Aesthetics versus Beauty Therapy

Published on: 26 May 2017

What do they do?

They are not medical doctors. However, they are classed as skin care specialists. And in most skin, beauty and health clinics, they can assist the dermatologist/cosmetic surgeon in carrying out prescribed treatments on clients.  It is a career that combines the beauty world with non-medical skin care service within the field of cosmetology.  They work in doctor-led environment, salon, spa and skincare settings.

The role of a beauty or an aesthetics therapists.

The roles of a beauty/aesthetics therapists are to make the customer feel pampered and relaxed by offering the following services such as:

Pore Cleansing
Exfoliation Treatments
Body wraps and polishes
Foot reflexology
Spa treatments
Hair removal
Waxing treatments

Alongside these lists of treatments, they also learn to beautify the skin by offering the following services:

Skin analysis
Makeup artistry
Microdermabrasion techniques
Eyebrow shaping
Lash tinting

Both are trained to recognised skin problems that may require further input by a dermatologist or a medical professional. And if necessary, they can make referrals if the problem is beyond their professional scope.

There’s also the opportunity to move into the medical field if desired and work either as a medical aesthetician in dermatology or plastic surgery office.

To become a medical aesthetician, you will need to have training in these areas:

anatomy, physiology, chemistry and pathology of the skin, including bacteriology, disinfection, decontamination and infection control, first aid and hygiene.

Pay Structure

At the entry level, salaries are generally the same, however as one moves up the career ladder, it varies depending on job function and qualifications that one has acquired.

Most jobs start off with minimum wage plus commissions and you build up from there by product selling and going for additional training. The job choices are:
Becoming an owner of your own business
Working as a salon manager/skin clinic manager
Theatrical makeup artist
Film makeup artist
Event Organiser
Product Developer

At least you get the idea. It is a very wide sector.

The average beauty/ aesthetic therapist at entry level:

Earns about £7 per hour
Salary £9.935 - £19,900
Bonus £725
Commissions £2439
Total pay - £11,216 - £18, 565

Source: Payscale

What sort of person does it take to work in this industry?

The sort of person that likes talking to people and is not afraid to suggest or recommend products that will benefit clients. Even though it's not advertised as a sales jobs, you will be expected to make product recommendations to clients in order to generate revenue and commission for yourself.

Have a pleasant smile on your face all the time. It’s a showtime type of job. You are on the stage to make the customer feel great. You are there to facilitate treatment and offer them experience, which hopefully they’ll never forget.


In the UK, the general qualification required to work in the aesthetics/beauty industry at entry level is either NVQ 2 or NVQ 3 in beauty therapy. Sometimes potential employee is expected to have both. With this, you can easily work either as a beauty therapist or aesthetics therapist. They are very similar in terms of role, but you should expect that it varies from company to company.


To work as a therapist whether beauty or aesthetics, you’ll need to have the following:

At least 3-4 GCSEs at C or above (English and Maths included) plus one of the following  
NVQ Level 3 or 4 in Beauty Therapy or
Edexcel Level 2/3 (NVQ) Diploma in Beauty Therapy (options include general, make-up and massage) or
ITEC Level 3 Diploma in Advanced Beauty Therapy or
VTCT Level 3 Diploma in Beauty Therapy Treatments or
C&G Level 3/4 Management Practice and Advanced Techniques in the Hair and Beauty Sector

You can acquire any of these qualifications by either attending your local college or through private companies such as Cidesco or CIBTAC

Those already working in the field, can also expand on their skill sets through taking short courses in:

Epilation techniques
UV tanning
Face and body art
Laser and light treatments (Level 4 certificate in Laser and Light Therapy -  all beauty therapists as from 2016 must have this qualification to become a qualified laser aesthetic technician or carry out laser or IPL treatments). IPL stands for Intense Pulsed Light.

Both jobs tend to pay the same as previously highlighted. However, this will change depending on how fast you move up the career ladder. These are subject to years of experience, qualifications, and training you’ve attended, plus the responsibilities you are given. Be prepared to be on your feet all day, working long hours, doing late nights and working weekends. It’s not a 9-5 job. it's best to start with a smaller company/brand as you’ll be given lots of responsibilities which will help you to grow. It’s also a lot easier to get noticed and promoted. You also need to bear in mind that in any job, your employer will send you on courses to learn more about treatments specifically tailored for the company.


View our latest Aesthetic job vacancies

Visit the career hub for more career insights