What is an Aesthetics and Skin Care Degree?

Students of aesthetics and skin care learn the skills required to work as aestheticians and skincare specialists, who are in the business of healing and soothing the skin. Their training starts with skin anatomy and nutrition and progresses to skin types, the effects of aging on the skin, and treatment options.

They study procedures for facial scrubs and facials, chemical peels, laser treatments, manicures, pedicures, microdermabrasion, waxing, and body wraps. Programs in aesthetics and skin care also cover spa and salon safety and sanitation.

Program Options

Note: US states require that aestheticians be licensed. To qualify for licensing, candidates must complete a curriculum that meets the requirements of their state licensing board. Most states endorse programs accredited by one or more of the three major national accreditation boards. These are the National Accrediting Commission of Career Arts and Sciences (NACCAS), the Council on Occupational Education (COE), and the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges (ACCSC).

Certificate in Aesthetics and Skin Care – Four to Eight Month Duration
This is the most common credential held by practising aestheticians.

Associate Degree in Aesthetics and Skin Care – One to Two Year Duration
An aesthetics and skin care associate program combines courses in the major with some general education classes in English, math, and basic computer skills like word processing and spreadsheets.

Below is a summary of the modules that typically make up the core aesthetics and skin care curriculum. Medical/paramedical skin care topics are more likely to be addressed in longer certificate programs or in associate programs. In addition to learning the procedures for each treatment, students are also trained in:

  • Professional image and safety
  • Client communication, assessment, and documentation
  • Safety protocols
  • Basic chemistry and cosmetic science
  • Sanitary practices, bacteria and other infectious agents
  • Indications (reasons to use a certain treatment) and contraindications (reasons not to use a certain treatment)
  • Recommending home care and treatment follow-up

Live demonstrations by instructors and hands-on practical work are large parts of the learning process.

Body Treatments – face and body massage techniques including relaxation, aromatherapy, and hot stone

  • Body systems – skin anatomy and nutrition
  • Types of massage movements – effleurage, petrissage, friction, percussion, vibration
  • Introduction to reflexology
  • Introduction to lymphatic drainage – light pressure massage to increase lymph flow and reduce toxins in the body
  • Body wrap – a nourishing oil or mineral rich formula is applied to the limbs and torso before they are wrapped in cotton, mylar bandages, or a plastic film

Chemical Peels – how to use a chemical peel to remove the outer layer of the skin as treatment for acne, scarring, fine lines, wrinkles, uneven skin tone, and dryness; assessing which peel intensity to use for different skin types

  • Skin typing
  • Introduction to chemical methods of exfoliation
  • Hyperpigmentation (condition in which patches of skin become darker in color than the normal surrounding skin) and hypopigmentation (condition in which patches of skin become lighter in color than the normal surrounding skin)
  • Chemical peel protocols
  • Practical application of different types of peels
  • Benefits of a chemical peel
  • License and insurance

Laser – how to use laser and light therapy for hair removal, photorejuvenation, photofacials, pigment lesion reduction, vascular lesion reduction, acne reduction, skin tightening, cellulite reduction, and tattoo removal

  • Laser history
  • Laser physics and tissue interaction
  • Types of lasers and light therapy devices
  • Laser wavelengths and effects on tissue
  • Regulatory requirements
  • Skin typing
  • Pigmented lesion reduction – sun damage, freckles, discoloration, birthmarks
  • Vascular lesion reduction – broken capillaries, cherry angiomas, spider veins
  • Acne reduction – pustules, scarring, pigmentation
  • Skin tightening / cellulite reduction

Manicure and Pedicure – anatomy and physiology of nails; nail product chemisty; techniques for spa, shellac, French, and classic manicures and pedicures


  • Hand and arm massage
  • Basic manicure
  • French manicure
  • Man’s manicure
  • Spa manicure with paraffin treatment
  • Nail repair
  • Shellac manicure


  • Basic pedicure
  • French pedicure
  • Man’s pedicure
  • Spa pedicure with paraffin treatment
  • Shellac pedicure

Microdermabrasion – how to use this minimally invasive exfoliation procedure to renew skin texture and tone; microdermabrasion to treat sun damage, fine lines, wrinkles, age spots, acne, scarring, and other skin related conditions

  • Skin typing
  • Introduction to mechanical methods of exfoliation
  • Hyperpigmentation and hypopigmentation
  • Microdermabrasion protocols
  • Technologies in medical clinics
  • License and insurance
  • Introduction to microneedling

Microneedling – how to use this advanced skin resurfacing technique to promote wound healing and collagen production; microneedling applications for acne scarring, stretch marks, wrinkles, and pigmentation

  • Introduction to microneedling – a dermaroller procedure that uses small needles to prick the skin
  • InnoPen – a medical precision microneedling tool
  • Depth of needling for different skin conditions
  • Frequency of treatments

Skin Care – how to identify and treat skin issues with both medical grade and cosmetic product lines, facial treatments for different skin types

  • Classic facial
  • Advanced facial
  • Facial with high frequency
  • Extraction and implements
  • Skin analysis
  • Ingredients and product knowledge
  • Natural and organic skin care
  • Advanced skin care modalities
  • Adult acne treatments
  • Advanced exfoliation techniques
  • Wound healing and advanced skin care theory
  • Medical-spa terminology
  • Proper client selection
  • Consultations for medi-facials
  • Medical-grade skin care techniques

Waxing Hair Removal – waxing procedures for face and body hair removal, brow shaping, Brazilian waxing

  • Anatomy and physiology of the hair follicle and the skin – skin diseases and disorders; types of hair growth and abnormal conditions; bacteriology, sanitation, and sterilization
  • Temporary hair removal – soft wax and hard wax

Degrees Similar to Aesthetics and Skin Care

Cosmetology degree programs teach students how to apply hair, skin, and nail treatments. These beauty treatments include hair cutting, styling, and coloring, eyelash and eyebrow tinting, facials, exfoliation, hydrotherapy, and manicures and pedicures.

Make-Up Artistry
Education programs in make-up artistry prepare students to work as make-up artists in the various disciplines of the field, from film, television, and photography to theater, fashion, and the wedding industry.

The typical make-up artistry curriculum is a combination of scientific, technical, and artistic instruction. Many programs are comprehensive in nature and cover the make-up fine points that apply to each of these sectors. Others focus on a single sector.

Entrepreneurship students learn how to build, promote, and manage their own or others’ businesses. Common classes are entrepreneurial finance, foundations of entrepreneurship, investor relations and funding, new product design and development, and business plans.

Fashion Design
A degree program in fashion design teaches students how to develop artistic ideas and concepts and transform them into wearable clothing and accessories. The typical curriculum is built around the four basic elements of fashion design: color, silhouette/shape, line, and texture.

Students learn that each of these elements can create identity and meaning, they can convey certain emotions, they can be flattering or unflattering, and they can trick the eye. Classes in fashion design programs cover the history of design, fashion sketching, pattern drafting, and computer-aided fashion design.

Illustration degree programs teach students how to tell stories and communicate ideas visually. They cover traditional manual drawing, digital art technologies, and art and illustration history. Some programs may include painting classes or offer concentrations in a specific kind of illustration, such as book illustration, fashion illustration, exhibit drawing, animation and cartoon drawing, and medical illustration.

Mortuary Science
Degree programs in this field prepare students to work as morticians, funeral directors, and undertakers. The curriculum combines instruction in the scientific, counseling, legal, and business aspects of the field. The connection of mortuary science to aesthetics and skin care lies in the restorative aspect of the field, which involves restoring natural form and color to the deceased body.

Photography degree programs teach the technical, creative, and business skills required to be a professional photographer. Courses cover the history of photography, black-and-white photography, color photography, lighting techniques, materials and processes, two-dimensional design, digital photography, and photography as a business.

Skills You’ll Learn

  • Attention to detail / Precision – professional skin care is a meticulous process
  • Communication and listening skills – these are skills that make every professional better
  • Creative mindset – as with any artistic career, creativity and adding individuality to services are a must
  • Sales and customer service – knowing how to educate clients and sell them the products that are right for them
  • Self-confidence – aestheticians learn to instill confidence in their clients
  • Sense of style – aestheticians appreciate the relationship between skin care, beauty, and style
  • Tact and diplomacy – these skills are the balance to self-confidence
  • Time management – this is vital, especially for self-employed aestheticians

What Can You Do with an Aesthetics and Skin Care Degree?

Spa or Salon Aesthetician
Private Practice Aesthetician
The majority of aesthetics and skin care grads work as salaried aestheticians or aesthetician managers in spas and salons. Positions exist with standalone spas and salons, as well as with operations at high-end hotels, luxury resorts, and on cruise ships. Some aestheticians are self-employed.

Medical or Paramedical Aesthetician
When they work in medical settings, aestheticians are often referred to as medical or paramedical aestheticians. Plastic surgeons and dermatologists hire aestheticians to perform chemical peels, exfoliations, and photofacials (a treatment to reverse sun damage) under their supervision. In hospitals and clinics, medical aestheticians show cancer, burn, and surgery patients how to clean and care for sensitive healing skin.

Aesthetics and Skin Care Educator
Aesthetics and skin care education programs hire instructors to teach courses in the field.

Beauty Blogger / Writer
This role, of course, calls for both expertise in aesthetics and skin care and a love of writing. Employment options include writing for health and beauty magazines or as a freelance blogger.

Brand Representative
Brand reps promote their products to spas, salons, make-up artists, and cosmetics and beauty retailers. They train sales teams on how to sell the products they represent.

Cosmetics Buyer
Department stores and salon chains are the most likely employers of these professionals, whose job it is to research, select, and purchase various brands for retail sale.

Make-Up Artist
Their knowledge of skin types and skin care sometimes leads aestheticians into the field of make-up artistry.

Various opportunities exist in retail stores that sell skin care products and cosmetics.

State Board Licensing Examiner or Inspector
Because US states require practising aestheticians to be licensed, there may be opportunities to work as an examiner or inspector.

Career Paths

Learn about your career prospects after graduation.

Read about Career Paths