For many of us, it was a complete surprise to learn upon graduation from aesthetics school that we were not adequately trained to compete in the rapidly-changing world of aesthetics. We discovered that we were entering our new careers without the competitive edge. To make matters worse, we found that the field of aesthetics was under increasing attack by the medical profession… and for good reason. Under-trained aestheticians are making mistakes and people are having bad experiences, sometimes even resulting in injuries. In the age of “Extreme Makeover,” feeling good about ourselves has become a lot more complicated.
Not long ago, hairdressers in beauty shops did basic facials on the side, although their emphasis was on hair and nail care. Today, however, skin care has moved into the health and wellness arena and the very popular but relatively new field of aesthetics has emerged as the fastest-growing service industry in the world, according to financial and marketing experts. And the potential for growth is limitless.
Thanks to the Baby Boomer generation, and its desire to maintain a youthful appearance, our treatment rooms are filled with middled-aged Baby Boomers and their children who are in their 20s and 30s. We see medi-spas popping up everywhere, and hair salons have jumped on board. There are spas on cruise ships, in luxury hotels, and in department stores. Stores that specialize in skin care products are sprouting up in malls and on television.
What that means to aestheticians is that opportunities are endless for the well-trained and qualified among us.
“Although the basic cosmetology program is still the program with the greatest enrollment, there is an increase of interest in aesthetic or skin care programs. Since last year, there has been an increase in enrollment of aesthetics of over 18 percent and an increase of over 50 percent since 2000.” (The Future of our School, Industry Trends Revealed, Lisa D. Shapiro, M.Ed., www.NAACCS.org)
One of the biggest challenges facing our profession today is that too large a proportion of aestheticians receive a sub-standard core education. Coupled with the antiquated licensing requirements in some states, the result is a major quality assurance problem. Compounding the problem is that although most states require aestheticians to hold a specific license, some states also allow cosmetologists to perform aesthetic procedures with little more than a couple of days training in skin care.
The unfortunate result of this inadequate education is that there are aestheticians providing services that are beyond their appropriate scope of practice. Whether they just don’t know or just don’t care, providing these services without the proper training puts the client and our whole profession at risk.
So while we can’t force new aestheticians to seek out continuing education opportunities, we can at least offer them the benefits of our experience. The reality of the situation is that without further post-graduate education and peer support, we will lose the battle with the medical profession, and aesthetic procedures as we know them will become extinct over the course of the next decade. Therefore, it is imperative that we firmly grasp the concept that we are all in this together, and we are only as strong as our weakest link. Our collective reputation is at stake, not to mention our careers.
Some seasoned aestheticians might be hesitant to help, fearing that mentoring a new aesthetician is comparable to grooming a future competitor. But those of us who have been in the business a while know that what brings a client to a particular aesthetician involves many things, such as personality, customer service, location, price, specialty services, age, areas of expertise, marketing techniques, etc. So the worry that you may be helping to create someone who will out-perform you is unfounded. Rather, the opposite is true. Mentoring is an investment in your future, and you might find that it adds an element of fun to your work routine.
The really good news is that these days there are more and more resources for continuing aesthetic education, and it’s important that we spread the word to the aesthetician community. The fact that you are reading this article means that you already understand the importance of furthering your aesthetic knowledge, and therefore you have a lot to offer a new aesthetician.
Fortunately, in the last couple of years, message boards have been created which provide a platform to ask questions and discuss various aspects of aesthetics and the spa business in general. On these boards, you will find many dedicated contributors and mentors including aestheticians, magazine editors, product reps, teachers, authors, and other various experts. Many aestheticians claim that they have learned more on the message boards than they ever did in aesthetician school.
Our trade magazines are a fabulous resource for us to keep in touch with what is new and exciting in the world of aesthetics as well as where to find continuing education classes and trade shows. This vital information is especially important because sometimes we get so locked up in our treatment rooms that it’s easy to lose touch with what’s happening outside of our treatment room door. The magazines are doing all of the research for us, and all we have to do is read!
There are trade shows all across the country at various times of the year. It’s a great way to interact with other spa professionals and in some cases choose from over 200 classes and visit over 1000 manufacturer’s booths, all under one very large roof.
The aesthetic business is only as strong as the people working in it; therefore, it is in our own best interest to offer a hand up to the new aestheticians following in our footsteps. Exposure to a seasoned aesthetician can do many things for a new aesthetician or even a current student of aesthetics. For example, it can stimulate questions in their minds such as, “Am I willing to do all that it takes to be a solo aesthetician, or a spa owner, or should I work for someone else?”
It can also provide answers to important questions such as, “Do I need my own liability insurance?” (Yes!) Many aestheticians mistakenly believe that because they work in a spa, the owner’s liability insurance automatically covers them; however, that is not necessarily true. You have no control over an owner’s liability insurance coverage, and often no specific knowledge which of your services are covered by the policy and which may be excluded. It is also doubtful that you would be made aware should that policy lapse and/or be cancelled due to non-payment of premiums.
In other words, there are many hazards awaiting new aestheticians as they begin their careers. And in the long run, their mistakes affect us all. So here are some ways you can help:
• Participate in message boards.
• Read as many trade magazines as you can, and then pass them on to a new aesthetician.
• Volunteer to mentor one graduate one day per month, or whatever your schedule permits.
• Invite the senior aesthetician students to visit your treatment room.
• Spend a couple of hours at a trade show helping a new aesthetician navigate the vendor floor and sort through the mass of literature collected from the various vendors.
• Offer to speak at your local beauty schools about your experiences as an aesthetician.
• Alert new aestheticians in your area to upcoming continuing education classes.
• Send copies of educational opportunity flyers to the local aesthetician schools.
• Talk to new aestheticians; let them ask questions and offer encouragement whenever you can.
Hopefully someday soon, the schools and the state licensing boards will catch up with the high-tech and ever-changing world of aesthetics. But until then, it’s up to us to raise the standards of our beloved aesthetics business so as to ensure ourselves a recession-proof and lucrative career.
There has never been a better time to be in the spa business, and what we do with this amazing opportunity is completely up to us!
Diane Buccola has been a licensed aesthetician since 1999. After selling her day spa in 2004, she began her solo private aesthetics practice in Sacramento, Calif. She is the owner of SpaBizBoard.com, a popular message board and learning tool for the spa business. She is an Esthetician volunteer for the American Cancer Society’s Look Good Feel Better program, and regularly teaches A Career in Esthetics for the Sacramento Learning Exchange. For more information, please visit www.dbesthetics.com.