If you’ve been to a cosmetic dermatology or plastic surgery practice lately, you may have noticed a licensed aesthetician (or two) on the team — and it’s for good reason. Even the best aesthetic procedures and surgeries cannot make up for poor skin quality, and that is where the expertise of aestheticians comes into play. “It is important to have synergy between surgical and non-surgical treatments for patients, especially those undergoing facial procedures,” Shay Moinuddin, RN, MS, CANS, senior aesthetic nurse and clinic director at The Few Institute in Chicago.
The relationship between the services medical professionals offer and what aestheticians can provide is often what ends up giving patients the most comprehensive and lasting results. Case in point? “When our facelift patients maintain the health of their skin by undergoing medical-grade skincare procedures, it not only enhances and prolongs the results of their surgery, it assists in maintaining the health of their skin,” Moinuddin notes.
We often talk about the importance of credentials, specialities, and board certification as it relates to doctors and surgeons, but it’s equally important for you to understand the value and role of aestheticians. In honor of National Aesthetician Day on October 15, we’re breaking down everything you need to know about the role these skin experts play in aesthetic medicine with the help of some top providers.
So, What Is an Aesthetician?
Regardless of which way you spell it (with or without the ‘a’), the crux of the role remains the same. “Aestheticians are skincare technicians,” says Sandra Peraza, master aesthetician at PFRANKMD by Dr. Paul Jarrod Frank in New York City.
In that role, Peraza and her peers are laser-focused on the health of clients’ complexions both when they are in the office and when they are tending to it themselves at home. “As an aesthetician, I perform skincare treatments for patients who have minor problems on the skin’s epidermal layer,” she explains. “I also design the best skincare routine for balance, radiance, maintenance of the skin’s health and vitality, and improving its overall look.”
Aestheticians, especially those that work within a larger aesthetics practice, are able to assess a client’s entire professional and at-home regimen and develop a treatment plan accordingly. “During my initial consultation with a patient, I spend about 30 minutes discussing goals, prior aesthetic history, medical history, and current products being used,” says Emily Mariscal, LE, senior medical aesthetician at The Few Institute. “I focus on educating a patient on what the skin really needs and ways I can incorporate our skin services in that mix.”
As it relates to education, sometimes a bit of tough love is in order. “I also provide my professional recommendations to tweak their regimen,” Mariscal shares. “To be frank, most people are using way too many active acids on their skin these days causing redness, irritation, and inflammation.” Righting those wrongs is a big part of the role. “My job is to go over key active ingredients in their skincare, why they shouldn’t over-exfoliate with too many anti-aging products, and just help simplify their regimen,” she adds.
As Peraza notes, the facials and treatments aestheticians offer “are meant to be corrective and preventative.” But that doesn’t mean they are short on ambiance. “I perform a mix of corrective treatments tailored to each individual's particular skincare needs all within the confines of a relaxing experience,” says Danielle Gamble, an aesthetician at The Spa at Fifth Avenue Aesthetics in NYC. “My clients leave refreshed with their skin glowing.”
In fact, it’s that mix of form and function — delivering high-quality, visible results in a less clinical environment — that helps keep clients returning again and again.
The Relationship Between Aestheticians & Healthcare Providers
Aestheticians are the skin whisperers who keep your complexion healthy and happy so that it is properly prepped and ready to go for any additional treatments or procedures you have planned. As such, they are, as Peraza describes, a “natural ally” to healthcare providers.
She says her “main role” is to “focus on the longevity and maintenance of treatment results in between cosmetic procedures to improve efficacy,” which is very much a team effort. “I work with my aesthetician to create a synergy to treat and maintain skin’s health,” explains Paul Jarrod Frank, MD, a board certified dermatologist and founder of PFRANKMD. “Patients have customizable treatments with our aesthetician, who is familiar with their cosmetic treatments performed in the office.”
Collaboration is a hallmark of care at The Few Institute, too. “We find the right fit for the given person’s goal and are an advocate for their best interest and results,” says Julius Few, MD, a board certified plastic and reconstructive surgeon and founder of The Few Institute. “We offer an integrated approach to patient care and coordinate all aspects of our approach.” As a result, Moinuddin says she works “very closely with aestheticians to create short- and long-term treatment plans” that are efficacious and budget conscious. “It makes patient continuity of care much more efficient when patients receive their skincare, injectable treatments, and minimally invasive skincare treatments in the same practice setting,” she notes.
In some cases, doctors and surgeons refer patients to aestheticians for additional care, but the referral process can work in the other direction, too. “I advise my patients to the various skincare facials and medical-grade devices the aestheticians utilize that best suit their needs based upon my assessment and/or the cosmetic procedure performed,” explains Marie Hayag, MD, board certified dermatologist and founder of Fifth Avenue Aesthetics in NYC. “Likewise, many of my aestheticians have their own clientele that, based upon their assessment, will have me visit after a treatment for my medical assessment.”
That constant communication is all for the client/patients’ benefit. “This holistic skincare approach allows for the best possible patient outcome to meet their skincare goals and needs,” Dr. Hayag shares. “It is a wonderful thing for physicians and aestheticians to work together as a team to provide the ultimate beauty plan for each client.”
The Role of Aestheticians in Aesthetic Medicine
At this point, you’ve likely gleaned that aestheticians play a key role in aesthetic medicine. “Patients can have the best facial plastic surgery outcomes, but, if their skin is wrinkled, sun damaged, etc., their surgical results won't shine through as well,” Moinuddin says. “A good aesthetician will put his/her patient on a consistent in-office skincare regimen that alternates exfoliation, energy-based skin tightening, laser therapy, and medical-grade skincare products.”
As technology continues to advance, so too does the capability of aestheticians. “When a licensed esthetician has at their disposal the latest devices, we can tailor a regular skincare regimen and treatment plan corresponding to the procedure performed and concern identified by the board certified dermatologist,” Gamble explains. “This synergy leads to optimal patient satisfaction and outcomes.”
Dr. Hayag describes the role of Gamble and the other aestheticians at The Spa at Fifth Avenue as “complementary” to the work she does. “The treatments they provide improve medical cosmetic treatment outcomes,” she says. “Interaction between cosmetic procedures and medical-grade spa skincare treatments absolutely produce a combined effect greater than an individual procedure alone.”
For example, she usually recommends that patients who undergo cosmetic laser treatments schedule an LED therapy session with one of her certified lead aestheticians for the same day. “This light therapy device immediately reduces redness and inflammation and soothes the affected area while also boosting collagen production,” Dr. Hayag shares. Additionally, she suggests “regular” radiofrequency (RF) and microcurrent treatments to “increase collagen and elastin production.” RF microneedling, meanwhile, can “reduce fine lines, acne scarring, and sun damage.” “This comprehensive approach leads to better sustained outcomes and a superior overall patient experience,” she adds.
And let us not forget the preventative nature of these skincare treatments. “Many patients are realizing that quarterly or even monthly treatments from a licensed aesthetician utilizing the latest in skincare devices under a physician’s guidance are part of a routine that will greatly enhance their skin’s appearance and health,” Dr. Hayag says. The sooner you start, the more likely you are to successfully slow the effects of skin aging.
What Your Aesthetician Wants You to Know
Before we let you go, here are three things that Mariscal, Gamble, and Peraza say you should know about what they can (and cannot) do for your complexion:
1. They Aren’t Doctors
“Some people may not understand the level of education and experience aestheticians have, especially those who work in a medical setting,” Moinuddin says. “They usually have undergone extensive training and truly are experts in skin health.” With that said, they did not go to medical school. “We aren’t doctors,” Mariscal emphasizes. “I’m happy to assist patients with the wealth of knowledge that I’ve obtained over the years for certain skin issues, but I always recommend seeking medical attention for serious skin conditions like eczema, psoriasis, dermatitis, or possible allergic reaction they’ve gotten from use of a product.”
2. They Aren’t Just Putting Products on Your Face
“There is, at times, a misunderstanding of the importance and long-term benefit a licensed aesthetician can add to a person's overall skincare health and beauty,” Gamble laments. The skincare treatments aestheticians offer can go a long way towards defending against premature signs of aging. “Many of the treatments I provide can reduce inflammation, aid in the healing and prevention of acne, and increase collagen production,” she says. But that’s not all. “A reputable aesthetician has a vast knowledge of skincare products and their ingredients to recommend for a customized at-home regimen for their clients,” she adds. The net-net: “A facial is so much more than putting creams on the face,” Gamble emphasizes.
3. They Work on the Skin in a Specific Way
In keeping with lesson number one, there is a limit to what aestheticians are qualified to do. “While aestheticians serve an important role in the health and maintenance of the skin, they cannot perform treatments such as Clear + Brilliant®, Ulthera®, and other types of lasers commonly offered in medspa settings,” Peraza cautions. “Such treatments must be performed by a healthcare provider.” The reason? “As an aesthetician, we work mainly on the epidermis, while more aggressive treatments, such as lasers, work beneath this layer,” she explains. Consider this yet another illustration of the importance of the relationship between medical providers and aestheticians in aesthetic medicine.
If you have your dermatologist or plastic surgeon on speed dial, it’s high time to add an aesthetician to your rolodex as well. “[Aestheticians] complement the in-office treatments I perform by helping to manage issues such as pigmentation, moisture, acne, etc.,” Dr. Frank says. As Peraza puts it, she brings her “skills and experience on how to care for skin” as she “guides patients how to take care of their skin at home and as they undergo any medical cosmetic procedure.”
At the end of the day, aestheticians are the advocate your complexion craves. “Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need a 13-step skin regimen to have glowing skin,” Mariscal shares. “Being a minimalist with products, treatments, and injectables is our mantra for youthful, glowing, natural-looking results.”
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