A cosmetologist is a beauty specialist who is educated in treating the hair, skin, and nails. A cosmetologist may care for a client, but may also consult with clients and offer suggestions regarding flattering hairstyles, skincare options, and the best colors and proper application of cosmetics. The specialist with advanced skills may also offer therapeutic treatments and massages, and advise a client in hygienic practices as well as hair, skin or nail care between visits to the salon.
State laws vary, but in most cases a cosmetologist must be sixteen years of age or older, must have graduated from a state approved cosmetology school or completed an apprenticeship, and must be licensed. To become licensed, one must prove his or her skills and must receive a passing grade on a written test. In certain states, a high school diploma, or its equivalency, is also required.
The cosmetologist may have few or many duties. He or she may specialize in a particular area or may be involved in overall customer care. A cosmetologist may cut hair, style hair or add hairpieces and weaves. He or she may also color, bleach, frost or condition hair, or add a tinted rinse to tone down bad color received at another shop or through inappropriate application of home color treatments.
The cosmetologist chooses cosmetics that are appropriate for the client's coloring and skin tone, and may apply them or teach the client how to do so. He or she may also shape, trim, pluck and color the eyebrows, or assist a client in the removal of unwanted facial hair. As for skin treatments, the cosmetologist is charged with selecting, applying or recommending a mask, anti-age creams, exfoliate and moisturizers that best suit the client's needs.
In the treatment of nails, a cosmetologist may clean the fingernails or toenails, treat cuticles, file and buff the nails, apply polish or apply artificial nails. He or she may also provide soaks or other treatments, such as conditioners or hardeners.
Although considered an expert in the field of beauty, the cosmetologist may also be required to perform or share in less specialized duties. These may include care and cleaning of beauty implements and employee stations. He or she may also answer the phone, book appointments, file, keep records, order products and sign for deliveries.