Careers are made, not given to us, and it is our responsibility to seek out new opportunities to better our professional knowledge, level of patient care and, ultimately, our credibility within the industry.
Establishing credibility within the aesthetics industry can be somewhat tricky because regulations are so inconsistent across the country. Some states require 1,600 hours of education, while others require 200 hours. There are amazing aestheticians practicing in states with lower required hours, but the success of these clinicians does not typically stem from what their original schooling required for licensure. It is rather the result of ongoing education and practical experience.
Many consumers are unaware of our scope and the level of treatment we can offer. In 2011, I conducted a quick survey in an international airport with 20 women. My first question was, "What does an aesthetician do?" Of the 20 participants, eight said they did not know, nine said facials, two said waxing, and one said that they put people to sleep before surgery (not quite, that is an anesthesiologist). It was immediately clear to me how little the basic consumer knows about what we do and what we can offer. My next question was, "Have you ever been to an aesthetician?" Twelve said that they had, seven had not and one did not know. Finally, I asked, "If you had something like acne, brown spots or visible aging, who would you go to for treatment?" Eighteen of 20 responded that they would go to a doctor and two said aesthetician. In order to raise awareness, as well as industry standards, we must aim higher and not just be good; we must be great.
One way to instantly boost your professional credibility is to seek out additional certification. Many states offer paramedical, masters or advanced aesthetics programs. These courses are often recognized by the state and offer a higher level of licensure than basic aesthetics. The programs typically involve 600 additional hours and tuition fees range up to $13,000.
Nationally– or internationally–recognized certifications are also options. There are many highly respected associations and corporations around the world; however, the number of testing facilities is somewhat limited in the United States. Many requirements include hundreds of hours of aesthetic training and practical work, as well as taking and passing the workshop and exam. Many associations offer numerous certifications in various aspects of the skin health field; prices and program length vary considerably depending upon the chosen program.
Manufacturer workshops and seminars are another, often less expensive, means of continuing your education and obtaining additional certification. Numerous companies offer continuing education on the products and devices that they sell. These courses can be found online or in live settings at tradeshows, your practice or additional venues across the country. Cost and times will vary significantly, but it is wise to look for course fees that are returned in product or credit, so you are able to get the most out of the offering.
This type of education can be useful to truly improve patient outcomes, regardless of the line or treatment method ultimately chosen.
No matter what level of expertise you have as an aesthetician or how many seminars you have attended, you are never done learning. One of the great aspects about this industry is that it is always changing and there are always new advancements in treatment to learn. The biggest disservice you can do to yourself and your patients is to decide that you know all there is to know — this can never be accomplished. Once you have invested your time and money into furthering your education, do not be shy about displaying these licenses or certificates proudly in your practice. This shows patients you have gone above and beyond the minimum requirements and they can expect a different, higher level of treatment in your care.
Forming alliances with other health care-related businesses and media outlets is a great way of showing potential patients that you are someone who offers trusted services. This opportunity is a great way to show your credibility. Building relationships with personal trainers, weight loss clinics, massage therapists, acupuncturists or nutritionists allows for great exposure to new customers that already have an interest in improving their overall health and well-being. If you are not working with a physician already, consider forming a referral program with a medical practice in your area. Pediatricians, OB/GYN and family practice physicians are asked regularly for skin care products and treatment recommendations — why not have them recommend your services instead of a drugstore brand? Additionally, these alliances are useful to you when in need of a physician to refer a patient for medical attention or diagnosis that would be outside of your licensure.
Media outlets such as local magazines and newspapers, beauty websites, television programs and radio also offer tremendous opportunities. While most have sponsors who pay to run advertisements in publications or during shows, many also offer "Ask the Expert" segments. Reach out to your favorite local television show or morning radio show and see if they are interested in this type of opportunity. You may not be able to plug your facility's name, but you will be able to build your own name and gain personal credibility that will translate to professional success.
Patient relationships are the ultimate way to build and maintain credibility. Your patients are the voice of your practice. If they have a great experience, they will not only keep coming back, but they will tell all of their friends and family to go to you, too. Be sure to ask a lot of questions during consultation and regular appointments and actively listen to their responses. Find out what is truly important to them: are they there to correct their melasma; did they come during their lunch break for a quick eyebrow wax; or did they just need time relax? Educate the melasma patient on what is happening within their skin and how you plan to treat it; apply an anti-redness product to the waxing customer so they can go back to work with no evidence of the service; or give the person that just wants to decompress a longer massage and tips for daily relaxation at home. These things really show those patients that you have heard them and have customized their visit for their needs.
Being an expert in what you do and the services you provide allows you to create consistent, dramatic results and instantly imbues confidence in patients. In my experience, consumers often assume that we just want to sell them product — it is difficult for them to understand why they need four products to clear their acne rather than just one.
"We know there is no so-called "miracle" product that will fix everything, but we need to prove this to our patients."
Explain that acne is caused by four different factors, not just one. We need to use a combination of products to exfoliate and remove impactions from the follicle, control oil production, reduce inflammation and decrease bacteria. Apply each of the products you recommend during the patient consultation. Mention two key ingredients and explain exactly what each product or treatment step is doing within the skin. Regardless of the condition you are treating, if the patient can understand why they need each item (that is, what is in it for them), they are much more likely to be compliant and they will also know that you are the expert and they will trust your recommendations.
Believe in What You Do
Making a name for yourself in any industry takes effort and ambition. As skin health professionals, the services we provide go beyond what we learn in school or even the products we sell — our value lies in the type of clinician we have come to be and the level of patient care we offer. Seeking out additional education and certification, forming strategic alliances, building strong patient relationships and proving your expertise through ongoing education are all excellent ways to build your credentials in the industry and change the way many view aesthetic services.
After becoming a licensed aesthetician in 2003, Danae Markland has specialized in many aspects of the industry, including corrective aesthetics, laser treatment and other therapeutic devices. Currently, in her role as Editorial Manager for PCA SKIN®, Markland helps to develop the professional skills of PCA SKIN authors, while also keeping them up-to-date with new information in the industry. She oversees the development of tradeshow workshop and CME course curricula, scientific articles and consumer-directed educational pieces. Also an advanced educator, Markland shares her passion for skin health with fellow aestheticians and medical professionals at presentations all over the world.