What is a Beauty Therapist?

What is a beauty therapist? Is it the same as an Aesthetician? Or a Cosmetologist? Or even a Beautician?

Well. Yes…and no.

Many aspects are the same. Beauty therapists, a/estheticians, cosmetologists, and beauticians are all qualified to provide beauty therapy in the core disciplines. However, their focus and region of practice are different.

A beauty therapist is a trained expert in a wide range of face and body treatments aimed at enhancing and maintaining the beauty of every client. The term ‘beauty therapy’ covers most salon treatments available: Nail technology, skin care recommendations, facial treatments, hair removal, massage therapy, lash technology & eyebrow treatments.

This is a broad spectrum, and allows plenty of opportunity for progression into specialities. A beauty therapist may specialise in laser therapy, derma therapy, reflexology, cosmetic injections or any number of things.

So how can you become a beauty therapist? As with all things, it is important to complete enough training so you can treat clients with an expert touch. Most TAFE and beauty schools offer a diploma in beauty therapy, however you can also gain your certifications by studying online or in-classroom short courses.

1. What does a beauty therapist do?

A beauty therapist addresses client beauty concerns in the scope of hair removal, nail technology, facial treatments, massage therapy, and lash and eyebrow treatments. These technicians are a huge part of the beauty services industry, and are capable of performing most available treatments on the market.

A beauty therapist can also specialise in their work. Many move into a niche service because it aligns best with their passion for beauty. Additionally, because specialisation comes with a degree of further interest and education, specialised beauty therapists often earn a higher wage.

Traditional Services of a Beauty Therapist:

1. Make-up

2. Facial treatments

3. Nail Technology

4. Manicures & Pedicures

5. Waxing treatments

6. Massage therapy

7. Skincare recommendations

8. Retail

9. Aromatherapy and reflexology

10. Lash and brow services



*See Appendix 2: Terminology for an explanation of terms used in beauty therapy

2. Where do beauty therapists work?

Beauty therapists work everywhere! That’s not an over-exaggeration. If you’ve ever wondered what it would be like to work at a popular holiday destination (hello Fiji), beauty therapy could be the ticket. Hotel and Resort spas employ beauty therapists to provide relaxation focused services. Or, if you’re a wanderer at heart, you could also offer your services on a cruise ship.

No matter the destination, there is always work in beauty therapy.

Department stores offer customers make-up services, skincare samples, and information regarding ingredients and skin care regimens. In order to do this, they need knowledgeable and skilled beauty graduates.

If you are interested in dermatologically specific beauty therapy, you can find work in a beauty salon or specialist spa and clinic. Often these services are geared towards skincare treatments and beautification.

A beauty trade show or exhibition is another hotspot for beauty therapists. These retailers want to show what their products do, and without the skilled touch of a beauty therapist, customers won’t know the full range of the product.

Maybe you want to combine your love of beauty with fashion. Beauty therapists, specifically make-up artists, are always behind the scenes at runway shows. Any product launch, photo shoots, or press will need the services of dedicated beauty experts.

Or, perhaps none of these options have ignited your passion (really, not even Fiji though?). In that case, what of a home or mobile salon? Beauty therapists are popping up everywhere in home salons, providing services to clients in a comfortable, atmospheric environment.
Mobile salons are another great option, as you are able to meet the client in a location that suits both parties, and work to your schedule. Branching out into your own beauty business is a great way to cultivate your income and schedule.

These are just the beginning. Beauty therapists really do work everywhere! If you can combine your love of beauty with other interests to create a marketable niche service, your treatments will consistently find demand.

3. What kind of jobs are available?

The world of beauty therapy is substantial. It spans a huge range of services all aimed at beauty, healing, and wellness. Beauty therapists can work in any of their studied core disciplines, or take their education further and specialise in a particular field.

Traditional Beauty Therapy Positions:

  • Spa and salon generalised beauty therapist
  • Waxing technician
  • Massage therapist
  • Facialist
  • Nail technician
  • Lash and brow technician
  • Make-up Artist

* See Appendix 2: Explanation of Services for a full list of services

Additionally, the fields below are common specialties that beauty therapists explore. It should be noted that specialties are forever evolving within the world of beauty, so the list below is by no means exhaustive:

Specialist Beauty Therapy Positions:

  • IPL, Laser & Dermal Therapist
  • Skin Needling technician
  • Specialty Lash Technician
  • Specialty PHR & Cosmeceuticals Beauty Therapist
  • Eyebrow Threading Specialist
  • Electrolysis Hair Removal Specialist
  • Microblading Artist

* See Appendix 3: Explanation of Advanced Beauty Services for a full list of services

4. What services can a beauty therapist provide?

Think of your favourite spa or beauty salon. You could probably book in to get a facial, a massage, or a nail treatment, right? These are all performed by beauty therapists. They are trained to provide a wide range of services from hair removal, facial treatments, skin-care tailoring, manicures and pedicures, massage therapy, make-up, lash treatments and brow technology.

Beauty Therapy is the term used to describe services for the maintenance and enhancement of beauty. The services listed above are typical salon and many others!

5. Can you specialise?

As mentioned above, it is a fairly standard practice for beauty therapists to specialise in a certain field. Not only are they able to pursue a field that aligns with their particular interest, but they are also able to negotiate better rates due to higher education levels and experience.
We are all obsessed with finding new and invigorating beauty maintenance, so niche beauty treatments are often a huge success.

Renee Rouleau, for example, is a beauty therapist (esthetician) who has specialised in facial treatments and brought out her own skincare line, tailoring the products to different skin types and taking the guesswork out. She has gained a large online following and is doted on by celebrities like Demi Lovato, and Sabrina Carpenter.

Another niche beauty therapist, Biba de Sousa, has specialised in facial treatments that incorporate alternative medicinal practices and lymph drainage. Her treatments have garnered a cult following from the likes of Miley Cyrus, Emma Roberts, Mandy Moore, Emily Blunt, and Rosie Huntington-Whiteley.

Melanie Simon is an aesthetician who has specialised her face and body treatments to incorporate electrical currents applied directly to the skin to stimulate the muscles and cells. She has developed her own product called ZIIP, and has garnered attention from celebrities like Mandy Moore, Sarah Paulson, Eva Mendes and many others.

These are just a few of the many beauty specialists who are making a name for themselves in the industry. They are catering to the most elite clients, while also creating skincare lines and tools for individual use.

There is no end to the incredible opportunities for specialising in beauty therapy. A combination of your interests could be the perfect way to carve a niche for yourself.

6. How do you become a beauty therapist?

Beauty therapy follows any legitimate treatment industry by requiring therapists to be educated before treating clients. In Australia, the usual qualification for beauty therapists is a diploma in beauty therapy. This is often obtained at beauty school, however there is a growing trend to become certified through online courses and distance education.

Depending on your country of operation, you may also need a license or accreditation to practice beauty therapy. We recommend that you research your country’s regulations before applying to study beauty therapy.

7. What qualifications are required?

The beauty industry in Australia was deregulated in 1986, so the only qualification needed is a certification from your specific course. For Australian and New Zealander beauty therapists, It is not necessary to invest in an accreditation.

In America, estheticians (Beauty therapists) are required to undertake a licensing examination in order to practice.

The UK requires a Massage and Special treatments License in order to perform massage therapy, manicures, saunas, jacuzzis, herbal baths, aromathy, acupuncture, chiropody, light treatments, and electric treatments.

8. What training is available to become a beauty therapist?

While this can depend on your location, the options for studying beauty therapy have grown monumentally within the last decade. The standard pathway towards becoming a beauty therapist is through beauty school, which usually provides a diploma qualification and covers the core disciplines of a beauty therapist.

If, however, beauty school is not an option, then there are many other ways to study. The online study options are easily accessible, financially reasonable and flexible. Many of these courses that will provide the knowledge and practical skills necessary to be successful in the industry.

There are also in-classroom short courses, DVD courses, and apprenticeship pathways towards becoming a beauty therapist. We recommend researching the opportunities in your area to find the best fit for you!

9. What experience do you need?

The experience for a Beauty Therapist is often included in training or education. In undertaking a beauty course, you will be taught the theoretical concepts and practical skills in order to treat clients effectively. Additionally, in order to pass the practical skills assessments, you may need to perform particular services on volunteer clients.

So for most beauty therapist positions, you may work with only your education under your belt. However, there may be some more advanced positions that require a higher level of experience.

Positions that typically need a higher level of education or experience:

  • Salon management
  • IPL, Laser & Dermal Therapist
  • Skin Needling technician
  • Specialty Lash Technician
  • Specialty PHR & Cosmeceuticals Beauty Therapist
  • Eyebrow Threading Specialist
  • Electrolysis Hair Removal Specialist

10. Is there an age limit to becoming a beauty therapist?

Yes, and no.

There are no age limits to learning the craft of beauty therapy. Many online courses or tutorials will teach you the fundamentals of services within the industry with no concern for age requirements.

However, In order to practice as a beauty therapist and complete a course at Beauty School, you will need to be of working age. This differs depending on your area.

There is no upper age limit on practicing beauty therapy. As long as you are physically able to undertake the tasks required, then the industry is all the better for having you! Not only is it comforting to be placed in the hands of a beauty therapist who has life experience and compassion, but it’s also quite common. Nails Magazine 2019 reported that 40-45 year olds made up 18% of Nail Technicians. Even more interesting, is that 40% of nail technicians didn’t even study beauty until over 30 years old!

No matter your age, it is always a good time to invest in beauty education! The options for study and employment are endless.

11. Do Beauty Therapists Earn a lot?

This entirely depends on where and how you work. Many beauty therapists work for salons or spas, which don’t provide much control over wages or earnings. The average wage for a beauty therapist early in their career is (AUD)$23.96 per hour. While this only amounts to $650pw ($33,800p.a) at full time hours, it is not a full picture of the wages earned in home salons or privately owned businesses.

Should you choose to own and operate your own business, you could stand to make substantially more. The average salary of salon owners is $57,653 p.a in Australia.

And then, if you were to branch out into a niche service, your rates would be different to the norm. Specialists in eyebrow microblading, for instance, can earn up to $800 per session (1-2 hours). While the amount charged is subject to high variance, it is still an extremely lucrative career.

12. What Kind of Person is Suited to Beauty Therapy?

There are so many attributes that beauty therapists embody. Creativity, trust, confidence, passion, and luxury. While studying beauty can help you cultivate many of these, you might also benefit from exploring these traits in your own time. Practice being welcoming, charming, and making people feel at ease. Or, ignite your creativity and passion by exploring your specific beauty interests and applying them to your work.

What is most important is your ability to talk to clients and make them feel comfortable. If you find it hard to talk to people you don’t know, try to practice in everyday situations to build your confidence. This is paramount to providing the luxury spa and salon experience we all love.

Appendix 1: Terminology

Cosmetologist:(US terminology)

Cosmetology is a commonly used term throughout American beauty schools. It has much the same meaning as the Australian use of Beauty Therapist: Someone who is trained to provide services in skincare, cosmetics, nail technology, and waxing.

Additionally, Cosmetologists are trained to provide IPL and electrolysis hair removal, as well as Hairstyling. These services are not included in the fundamental diploma of beauty therapy, however can be studied as extension courses.

In essence, a cosmetologist (US) performs the same services as a beauty therapist (AU), and differs in terminology because of country or region.

Esthetician: (US terminology)

An esthetician is an American term, equating to a beautician in Australia, however they specifically focus on facials and skincare treatments. They have completed the same level of schooling as beauty therapists, however also passed a license examination to practice.

Aesthetician: (US terminology)

An aesthetician is the same as an esthetician, however they work alongside dermatologists or in specific skin clinics. Both positions have completed the same level of education. Essentially, aestheticians are estheticians who work in a medical environment.

Beautician: (AU terminology)

A Beautician is very similar to a beauty therapist in Australian terminology. There is some argument that says beauticians are lower level beauty therapists. They may have completed all the same fundamentals, but beauty therapists tend to have continued on to complete extension courses or experience.

Having said that, it is important to note that the two terms have become mostly interchangeable. Most services under the umbrella of beauty therapy have been provided under the skillful hands of beauticians and beauty therapists.


A dermatologist is a skin specialist who has been to medical school and worked as a doctor, before branching out into this specialty. Because they are a qualified doctor, they are able to prescribe medication to assist with skincare concerns, and also lance cysts or lesions. A beauty therapist or esthetician is only able to apply topical treatments.

Additionally, a dermatologist may provide in house facials, but these tend to be high intensity peels, exfoliants, or light therapy. If a client was looking for any niche facials or skin treatments, a beauty therapist (or esthetician) should be the first point of call.

If the client has severe or cystic acne, consultation with a dermatologist is often recommended. They may also prescribe facial treatments with a beauty therapist in the treatment plan.

Appendix 2: Explanation of Services

Facial Treatments

A facial is performed by a skincare professional to address many different skin concerns. It usually involves a cleanse, exfoliation, and/or mask applied to the face and neck. The mask is most often used to give moisture, hydration, or to brighten and even skin tone.

The term ‘facial’ can also be used to describe laser therapy, microneedling, electro-current therapy, or many other treatments.

Skincare Recommendations

Beauty therapists are employed for their skills, but also their knowledge. Many people seek out a beauty expert’s advice, be it a dermatologist or beauty therapist, in order to treat their skin concerns. Those working in the beauty industry need to have a thorough understanding of the latest skincare technology used to perfect every different type of skin issue.

Waxing Services

Waxing body hair is an evolution of the ancient ‘sugaring’ tradition. It involves applying hot wax to the hair follicles. Once hardened, the wax is pulled back, taking the whole follicle with it.

While this can be a painful experience, waxing technicians have learned the best ways to mitigate the pain as much as possible. There are treatments to wax almost every part of the body: full-leg, half-leg, bikini, brazillian, stomach, back, full-arm, half-arm, upper lip, eyebrows, and more!

It is also important to note that there are different types of wax to treat separate areas. This way, the sensitive areas of the body are not over stripped and irritated.


Make-up is the use of liquid, gel, powder, and cream pigmented materials to enhance, change, and shape the face. It takes form in every day make-up, bridal, glam, film & tv, special effects, and costume.

Nail Technology

Nail technology is the decoration and maintenance of finger & toe nails using traditional, gel, shellac, or SNS polish. Services can range from a full manicure to the application of false nails.

Manicures & Pedicures

A manicure is a comprehensive nail treatment that trims cuticles, files and buffs the nail and prepares for polish and shaping. It often also involves a hand massage during the preparation.

A pedicure is a full foot treatment to exfoliate the dead skin, soften heels, shape nails, and apply polish.

Massage Therapy

Massage therapy is an ancient technique of muscular manipulation to ease tension and relax the body. This treatment is purported to reduce stress, anxiety, and emotional tension, and ongoing treatment can assist the body in healing and better mobility.

Lash Lifts & Extensions

Lash lifts and extensions are fairly new treatments that are used to make the lashes appear fuller, longer, and healthier.

Extensions use an adhesive to glue synthetic or natural hair close to the lash line. This is a semi-permanent version of a set of false lashes. Lash extensions usually last between 2-3 weeks.

Lash lifts boost the curl of your lashes from root to tip. This way the full length and thickness of your lashes are visible.

Brow Treatments

The brow treatments on the market differ from temporary, semi-permanent to permanent solutions for shaping, colouring, and defining brows.

Waxing and threading are treatments to remove hair outside of the desired brow shape. Hot wax is applied to the skin and used to take out the hair follicle; or, for threading, two strands are worked over the hair and the tension tweezes it from the skin.

Brow tinting is a dying process where special pigment is applied in the desired brow shape. This tones the skin and hair, so the brows appear naturally thicker and defined. This tends to last around six weeks from treatment.

Microblading is the process of tattooing brows using microneedles to imitate the look of hair. It will last up to three years, and mimic a natural brow.

Cosmetic Tanning

Cosmetic tanning has moved to replace sunbed and solar tanning by using a UV safe method to mimic melanin. The tanning technician uses a spray gun to apply a pigment to the skin. This can last up to 14 days, but it is subject to different skin tones and regimens.

Spa Treatments

Spa treatments include a wide range of services aimed at the beautification and maintenance of client goals. This includes facial treatments, bath and sauna services, cryotherapy, massage therapy, nail treatments & decoration, body wraps & scrubs, laser treatments, and alternative medicine.

Eyelash Extensions (basic)

Eyelash extensions are the application of synthetic or natural hair fibres close to the lash line, using specialised adhesive. This creates the appearance of longer & thicker lashes.

Body Scrubs

Body scrubs are usually offered in a spa or salon and are promoted to help skin tone and appearance, increase blood flow, and the look of cellulite through exfoliation. Scrubs can be formulated using sugar granules, salt granules, coffee, and many other ingredients. Each scrub is created for different purposes.

Dry Brushing

Dry brushing exfoliates by using a stiff bristled brush in circular motions over dry skin. This is applied to all areas of the body, but particularly areas that struggle with cellulite or skin texture. Dry brushing is not used on the face, as the skin is too delicate.

Body Wraps

Body wraps cover the client in a detox, slimming, moisturising or mud treatment and then use a blanket or weighted material to steam the body. This helps the ingredients penetrate deeper into the skin and also allows the body to sweat out toxins and impurities.

Ear Candling

Ear candling uses a hollow, cone shaped candle to remove wax build up, ease headaches and cold & flu symptoms. The candle is placed over the ear canal and draws out toxins. This technique comes from ancient medicinal practices from many different cultures.

Hot stone massage

A hot stone massage uses water-heated stones placed in key areas on the spine to soften and relax the muscles on the back and adjoining limbs. This allows the massage therapist to penetrate deeper and ease tension or injury.

Appendix 3: Explanation of Advanced Beauty Services

IPL & Laser Therapy

IPL & Laser therapies are used to permanently remove unwanted hair. The light-based therapy damages the hair follicles, offering long term treatment for hair growth. Both are safe to be used on all areas of the body.

Skin Needling

Skin needling stimulates collagen production and assists in the reduction of fine lines, wrinkles, acne scarring and uneven skin tone. A series of micro needles are moved over the skin either using a roller or dermapen.

Advanced Lash Extensions

There are different levels of education and experience amongst lash technicians. The basic lash extensions can be expanded upon and allow for a wider range of eyelash lengths, volumes, and thicknesses.

Eyebrow Threading

Eyebrow threading is used to remove unwanted hairs and shape the brows. The technician uses two threads to tweeze the hair and remove it from the follicle. This is often coupled with brow tinting.

Electrolysis Hair Removal

Electrolysis hair removal is a permanent method of tweezing out hair from the bottom of the follicle. A tiny probe is inserted, and often the hair follicle is damaged either by heat or chemical application. It is the only permanent hair removal method that is FDA (US) approved.