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Cosmetology is a somewhat pretentious 'non-word' invented to, supposedly, refer to the treatment of skin, hair and nails and includes, but is not limited to, manicures, pedicures, application of artificial nails, special occasion hairstyling, shampooing hair, cosmetic application, body hair removal, chemical hair relaxers or straighteners, permanent waves, coloring and highlighting of hair, and hair extensions or wig treatments. A person who is licensed in cosmetology is called a cosmetologist.
A cosmetologist, sometimes called a beautician, a beauty specialist, or an esthetician or aesthetician, is a worker who specializes in giving beauty treatments. The recipients of these treatments are usually women, however there is a growing number of men. A general cosmetologist is proficient in all forms of beauty care and can give hair treatments, facials, skin treatments, and nail treatments.
There are specific disciplines of cosmetology that some cosmetologists may specialize in. The different types of special cosmetologists include hair stylists, shampooers, manicurists, estheticians and electrologists. Many cosmetologists specialize in at least one of these categories.
A hair stylist specializes in the styling of hair, including cutting, chemical perms (relaxers, curls, waves) and color treatments. Hair stylists can also apply hair extensions and weaves. Hair stylists can also shampoo and condition client's hair, though this is not always necessary. Some hair stylists also give recommendations and perform work on wigs and hairpieces.
The shampoo technician is a sub-category of the hair stylist. A shampoo tech shampoos and conditions a client's hair to create a balanced hair care finish. Shampoo techs are normally only employed by a corporate or concept salons,and large volume beauty salons that are operated simultaneously.
A manicurist specializes in nail care, including manicures, pedicures, and nail extensions.
An electrologist offers removal of unwanted hair via an electrolysis machine. As opposed to the hair removal via waxing offered by an esthetician, hair removal via electrolysis is permanent. It has recently been argued that barbers are also cosmetologists who extend the hair stylist speciality with services especially for men, such as facial shaving.
Becoming a cosmetologist
To become a cosmetologist in the United States, a state license is required. Each state mandates the amount of educational hours necessary before a practical exam may be taken. Some states also allow apprenticeships in hair salons under the guidance of a licensed cosmetology teacher, but this is quickly becoming obsolete. Safety guidelines and the threat of lawsuits have changed the salon environment, and kept apprentices away from the chair. These days it is beneficial for anyone interested in cosmetology to pursue the minimum qualifications of hairdressing. License terms and continuing education requirements vary from state to state.
There is a difference between a barber and a cosmetologist. Barbers mainly cut hair of men and women, and shave the facial hair of men. The primary difference between the skills of a barber and cosmetologist, is the way they cut hair. Barbers utilize scissors and comb technique, along with electric clippers to cut hair. Cosmetologists use these tools also, but the primary difference is use of fingers on one hand to hold and stabilze the hair. Barbers are also allowed to use a straight razor to shave their clients, whereas a cosmetologist can only use a razor if it used for cutting hair.
A cosmetologist is concerned with a wide range of services not limited to hair. These include makeup, skincare, and nails. Today, the traditional barber is being replaced by well educated beauty professionals in some areas. Schooling is rigorous, and salons will typically retrain a hair stylist in their own method or program. Today the median income for a hairdresser is $26,000 and is much higher in some areas. See U.S. Department of Labor.
A difference also exists between beauty therapy and cosmetology. Beauty therapy involves itself with beautician or aestheticienne work (treatment of skin and nails, including manicures, pedicures, facials, waxing, facial electrical treatments, eyelash tinting, eyebrow tinting and other such treatments), physiatrics or body therapy work (Swedish massage, anatomy and physiology, body electrical treatments, body wraps, body treatments, figure analysis and cellulite treatments), and electrologywork or electrolysis. A cosmetologist instead deals with surface-only treatments. Beauty therapists can be qualified internationally through international bodies like ITEC, CIBTAC and CIDESCO.
Most cosmetologists are paid in one of the following three ways:
- Commission pay – A percentage of the money made from the provision of services is given back to the cosmetologist as pay. Many paid this way are considered self-employed, and are responsible for taxes. The salon will provide overhead expenses such as products, lights, water, etc.
- Booth rental – The cosmetologist "rents" a space in the salon, for a monthly fee. This type of pay is defined as self-employment and the cosmetologist is responsible for all products used (perms, color etc.) as well as taxes. In many states, this form of payment is illegal, owing to the difficulty of regulating the individual cosmetologist both legally and business wise.
- An hourly wage – Many corporate and small chains are going in this direction since it promotes a more controlled product by ensuring that employees are responsible for following company standards and policies.
Tips are another source of income. Skilled cosmetologists can often make a considerable portion of their income from tips from customers.
In most states, cosmetology sanitation practices and ethical practices are governed by the state's health department, and a Board of Cosmetology. These entities ensure public safety by regulating sanitation products and practices, and licensing requirements. Consumer complaints are usually directed to these offices, and investigated from there.
If someone were interested in studying cosmetology, they could take a general cosmetology course and graduate, being able to test to become licensed for all of the things listed above, or they could choose to study only to become a manicurist or cosmetician. There are private schools, and many vocational schools offer Cosmetology to high school students. In addition, there are national organizations that provide educational and professional information. In the United States, this includes the National Accrediting Commission of Cosmetology Arts and Sciences and the National Cosmetology Association.
- Jonathan Antin
- Kevyn Aucoin
- John Frieda
- Marjorie Joyner
- Paul Mitchell
- Vidal Sassoon
- Madam C.J. Walker
- Leo Passage
Categories: Limited geographic scope | USA-centric | Massage | Personal care and service occupations