Should I Become a Makeup Artist or an Esthetician?

Many people who are interested in skin care find themselves debating between a career as an esthetician (basically, a skin care therapist) and a makeup artist. The two careers have a couple of key things in common, but they've very different in a number of ways.

Let's take a look at "makeup artist vs. esthetician" question, discuss the difference between a makeup artist and an esthetician, and try to figure out which professional is the better fit for you.

Should I Become A Makeup Artist Or An Esthetician

How The Careers Are Related

There are a couple of broad similarities between estheticians and makeup artists that you probably can figure out on your own: they're both work in the beauty industry, their clients are mostly females, and they both make people feel great about themselves.

But let's take a closer look and see how else they're related. The first similarity is kind of a gimmee:

Skin Care

Both careers focus a LOT on the skin. If you talk to the most successful estheticians and the most successful makeup artists, you will find that they are EXPERTS on skin care products, cleansing routines, and healthy practices. Cosmetologists may spend some of their time concerned with skin care, but it is primarily these two careers that focus on the epidermal layer.

Regardless of the professional career you choose—whether it's as an esthetician or a MUA—you'll be spending a lot of time thinking about the skin!


This is another commonality between the two careers: both apply makeup and give lessons about makeup application. There is one key difference, though, and you may have guessed it: makeup artists spend a LOT more time applying makeup. If applying makeup is 90% of a makeup artist's job, it's only about 10% of a esthetician's job.

That can be a good thing, though. If you don't want the rigors of a MUA's job—because being a makeup artist can be tough!—"esthetician" can be a great way to continue your love of cosmetics, but do so in a way that doesn't require you to become a freelance makeup artist.

The Different Between A Makeup Artist And An Esthetician

Now that we've figured the commonalities, let's see how they can be very different. The first one is a big one:

Daily Work Experience

While both careers focus on the skin, the work experience of each career is very different: makeup artists are coming up with creative ways to decorate the skin, whereas estheticians are concerned with keeping the skin vibrant, beautiful, and healthy. That translates to very different job experiences:


  • provide facials, body wraps, depilation, and exfoliation treatment;
  • usually have a full-time job in a salon or spa;
  • don't need to find new clients, as their salon or spa does that; and
  • need an esthetician license to find work.

Makeup artists:

  • provide makeup services to models, actors, brides, spokespersons, and persons of interest;
  • are usually free-lance, or move from temporary job to temporary job;
  • are usually self-employed and need to find their own clients and arrange their own work; and
  • don't need a license to start working.

"Esthetician" can be an easier career, because you can get a job at a spa or salon and you can keep working there for as long as you like (usually). "Makeup artist" can be a little more difficult, because you have to continually keep finding new work (new brides if you're a bridal makeup artist, new models if you're a fashion MUA, and so on).

Esthetician License vs. Makeup License

We mentioned this above, but it's important: to be an esthetician, you need to go to school and get an esthetician license, but to be a MUA, you simply have to start practicing—you don't need to go to school and you don't (at the time of this posting) need a license to practice as an MUA.

Employment Outlook

This is another important component in the "esthetician vs. makeup artist" debate. In the United States, there are only a couple thousand makeup artists who make a living doing makeup. It's a lot more difficult to make a living as a makeup artist than it is to make a living as an esthetician (or a cosmetologist), and it looks like that's going to be the case for the near future.

Makeup Artist Salary vs. Esthetician Salary

So, here's the good news: if you do make it as a makeup artist, you may be financially rewarded for doing so! According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, MUAs make a pretty decent living. Keep in mind—and we really hate being the bearer of bad news—but that number might be a little bit high, as it includes makeup artists in Hollywood, who probably make a lot more than bridal makeup artists in the local community.

What's The Right Choice For Me?

Hopefully we've given you a few things to think about. We are 100% pro-makeup artist, and we know MUAs who love their work and love their lives. But it can be a tough gig. People who want a more stable career in the beauty industry tend to become estheticians or cosmetologists/hairstylists. If that's what you decide to do, that's wonderful too! Remember, do the thing that will make you happiest and that will provide the best life for you. For some of you, that HAS to be makeup. For others, it may be cosmetology or esthetics. Search your heart and you'll come to the right choice!

Click Here to Leave a Comment Below 0 comments

Leave a Reply: