Is It Legal to Practice as a Medical Aesthetician?

Posted By Mike Meyer, Monday, January 6, 2020


By Sam Pondrom, JD, Associate, ByrdAdatto

Hiring an aesthetician in a medical spa can have many benefits to your business, but many professionals in these positions go on to carry the title "medical aesthetician" and this may create some problems depending on the laws in your state.

Aestheticians must practice within the state-promulgated scope of practice and only use titles authorized by their license.

To determine their scope of practice, an aesthetician should look to three places:

  1. The state laws defining aestheticians' scopes of practice;
  2. Any rulings or opinions issued by the aesthetician's licensing board addressing scope of practice or ability to accept delegation from medical practitioners; and
  3. As it pertains to medical services, the supervision and delegation rules applicable to physicians.

Find out more about how to open a successful and profitable medical spa practice.

Medical Aesthetician Certification or Training

The confusion about the existence of medical aestheticians arises from situations where state-licensed aestheticians have obtained additional education, training, certification and experience, or "competence." These aestheticians who have sought out and acquired additional competence often believe that they have expanded their scope of practice, meaning they may:

  • Perform tasks or accept delegated tasks normally outside of their scope of practice; and/or
  • Perform delegated tasks with less supervision than a standard aesthetician.

However, this is not necessarily true.

The most important thing to understand about aestheticians is that they are creatures of state law. They must obtain a license from the state(s) in which they practice, typically from the state board of cosmetology. 

These state cosmetology boards have promulgated regulations and rules that determine licensure requirements, scopes of practice and approved titles. The aesthetician license issued by a state board only allows aestheticians to perform work within the prescribed scope of practice and use the approved title. 

By designating oneself a medical aesthetician, an aesthetician can be viewed as unilaterally expanding their scope of practice or adopting a new title—or both. These actions may subject an aesthetician to disciplinary action from the cosmetology board.

Aestheticians and the Practice of Medicine

Complicating this further is that state cosmetology boards have no jurisdiction over the practice of medicine. By adding the term "medical," aestheticians create another issue for themselves with state medical boards. 

Generally, when state law defines the practice of medicine with the goal of reserving that practice to appropriately licensed persons such as physicians, they include language protecting the use of titles and descriptors that would lead the general public to believe a person is licensed to practice medicine. 

Thus, if an aesthetician describes themselves as a medical aesthetician or expands their scope of practice to include services considered the practice of medicine—or both—they may be violating their state's prohibition on practicing medicine without a license.

Often, we find aestheticians have spent their own time and money on courses that purport to train them to be medical aestheticians, but it is important to consider the source of the training. A quick Google search for "medical aesthetician course" returns many results. But if you look at the course information provided by a company offering medical esthetician classes, you almost always will find some variation of a disclaimer that says aestheticians must look to the law of the state that licensed them for the rules and regulations on their practice. 

This means that regardless of what the coursework purports to teach (e.g. lasers, injectables, dermabrasion, etc.), you can only perform the functions allowed by your state's laws.

The point of this post is not to discourage aestheticians—or any licensees—from obtaining education, training and certification to expand their knowledge base. Rather, aestheticians must take the time to fully understand their scope of practice and ability to accept delegated medical services before investing time and money on medical aesthetician classes. Moreover, aestheticians must understand that by advertising themselves as medical aestheticians, they can expose themselves to some level of additional risk.

Read these blogs to know more about the medical spa laws you need to understand to open and run a legally compliant medical spa practice:

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As the youngest of three brothers, Sam Pondrom learned early on how to work effectively as part of a team. After graduating from Oklahoma State, an intrinsic sense of curiosity and a keen eye for details led Sam to work as an accountant for two Engineering-News Record top 40 construction firms. It was here where he honed his ability to analyze complex issues and craft clear, concise answers. Sam utilizes these skills to work in partnership with our clients to resolve their complex business and regulatory concerns in the most simple, straightforward way.

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