What is a cosmetologist (with responsibilities and duties)?

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 8 July 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

A cosmetologist is a beauty professional who provides a range of beauty, hair and skin care services to clients. While cosmetology covers various treatments and therapies, as a cosmetologist, you may choose to focus on one area. Training can be broad to cover all the elements or exclusive to one specialist area. In this article, we discuss the duties and responsibilities of cosmetologists and the specialist cosmetology career options available to you.

Related: How to become a cosmetologist (with salary and skills)

What are a cosmetologist's responsibilities and duties?

Knowing what cosmetologists' responsibilities and duties entail can help when looking for a job in this industry. As a cosmetologist, you provide clients with services including skincare, facials, cosmetic makeup, waxing, manicures, pedicures and hair care. Prior to treatment, you assess your clients' skin, nails and hair and discuss options like styles and colours. You also advise them on after care products and routines to help them maintain their beauty and health regime at home. Depending on the size of the establishment, you may help with other general tasks. These include covering reception, greeting clients, answering phones and making appointments.

You may also prepare sales slips, process clients' payments, sanitise the workstation or treatment room after each client, stock it amply with products and clean towels and other necessities. It's a good idea to cultivate good relationships with your customers so that you can rely on referrals to expand your client base. It's also important to keep up-to-date with new products and treatments and to encourage clients to purchase salon products, which not only increases the salon's profits but can also boost your income if you earn a commission on these sales.

Cosmetology careers

As a cosmetologist, you can perform all the duties covered by the term cosmetology, or you can specialise in one or more of the disciplines. Here is a list of several cosmetology titles and salaries, including their primary duties to consider when pursuing a role in this industry:

1. Beauty and body therapist

National average salary: £13,681 per year

Primary duties: As a beauty and body therapist, your duties include advanced facial treatments, such as electrotherapy, eye treatments, hair removal, heat treatments and body massage. They can also include cosmetic makeup, manicures and pedicures. Beauty therapists advise clients about exercise, diet and nutrition. You also apply your knowledge of professional ethics, business studies, first aid, health and safety and hygiene.

Specifically, the daily duties may include:

  • using hot wax, electrolysis, threading or other techniques to remove unwanted facial or body hair

  • facials and body skin treatments, including cleansing, exfoliating, applying masks, toning and moisturising

  • manicures and pedicures, including shaping and painting nails

  • massaging for pain relief or relaxation

  • tanning using a skin tanning lotion or spray or artificial light, such as a sunbed

  • applying cosmetic makeup

  • advising clients about makeup and beauty products for use between treatments

  • processing clients' payments and making follow-up appointments

2. Skincare specialist

National average salary: £18,094 per year

Primary duties: A skincare specialist focuses on the health and appearance of the skin on the face, neck and body. If working in a salon, they advise clients about available skincare products and encourage them to purchase salon products for use at home. They may also give facials, full-body treatments and head and neck massages, and can provide other treatments like scrubs, peels or masks to remove dry or dead skin. They maintain client records regarding treatments given and products used and may also perform managerial tasks, such as inventory control and re-ordering supplies. Specific duties may include:

  • evaluating clients' skin condition and appearance

  • discussing available treatments

  • suggesting products that may improve skin quality, including anti-ageing creams

  • ensuring that you sanitise all equipment and clean surfaces between clients

  • using wax, electrolysis or other techniques to remove unwanted facial and body hair

  • cleansing, toning and moisturising the skin

  • applying makeup if required

  • advising clients about skincare routines and how best to apply their makeup

  • referring clients to specialists, such as dermatologists, to deal with any serious skin conditions

    Related: How to become a beauty consultant: a step-by-step guide

3. Makeup artist

National average salary: £19,752 per year

Primary duties: A makeup artist performs facials to improve skin quality and appearance and applies their expertise in corrective makeup techniques. They might work in salons, photographic studios or on fashion shows, and may also specialise in special effects makeup for theatres and film studios. Makeup artists can provide services for a client's special event, such as a wedding, which may include a pre-event trial run to ensure the client is happy with the results. Typical specific duties include:

  • skin cleansing, toning and moisturising

  • applying concealer and foundation to contour and highlight

  • applying eye creams

  • eyebrow filling

  • applying false lashes or eyelash extensions

  • applying cosmetic makeup

4. Nail technician

National average salary: £21,885 per year

Primary duties: A nail technician performs manicures and pedicures. This includes using scissors, clippers and emery boards to trim and shape the nails and buffers to reduce ridges. They treat the skin, nails and cuticles of hands and feet, and may not only apply nail polish but can also add glitter, gems and transfers or use airbrush techniques to decorate the nails. Nail techs may also apply gel or acrylic artificial nails. Once the nail polish is dry, they usually apply cuticle conditioner and hand cream.

Related: How to become a beauty therapist (plus salary and FAQs)

5. Hair stylist

National average salary: £22,999 per year

Primary duties: Hairdressing is a multi-discipline occupation covering both the scalp and the hair. Typically, hair stylists consult with clients about colours and styles and advise them on products and their use. They may also clean and style a client's wig. Routine duties may include:

  • evaluating a client's hair type and condition

  • shampooing the hair and massaging the scalp

  • colour patch testing

  • applying colourant, either full-head or highlights using foils or a highlight cap

  • complying with manufacturer's instructions regarding colour processing time, temperature and safety precautions

  • applying a conditioner or hair mask to help repair damaged hair

  • trimming or cutting hair according to the client's requests, often recommending a style that might suit the client

  • setting the hair in curlers and drying, blow-drying or flat-ironing

  • suggesting products for use at home

  • making follow-up appointments for trimming or hair root colour treatment

  • for male clients, apart from the above hair care, you may also trim or shave facial hair

  • creating and maintaining client records regarding treatments and products used

6. Salon manager

National average salary: £25,354 per year

Primary duties: A salon manager oversees the operation of a hair and beauty salon. They hire, train and manage the salon employees and ensure they provide a professional and profitable service to clients whilst complying with health and safety regulations. Salon managers make sure the salon is tidy and hygienic, ensure all equipment is in good working order, conduct stock takes and re-order products. They also deal with clients' concerns or complaints, and may also undertake admin duties, such as accounts reconciliation and payroll.

7. Spa manager

National average salary: £27,572 per year

Primary duties: A spa manager oversees the routine operation of a health or beauty spa and typically hires, trains and manages the employees and creates staff schedules. They make sure employees follow all health and safety regulations and are responsible for ensuring there is an effective schedule for equipment maintenance. Spa managers may perform bookkeeping, accounting and payroll activities, stocktaking, stock replenishment, client relationship management and develop advertising and marketing campaigns. They may also organise training workshops to familiarise employees with new products, therapies and treatments.

8. Beauty copywriter

National average salary: £28,732 per year

Primary duties: A beauty copywriter typically produces marketing copy for beauty product brands. This can be for advertising purposes, product descriptions, packaging information, or advertorials for publication in beauty or fashion magazines. They can also write copy specifically for the company's website, either as an article or a blog post or a brief post on social media.

Cosmetologist qualifications and skills

It isn't necessary to have a licence to practise cosmetology, but most salons require you to have a National Vocational Qualification Level 2 or 3 in beauty therapy. Insurers also require this or an equivalent certification, such as Vocational Training Charitable Trust (VTCT) Level 2 or 3, when arranging public liability insurance cover. There are several other certification programmes you can pursue, including:

  • a cosmetology degree

  • an International Committee of Aesthetics and Cosmetology beauty therapy diploma

  • a Confederation of International Beauty Therapy and Cosmetology beauty therapy diploma

  • a VTCT level 4 advanced aesthetics course

  • an individual course in makeup, spa beauty and body therapy or salon management

While getting the necessary certification and accreditation is important for this role, having certain other skills can help you be successful as you progress in the field. Being a cosmetologist requires you to be creative and to have the ability to communicate well with clients. Other skills include good time management and an awareness of trends and fashions. Physical fitness is also helpful because you might stand for most of the working day.

Salary figures reflect data listed on Indeed Salaries at the time of writing. Salaries may vary depending on the hiring organisation and a candidate's experience, academic background and location.

Please note that none of the companies mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.

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