Professionals who provide services involving the hair, nails, and skin are called cosmetologists. They are also known as beauticians and hairdressers.

Cosmetologists are concerned with improving their customers’ appearance. In addition to cutting and styling hair, they apply makeup and provide treatments for the skin. They remove facial hair, and care for fingernails and toenails.

Most cosmetologists are employed at hair and beauty salons. Other worksites are barbershops, spas and resorts, hospitals, hotels and large stores. Cosmetology is one of a number of occupations in the personal-appearance industry, which is expected to experience average job growth through 2022.

Cosmetologist Job Description

Cosmetologists spend most of their time dealing with customers’ hair. They wash, condition, style, straighten, curl, and color hair. This entails the use of dyes and bleach. Some practitioners only cut, color, or shampoo hair. Others specialize in recommending, designing, trimming, and fitting wigs and hairpieces.

Skin and nails also receive a lot of attention. Facials, massages, scalp treatments, facial-hair removal, and eyebrow styling are among the services provided. Some cosmetologists specialize as nail technicians, also known as manicurists; pedicurists, who concentrate on toenails; electrologists, who are trained in hair removal; and estheticians, who provide skin-beauty treatments.

In addition to treating clients, cosmetologists maintain equipment, order materials, and perform clerical duties. Those who run their own shops also have financial, administration, and management responsibilities.

The cosmetologist job description includes the following:
  • Meet with customers to understand their needs, and to make suggestions regarding hair style, makeup, and other matters
  • Cut, shampoo, condition, and color hair
  • Use clippers, scissors, and curling and straightening devices to create hair styles requested by customers
  • Create permanent waves, highlights, and other hair-styling features
  • Sell, trim, shape, fit, and repair wigs and hairpieces
  • Provide skin treatments, head and neck massages, and full-body treatments
  • Trim eyebrows and lashes, and cut nose hair
  • Shave, use tweezers and wax, and employ electrolysis machinery to remove facial hair
  • Apply cosmetics, lotions, and creams
  • Recommend types of makeup, and teach customers how to use it
  • Provide fingernail and toenail treatments like cleaning, trimming, shaping, softening, and polishing
  • Fit and shape fingernail extensions
  • Maintain and clean equipment and instruments, and keep work areas sterile
  • Make recommendations regarding (and, in some cases, sell) cosmetics, hairbrushes, and other beauty products
  • Perform clerical chores that may include answering the telephone, creating and updating records, and ordering supplies
  • If running a private business, hire and supervise employees, and perform other administrative tasks
  • Take classes and read publications to keep up-to-date on fashion trends and styles

Cosmetologist Prerequisites

Cosmetologists generally work full time, which entails standing on a hard surface for hours every day. Overtime work is common, so physical endurance is required. Manual dexterity and an understanding of style are also necessary. Dangerous chemicals are used in this profession, so beauticians need to follow established health and safety policies (such as wearing rubber gloves).

As cosmetology involves working directly with people, good communication skills are crucial. Beauticians must be able to effectively explain options to customers regarding treatments, and educate them about how to take care of their hair, makeup, and nails. The ability to listen to people and empathize with them is important.

Cosmetologist Education

A prospective beautician may begin studies at a cosmetology school as early as the age of 16. However, a high school diploma or general-equivalency degree is required in most states.

Associate’s degree programs in cosmetology and hairstyling feature full-time class schedules that take six to 12 months to complete. Classes include bacteriology, cosmetic chemistry, hygiene, psychology, and sales. Public and private vocational schools offer such programs. Students are advised to make sure a school is licensed by the state.

To enhance their employment prospects, cosmetology students often serve as apprentices, working with licensed professionals, for one or two years.

Cosmetologist Certification

A certificate from a professional organization is not required to work as a cosmetologist.

All types of beauticians, except those who only shampoo hair, must obtain state-issued licenses. Proof of having successfully completed a recognized cosmetology program, and passage of a nationally administered exam, are the usual requirements for licensure.

Those who specialize in hair, nails, or skin take different licensure tests. Depending upon the state, the process may feature oral and written exams, as well as practical demonstrations of an applicant’s abilities. States mandate that licenses must be renewed either annually or every two years.

Cosmetologist Salary

Click here for Cosmetologist Salary Page