- What Is an Aesthetic Nurse?
- Different Types of Aesthetic Nurse Specialties
- The Future of Aesthetic Nursing
- Explore the In-Demand and Rewarding Field of Aesthetic Nursing
Aesthetic medicine aims to improve people’s quality of life by enhancing their appearance — and the field can hold benefits for patients and practitioners alike. For patients, correcting issues such as scars or burns or removing unwanted tattoos can have the profound effect of lessening embarrassment or eliminating barriers to success that may balloon into low self-esteem and depression. For aesthetic medicine professionals, a career providing care that can make a life-changing impact on a person’s appearance and well-being can be rewarding.
Aesthetic medicine has transformed since its infancy in the 1980s and 1990s. Technologies and processes have made treatment easier for healthcare providers and more accessible for medical professionals and patients. Treatments once performed exclusively in hospital operating rooms are now often available on an outpatient basis. Aesthetic medicine professionals performed 13.3 million minimally invasive procedures in 2020, according to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS), creating strong demand for careers in the field. For nurses who choose to specialize in aesthetic medicine, the job outlook can be particularly bright, as the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts faster-than-average job growth in registered nursing roles in general between 2019 and 2029.
An aesthetic nurse is a registered nurse (RN) specifically trained to administer aesthetic services. Aesthetic procedures typically involve in-office, noninvasive treatments rather than surgery. Among the duties aesthetic nurses perform are:
- Assessing patients’ aesthetic health issues
- Performing noninvasive cosmetic treatments
- Preparing patients and treatment areas prior to procedures
- Providing patient care and monitoring progress after treatment
- Scheduling and screening patients
- Staying up to date on new treatments and guidelines
Aesthetic nurses typically work in clinics, dermatologists’ offices, medical spas, outpatient surgery facilities, or private practices — often providing flexibility in work environment and hours.
RNs who earn master’s degrees in nursing may pursue roles as aesthetic nurse practitioners. As nurse practitioners (NPs), they may have additional duties and greater responsibility. Although the exact scope of their work varies by state, many NPs work on their own, sometimes leading medical practices. They often can prescribe medications and order laboratory tests.
Demand for Aesthetic Procedures
The treatments that aesthetic nurses help administer have risen in popularity, with the number of procedures performed increasing each year from 2016 to 2019, according to ASPS. The American College of Aesthetic and Cosmetic Physicians (ACACP) calls aesthetic healthcare the fastest-growing field of medicine.
With the COVID-19 pandemic taking hold in 2020 and many elective medical treatments paused, the number of aesthetic procedures dropped by 16% — but interest in aesthetic services remained, as people focused on their appearance for video calls and in preparation for their return to in-person activities.
ASPS reported that in a 2021 survey of women, 11% indicated that they were more interested in getting aesthetic procedures than they were before the pandemic. Among women who had previous procedures, 24% expressed increased interest in further aesthetic treatments.
Aesthetic services offer outcomes that range from wrinkle reduction to scar removal, so various nurse specialties are associated with the field. Among the treatments of aesthetic medicine are:
- Botox injection
- Tattoo removal
- Laser hair removal
- Soft tissue fillers
- Chemical peels
Botox and laser procedures were among the top five most performed aesthetic treatments in 2020, according to ASPS. The number of Botox treatments has been trending upward, increasing by 89% between 2000 and 2018.
Nursing professionals may choose to pursue any of the specialties associated with aesthetic medicine, although in some cases nurses who specialize in one area of aesthetic nursing may perform treatments associated with other specialties. The following are some aesthetic nurse specialties.
“Cosmetic nurse” is a general term sometimes used interchangeably with “aesthetic nurse.” This nurse specialty focuses on various cosmetic techniques, including laser and other nonsurgical treatments and injections. Typical work locations for cosmetic nurses include dermatologists’ offices and medical spas, but some work in hospitals to perform cosmetic procedures in areas affected by major injuries.
As part of their work, cosmetic nurses often use computer images in conferring with patients about the likely results of a procedure. Along with aesthetic procedures, such as Botox treatments and laser therapy and hair removal, cosmetic nurses perform other services.
Cosmetic nurses may inject fillers to plump areas such as the chin, cheeks, or lips. These treatments often treat wrinkles that are deeper than those Botox targets. Types of fillers are:
- Hyaluronic acid derivatives. These fillers, including Juvederm and Restylane, mimic the substances found in the lowest layer of skin and make the area appear fuller for four to six months.
- Calcium hydroxylapatite. This substance, also known as Radiesse, can enhance soft tissue in the face to remove laugh lines.
- Autologous fat. This filler is fat taken from a person’s own body and then injected into the face to provide more volume, possibly for years.
Microdermabrasion creates microscopic wounds on the skin’s surface, encouraging the skin to heal by generating new collagen. Microdermabrasion uses fine crystals or tips for abrasion and suction to remove dead skin cells, resulting in younger-looking skin.
In a chemical peel, a cosmetic nurse applies a chemical solution to the skin to remove its top layers. The skin that grows to replace it is smoother, reducing the appearance of skin discoloration. The depth of the skin treated varies according to the severity of the issue; lighter peels use milder substances, such as alpha hydroxy acid, and require frequent treatments, while deeper peels use stronger acid, such as phenol, and require fewer repeat treatments, if any.
Botox is the brand name of an injectable substance known primarily for reducing the appearance of wrinkles in the face. The injections use a toxin called onobotulinumtoxinA. The substance interacts with a neurotransmitter in the body to temporarily prevent a muscle from moving, possibly smoothing the skin for months.
Because of the brand’s frequent use, people often use the term “Botox” to refer to other brands of the substance, such as Dysport, Jeuveau, and Xeomin.
Nurses specializing in Botox may work in medical spas, outpatient medical clinics, private practices, and outpatient surgery centers. In some states, RNs, NPs, and physician assistants may inject Botox. In other states, only physicians may do so. In assisting patients, Botox nurses also perform the following tasks:
- Assessing their concerns and needs
- Educating them about how to achieve the outcomes they desire
- Providing an overview of their treatments
- Following up regarding results and potential side effects
Laser nursing involves the use of laser therapy to correct skin issues without damaging the surrounding areas of the body. These treatments rely on two types of lasers. Ablative lasers remove the outer layer of the skin while heating the skin beneath it and stimulating collagen growth. The less invasive nonablative lasers encourage collagen production without damaging the outer layer of the skin.
These procedures aim to achieve results such as removing tattoos, minimizing fine lines, or lessening the appearance of blemishes from issues such as:
- Stretch marks
- Sun damage
To remove tattoos, healthcare professionals use a laser beam to break up a tattoo’s pigment. To improve scarring from burns, practitioners use stronger lasers that can repair thicker layers of skin. In addition to working with laser treatments, laser nurses may perform the following duties:
- Applying prescription creams and ointments
- Caring for wounds
- Removing dead or infected tissue from lesions
- Teaching patients how to care for their skin following treatments
- Ensuring the safe use of lasers in a medical facility
Laser Hair Removal Nurse
Lasers can also be tools to remove unwanted hair. In laser hair removal, the hair’s pigment absorbs a laser’s light, which heats and damages the hair follicles and stops or slows hair growth. Laser hair removal nurses perform laser hair removal treatments, typically in medical spas or aesthetic medicine clinics.
The work of a laser hair removal nurse also includes the following:
- Calibrating lasers and other equipment for treatments
- Explaining the procedure and care between treatments
- Monitoring patients’ vital signs and reactions to procedures
Steps to Becoming an Aesthetic Nurse
Becoming an aesthetic nurse involves meeting education and licensing requirements, with additional requirements for RNs who choose to advance to aesthetic nurse practitioner roles. Below are among the steps to becoming an aesthetic nurse.
Earn an Undergraduate Degree
To become an RN, individuals should pursue an undergraduate degree, such as a bachelor’s in nursing. These degree programs typically focus on topics such as:
- Clinical work
- Healthcare policy
- Nursing research
- Patient care
Apply for an RN License
State nursing boards grant RN licenses, with specific requirements varying according to the state where the RN candidate will work. Education requirements and a criminal background check, as well as passing an exam, are among the typical components of state RN licensing.
Pass the NCLEX-RN Exam
The National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN) tests RN candidates’ knowledge of nursing procedures and safety guidelines. The six-hour exam gauges readiness for administering care and assisting physicians.
Work as an RN
Beginning aesthetic nurses need to have two to three years of experience as RNs. Serving as an assistant to an aesthetic nurse or a physician is a good way to gain experience.
Consider Earning Aesthetic Nurse Certification
Although aesthetic nurse certification is voluntary, some employers may prefer or even require it. Certification is available through the Plastic Surgical Nursing Certification Board (PSNCB) and involves requirements such as:
- RN license
- At least two years of experience as an RN
- Current work with a physician in a cosmetics-related specialty
- Physician endorsement
- Passing score on the Certified Aesthetic Nurse Specialist (CANS) exam
Additional Requirements for NPs
To move into aesthetic NP roles, RNs generally need to earn an advanced degree, such as a master’s in nursing; earn NP certification; and receive a state license as an advanced practice registered nurse (APRN).
The American Academy of Nurse Practitioners Certification Board (AANPCB) and the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) are among the five organizations that provide certification to NPs. The criteria to receive an APRN license vary according to each state’s nursing board.
Resources for More Information About Aesthetic Medicine and Procedures
Various professional organizations host websites that provide information about working in aesthetic medicine and the procedures the field encompasses. A few of these organizations’ sites are:
- American College of Aesthetic and Cosmetic Physicians — The ACACP offers links to the sites of groups with information about the various types of aesthetic treatments.
- American Nurses Association — ANA is a group for RNs that provides information about nursing certification and advanced nursing practice. It also offers a book that outlines the nursing standards for aesthetic procedures.
- International Association for Physicians in Aesthetic Medicine — The IAPAM offers training in the various facets of aesthetic medicine and how to lead a practice that provides this type of care.
- International Society of Plastic and Aesthetic Nurses — ISPAN provides news and resources related to aesthetic nursing, including materials related to assessments of aesthetics patients.
Aesthetic nursing’s future looks to be as promising as its past, despite the temporary drop in the number of aesthetic procedures performed in 2020. ASPS reported that 35% of women who had previous aesthetic procedures planned to spend more on this type of treatment in 2021. Grand View Research predicts the global aesthetic medicine market size will increase by nearly 10% each year from 2021 to 2028.
Growth in Aesthetic Medicine
- Increased interest in personal appearance during video meetings
- Emerging technologies for conducting aesthetic procedures
- Desire to mitigate the effects of pandemic-related stress on personal appearance
- Additional time at home to recover from aesthetic procedures
- Extra money available from savings on travel and work commuting expenses
Outlook for Aesthetic Nursing Jobs
The job outlook for RNs and NPs in aesthetic medicine is strong for the coming years. The BLS predicts a 45% growth in nurse anesthetist, nurse-midwife, and nurse practitioner roles in general from 2019 to 2029, a rate that’s much faster than the 4% average growth anticipated for all professions the BLS tracks.
RN jobs will also grow at a faster-than-average rate from 2019 to 2029, according to the BLS, which predicted a 7% increase in those positions.
With the increased demand for aesthetic services and the expected job growth for RNs, aesthetic nursing is a field on the rise. Pursuing a career in aesthetic nursing helps meet the growing demand for aesthetic services and offers the satisfaction of providing treatments that can make people happier and more confident.
The profession can also bring variety and flexibility for healthcare professionals. Aesthetic medicine includes a broad range of services — from Botox treatments to laser scar removal — and aesthetic nurses work in locations as varied as hospitals and medical spas. Additionally, the field is rapidly changing, with emerging processes and technologies, such as the use of platelet-rich plasma and the development of new lasers.
A career as an aesthetic nurse is an option worth exploring for those seeking a rewarding, in-demand profession.