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Cosmetology and Esthetics: What is the Difference?

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Cosmetology or Esthetics? It’s an age-old question, and there seems to be much speculation about what separates the study of cosmetology from esthetics.

So How Exactly Are They Different?

In school, aspiring Cosmetologists focus on learning the art of hair styling and color theory with a concentration on cutting, hair treatments, and color. The curriculum also encompasses permanent waving, chemical relaxing, hair extensions, eyelash extensions, nail technology, and esthetics, including basic facials and hair removal. 

Estheticians specialize in skin care. As an esthetician, you will have a deeper understanding of the skin’s anatomy and conditions. Esthetician services include skin consultations, a host of different types of facials, and special hair removal techniques.

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Does Each Program Teach the Basics?

Cosmetology students learn the basics of skincare and maintenance along with the other general features of the program, such as hair cutting and coloring. Esthetics students learn to analyze and assess skin conditions, eyebrow shaping, waxing and tinting, microdermabrasion, reflexology, facial and body waxing practices and techniques, and more.

Basic hygiene and sterilization practices are included in the core of each of these programs because keeping your customers safe from potential bacterial spread and exposure is the number one priority.

Licensing Requirements

Licensing requirements vary by state, but most trade schools (which is what cosmetology and esthetics schools are) require that students be at least 17 years of age with a high school diploma or equivalent.

Check out your state’s licensing requirements before enrolling in any program.

The number of hours needed to complete the program depends on the amount of theory/lecture and practical/training required to satisfy the program requirements. Cosmetology programs often require between 1,000 and 2,400 hours to be completed to obtain a license, while most esthetics programs require around 600 hours. These numbers vary, and you should speak with an admissions representative if you have questions about this.

Cosmetology or Beauty School 

One common question that instructors and student services staff get is what’s the difference between cosmetology and beauty school? In years gone by, people would schedule an appointment with their beautician. In modern parlance, we use the terms hairstylists, stylists, or skincare specialists when scheduling appointments at the salon. So, would it be wrong to say you’re going to beauty school if you want to learn the art of color theory, haircutting, styling, or skincare? Not necessarily! It’s more of an outdated way of describing cosmetology school, which is the modernized word. However, both words share the same meaning and there are still exceptional schools that refer to themselves as beauty schools.

Both beauty and cosmetology schools offer training needed for different sets of skills. Not all schools are equal. You may find that a school that refers to itself as a beauty school offers comprehensive cosmetology courses, including barbering, nails, esthetics, brows, and coloring. In contrast, other schools may only focus on hair and nails. The programs at beauty schools are usually not as extensive as those at cosmetology schools, but they may have some specialist courses that speak to a particular passion.

A cosmetology school will offer comprehensive beauty courses covering various specialties, including an esthetician program. Here’s a great checklist of items you can read about attending a beauty school.

Ogle School has cosmetology and esthetician programs that will truly prepare any student for a career in the world of hair and beauty.

The school’s name, whether beauty or cosmetology, is unimportant as long as the courses offered are accredited in the state where you plan to work. When students complete the program, these institutions will best prepare their students for the state licensing exam.

Ogle School is dedicated to student success and offers a 1,500-hour cosmetology program and a 750-hour esthetics program, finding the right fit for your goals.

Book a salon appointment at the location nearest you.

About the Author

Jeff Chiarelli
Jeff Chiarelli is the Head of Marketing for Ogle School. His responsibilities include leading Ogle School's marketing and branding strategy to amplify Ogle School's passion for helping create future beauty professionals in the communities Ogle School serves.