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Esthetician vs. Nail Technician: What Are the Differences?

Learn about the two careers and review some of the similarities and differences between them.

A career in beauty can be both rewarding and creative. Two popular positions in this industry are that of an esthetician and a nail technician. Though both roles involve working with cosmetics and beauty treatments, there are several key differences between them.

In this article, we discuss the differences between an esthetician and a nail technician, and we provide additional beauty professions you may be interested in pursuing.

What is an Esthetician?

Estheticians are skin care specialists who work in salons, day spas and medical spas. They cleanse and exfoliate skin, perform facials, wax hair and apply makeup. They may also give massages and provide other body treatments. Estheticians assess each client’s skin type and condition to determine the best course of treatment. They recommend products and services to help improve their client’s skin health. Estheticians must keep up with the latest skin care trends and technologies to provide the best possible care for their clients.

What is a Nail Technician?

Nail Technicians are licensed cosmetologists who specialize in the care and enhancement of nails. They clean and shape nails, then apply polish, acrylics or other nail treatments. Nail Technicians may also massage and exfoliate clients’ hands and arms. They often work in salons, spas or nail salons, but some may also work in department stores or as independent contractors. Nail Technicians must complete a cosmetology program and pass a state licensing exam to practice.

Esthetician vs. Nail Technician

Here are the main differences between an esthetician and a nail technician.

Job Duties

Both estheticians and nail technicians work with clients to help them achieve beautiful nails. They may do this by performing services like manicures, pedicures or artificial nail applications. However, an esthetician also has the responsibility of evaluating a client’s skin and advising them on proper skincare routines. This can include providing instructions on how often to get facials or waxing appointments or recommending products that can improve their skin.

In addition to performing treatments and services, both estheticians and nail technicians have administrative duties. This can include scheduling appointments, answering phones, filing paperwork and keeping records of payments and transactions. They may also clean their work areas and equipment after each appointment to ensure they’re providing a clean experience for each client.

Job Requirements

Both estheticians and nail technicians need to complete a state-licensed cosmetology program, which typically takes about nine months to a year to finish. During their training, students learn the basics of hair, skin and nails through classroom instruction and hands-on experience. Some programs also offer additional courses in topics like makeup application or massage therapy. After completing their education, estheticians and nail technicians must pass a state licensing exam before they can start working in their respective fields.

Work Environment

Both estheticians and nail technicians work in salons, but the type of salon they work in can vary. Estheticians often work in upscale salons that offer more services than basic manicures and pedicures. They may also work in spas or medical facilities. Nail technicians typically work in traditional nail salons where they perform basic manicures and pedicures for customers.

Estheticians may work long hours depending on their employer’s business needs. Some may work evenings and weekends to accommodate customer schedules. Nail technicians usually work during regular business hours, although some salons operate 24 hours a day.


Both estheticians and nail technicians use customer service skills when working with clients. This includes skills like communication, active listening and empathy. These skills help them understand their clients’ needs and provide them with the best possible experience.

Both professions also require a high level of manual dexterity. Estheticians need to be able to perform delicate tasks, such as applying makeup and removing skin blemishes. Nail technicians need to be able to apply polish and other treatments to fingernails and toenails without damaging the nails.

Estheticians benefit from having strong knowledge in the area of skincare. They need to be able to identify different types of skin and know which products and treatments are appropriate for each type. Nail technicians need to have a strong understanding of the chemistry of polishes and other nail treatments. They should also be familiar with the different types of nails, such as artificial nails, and know how to properly care for them.


Estheticians can earn an average salary of $44,359 per year, while nail technicians can earn an average salary of $39,450 per year. Both of these average salaries may vary depending on the size of the company at which you work, location of your job and the level of experience you have prior to pursuing either position.


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