be the same but isn’t exclusively. As we’ve detailed, medical spas are a popular place for medical estheticians and regular estheticians alike.

Cruise ships, salons, skincare clinics, and dermatologist’s offices also welcome these specialists.

Given the advanced expertise of a medical spa therapist, they may be employed at other types of businesses like doctor’s offices, rehabilitation clinics, laser care facilities, and plastic surgeon offices.

Career Paths

For many, working as an esthetician is a dream job, especially if you’re passionate about improving the health and confidence of others. If you’re interested in ascending the career ladder beyond the role of esthetician though, many exciting opportunities await you as a medical spa therapist.

General estheticians can hone in on their schooling to become medical spa therapists. They can also take their beauty knowledge and apply it to a non-spa role such as a beauty educator.

For those who are ready to exit the salon entirely, working as an esthetician trainer could be just the job you’ve been looking for. You’ll be employed at a training facility such as an esthetician college and share your wealth of skills with others entering the same career field.

Where to Enroll to Become a Medical Spa Therapist or Esthetician

Whether you want to become a general esthetician or medical spa therapist, you must enroll in an educational program for training. At Bryan College, our Esthetics & Advanced Medical Spa Therapy program can propel your education and your career.

Our students become specialists in a variety of treatments, including vein removal, skin tightening, body contouring, relaxation massage, body scrubs, aromatherapy, laser therapy, photo facials, and more.

Your time at Bryan College will include hands-on training at our Professional Medical Spa Clinic, a student clinic that’s available to the public.

You’ll also train in and use equipment that estheticians rely on every single day, including St. Peel microdermabrasion technology, Starlight laser equipment, and lots more.

Don’t wait - start the path to your dream job today!

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