How to Become a Nurse Esthetician

Nurse estheticians are vital parts of many medical or salon and spa teams. They provide services most other esthetics professionals can't, allowing their employers to promote their facilities in unique ways.

If you're a nurse who wants to specialize in this field or an esthetician hoping to advance your career, this guide is here to help you find your path.

What is a Nurse Esthetician?

A nurse esthetician is a registered nurse who performs advanced, non-surgical cosmetic procedures. Because of their medical background, a nurse esthetician will have skills and competencies beyond those of a traditional esthetician. They may also be called esthetic nurses, aesthetic nurses, or cosmetic nurses.

What Does a Nurse Esthetician Do?

Nurse estheticians perform a wide range of cosmetic treatments for skin. These treatments may include Botox, dermal fillers, microdermabrasion, tattoo removal, laser treatments, and more.

Additionally, nurse estheticians address the educational and psychological aspects of cosmetology. They may teach patients the best practices for caring for atypical or problematic skin or coach clients through issues with their body image, anxiety, and depression.

Importantly, nurse estheticians often work with doctors who treat patients who have gone through traumatic physical experiences, like burns or cancer treatments. They can help these patients learn to care for their skin's new needs, both in terms of health and beauty. Not only can they help patients stay healthy physically, but they can also help them on the path to becoming confident in their appearances again.

Nurse estheticians may work with patients in a clinic or with clients in a salon or spa. Some nurse estheticians may choose to work as independent contractors, seeing patients in a setting they determine.

How is a Nurse Esthetician Different from an Esthetician?

The most basic difference between estheticians and nurse estheticians is education. Estheticians are licensed to work on the skin, performing skin care services such as massage, skin conditioning, superficial chemical peels, body treatments, and hair removal. Nurse estheticians are medical professionals who may perform many of the same tasks as estheticians but have additional training to perform specialized treatments and work in medical facilities.

A medical background is what sets nurse estheticians apart from traditional estheticians. Your training and education in nursing will give you a foundation in the fields of anatomy, physiology, biology, mental health, nursing practice, and pharmacology, as well as in clinical experience.

How is a Nurse Esthetician Different from a Medical Esthetician?

Medical estheticians, like estheticians, have an esthetics licenses but don't have degrees in the medical field, while nurse estheticians do.

A medical esthetician, also called a paramedical esthetician, can perform near-medical skin services in a clinical or salon setting. They have some basic medical training, perform non-invasive procedures, and are bound by state licensing laws.

A medical esthetician is not only qualified to perform traditional esthetician services but has also received advanced training that qualifies them for procedures such as manual lymphatic drainage, cauterizing varicose veins, and advanced hair removal. Medical estheticians may perform pre- and post-operative care in surgery clinics or work with patients who have experienced skin trauma resulting from burns or chemotherapy. They may work in settings like dermatology clinics, rehabilitation centers, or plastic surgery offices.

The biggest question people considering medical vs. nurse esthetician careers often ask is: Can I perform Botox? Botox can only be done by licensed medical professionals, like doctors, nurses, dentists, physician assistants, and nurse estheticians. The types and levels of medical training you need to perform Botox procedures vary by state, but medical estheticians cannot perform Botox injections.

Step to Becoming a Nurse Esthetician

  1. Obtain your two-year Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) or four-year Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN). A bachelor’s is preferred by many top employers hiring RNs.
  2. Take and pass the NCLEX-RN exam to become licensed in your state.
  3. Work in the nursing field to gain experience. For those who wish to undertake the next step of certification, you'll need at least 1,000 hours of practice within the core specialties over the previous two years. You may wish to work in a position related to your interest in esthetics. This could include dermatology, plastic surgery, oncology, mental health, or trauma wards.
  4. Although there is no required certification to work as a nurse in the field of esthetics, registered nurses may choose to obtain a Certified Aesthetic Nurse Specialist (CANS) certification through the Plastic Surgical Nursing Certification Board (PSNCB). This certification requires renewal every three years.

You don't need to be an esthetician before earning your nursing degree to become a nurse esthetician. However, becoming a nurse esthetician is not an uncommon path for estheticians and other beauty professionals to take. The opposite is also true, with people often transitioning from nursing to beauty.

Nurse Esthetician Salary and Job Growth

Many factors determine potential pay for nurse estheticians. A nurse esthetician working in a salon may receive a different salary than one working in a clinic or hospital setting, for example.

When performing research on salary ranges, consider the variety of workplaces available and the differences in pay by state and city. Additionally, remember to search for similar-sounding job titles, as there is no universal standard for nurse esthetician job titles.

Do Nurse Estheticians Earn More Than Regular RNs?

The salary potential and career outlook for nurses in general is strong. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the 2019 median pay for registered nurses, not accounting for any specializations, in the U.S. is $73,300 per year, and jobs are expected to increase by 7% in the next decade—which is faster than average growth for all careers.

Salary estimates vary widely for nurse estheticians, and insightful data may be difficult to obtain when jobs in the field are sometimes titled differently. For example, as of January 2021, ZipRecruiter shows a range of average annual pay from $54,869 for nurse estheticians to $85,621 for aesthetic nurses. By contrast, Salary.com lists a median annual salary for aesthetic nurses of $60,415.

These inconsistencies may be further explained by the fact that these sites’ salary data are self-reported, with employees supplying information based on their job titles. This can further be affected by how many people report, the states in which they work, and their workplaces.

How Does Nurse Esthetician Pay Compare to Medical Esthetician Pay?

ZipRecruiter places the national average annual salary for medical estheticians at $39,923 and Salary.com lists the median annual income for medical estheticians as $48,150. In comparison, ZipRecruiter reports an average annual salary for someone in the medical aesthetics field at $85,405. Unlike nurse estheticians, medical estheticians are not required to obtain medical licensure, which is reflected in these differences in average salary ranges.

Data variations may be due to sample size, self-reported data sources, and slight differences in definition of what occupations are included in the category, as mentioned above.

The pay rates you find in your community may differ from national averages. And remember: The industry is always growing and changing.