Dermatologist vs Esthetician: Who Should You See for Your Skin?

There are many skin care professionals you can consult with about how to care for your skin but the two most popular would be either a licensed esthetician or dermatologist. I recently had a client come to see me for a facial treatment, and during our consultation she told me, “I’ve gone to see everyone for my skin and haven’t got much results so I thought it was time I see a dermatologist. This is why I’m here to see you today.”

For clarification, I’m actually not a dermatologist (read my bio), but people often think I am. It must be the vast amount of skin care knowledge I share on Skin Source and all the skin care tips and questions I personally answer on Twitter and Facebook. But regardless, I let her know that in fact she was seeing an esthetician and assured her that I could help her get results with her skin, but I could not prescribe medication, which a dermatologist is licensed to do.

But what are the main differences between seeing a dermatologist for your skin versus seeing an esthetician?…

Let me start by saying that I’m often asked this question so I feel it’s relevant to discuss. The differences are many so let me explain how time spent with me, a licensed esthetician with 25 years of experience, garner different results than a dermatologist visit. (Note: Not all dermatologists or estheticians are equal so I’m generalizing my information with what I know to be true of most.)

An esthetician will spend more time with you than a dermatologist. If you’re scheduling a skin treatment such as a facial, the time spent with your esthetician will usually be 75-90 minutes whereas generally a dermatologist appointment will be anywhere from 10-20 minutes.

In the case of this particular client, throughout both the consultation and the facial, we talked at length about her specific skin concerns and goals, which provided me with valuable insight into her individual skin type, needs and deficiencies. Also, listening to her talk about the history of her skin back to when she was a teenager really painted a good picture for me to understand how her skin behaves. Simply put, time is on your side with an esthetician. The more information you share, and having plenty of time to do so, will allow us to piece together the puzzle to ensure you get the results you desire with your skin.

Read: How to Avoid a Negative Reaction to New Skin Care Products

A dermatologist can prescribe topical or oral medication. There are times when the use of prescription drugs is necessary to treat certain skin conditions that aren’t responding to over-the-counter skin treatments. Chronic rosacea, severe acne and skin rashes and allergies are examples of conditions that are often treated with medication.

My personal belief system is that prescription medication should be the last option since it can often act as a band-aid. Why take prescription drugs if it’s not necessary? Once you go off of them, the condition may come right back so it’s so important to play detective (and your esthetician can help you do that) and get to the root of the problem. I believe this is a more practical long-term solution. But do know, there are certainly times when I feel it’s necessary for my clients to seek medical solutions and so I will refer them to a dermatologist. If you’re currently taking medication, a good question to ask yourself is, “Is the medication giving you improvement with your skin?” If it’s not, you may want to reconsider this option.

Read: Are Antibiotics Necessary for Treating Acne?

You’ll be taken on time for your appointment. Both an esthetician and dermatologist work by appointment only. But as most will know, an esthetician will take you right at your appointment time whereas with a dermatologist, you can wait up to an hour or more before being seen. It’s just the nature of each of the industries.

Read: Five Esthetician Rules I Live By

An esthetician will be more knowledgeable about your skin care routine. As one of my Dallas dermatologist colleagues has told me, “Renée, I don’t do what you do. I was trained in treating diseases of the skin. When it comes to which products are best, what my patient’s skin care routine should look like and when to change up their products, this is not my area of expertise and this is why I refer them to you.” For an esthetician, skin care products are our prescriptions so we are very familiar with skin ingredients, which products are best to use and when, and how to enhance your skin at home.

For those who have visited a dermatologist, you’ll often hear them say “Wash with a mild cleanser and use sunscreen.” While I’m certainly in agreement with this recommendation, there is just so much more to it than that. A good esthetician will be able to go into great detail about your skin care routine and what’s right for you based on observations and your personal skin concerns revealed during your thorough consultation.

Read: What’s the Best Daily Routine for My Skin?

Read: My Six Step Plan for Evaluating Your Skin Care Products

With this particular client who had come to see me, she had been diagnosed with rosacea so her skin was very red and inflamed. Come to find out through our long conversation, I discovered she was not using any moisturizer at night thinking she was letting her skin “breathe” and so of course her skin would flare up because of the damaged lipid barrier created by not protecting your skin! Since she started using a well-formulated, barrier-repair moisturizer Phytolipid Comfort Cream at night, her skin redness has been dramatically reduced. With a dermatologist, prescription medication would have been given for rosacea, and while it may have worked, I think simply using the right moisturizer for her skin type at night was a better solution–and so did she.

Read: My Cure for Red, Sensitive, Extremely Dry, Flaky Skin

Seeing an esthetician or a dermatologist can both offer great results. There is certainly no right or wrong, it’s just a personal choice as to what approach is most comfortable to you. The decision is yours.

Which skin care products are best for you? See our nine skin types or take the Skin Type Quiz and get products recommended.

Need expert advice from a licensed esthetician? Schedule a virtual consultation to get customized advice in person, over the phone or online via Skype or FaceTime.

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Content found on, including: text, images, audio, or other formats were created for informational purposes only. The Content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this blog.