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Every person in the beauty industry has asked this question at least once in their life. Whether you’re in high school trying to discover your career path, heading into a career change, or perhaps you’re already in the industry and looking for further study, we’ve all questioned, “what really is the difference between a beauty therapist and a dermal therapist?”. It’s a relevant question because on the surface, especially from a client’s point of view, both job titles look almost indistinguishable so, is there a straightforward answer to this?

The clear-cut, straight-to-the-point answer is along the lines of this; beauty therapy studies are primarily focused on providing a beauty service, whereas dermal therapy is targeted to helping treat a skin concern. But we all know that the answer is truly more complex. Different institutions in our industry provide different units of studies and methods of learning so not every course is exactly the same. They are continuously edited and altered every couple of years to be up to date with the current growth of the beauty industry not to mention, the beauty industry is not entirely regulated. However, the fundamental training is enforced to ensure the safety of both clients and therapists.

Qualification Difference

The difference in qualifications is the main distinctness between the two and is the main point to describe to clients. Those who study and perform beauty therapy treatments have a diploma that can be obtained through nationally recognised vocational education. A dermal therapy qualification, however, has a longer duration and is equivalent to a Bachelor Degree that spans a total of four years.

Although the dermal therapy qualification has more formal training than a beauty therapist, a highly popular education pathway that many students undertake is completing their beauty therapy diploma first and then completing the dermal therapy qualification so that the best of both worlds can be achieved. Many educational institutes implement clear pathways for this, with the intention to provide an easy transition between the qualifications.


Content Knowledge

Background knowledge of treatments is an integral component for any therapist in this industry. For beauty therapy, the education provided is to understand skin anatomy to support sufficient treatment and product recommendations. The focus is mainly on hands-on training but there is additional theory content to understand the framework of the beauty industry workforce and safe hygiene practice.

Dermal therapy has a focus on the theory elements of the industry which entails subjects including cosmetic chemistry, dermoscopy, infection control, and Occupational Health and Safety (OH&S). Laser safety units are also taught in order for therapists to safely operate machines and devices, to alter parameters specific for clients as well as extensive clinical consultation and skin analysis.

Treatments and Services Expertise

Both therapists, despite their differences, share a common goal – uplift and enhance the wellbeing of their client. Beauty therapy services excel in hands-on training and techniques including body massages, tanning, makeup application, lash and brow treatments, aromatherapy, nail care and waxing.

On the contrary, dermal therapy has an emphasis on that their services are not “fluffy” treatments. Dermal therapists have the ability to safely operate laser and light devices for superficial cosmetic treatments concerning hair reduction, skin rejuvenation, tattoo removal, vascularity and pigmentation concerns. They also have an education and practice for facial treatments such as chemical peels, microdermabrasion and skin needling as well as lymphatic treatments and wound management techniques.


In the Beauty Industry

In the workplace, the two look similar. Beauty therapists are often working further than their qualifications, carefully instructed by their senior therapists and managers. An extension of treatment mechanisms are often directed by the brands they’re working with and are tailored as such to those ranges. Beauty therapists regularly work in a team but also have experience in making independent decisions.

Treatments in dermal therapy are performed in a professional clinical setting. Some workplaces also give dermal therapists an opportunity to be able to observe surgeons or dermatologists regarding skin concerns and treatments. Dermal therapists work individually using machines and make independent decisions for treatments but also have opportunities to work in a team. They often require product training for brands and treatments however are expected to know treatment mechanisms as part of their studies.


Future Endeavours

As beauty therapy students have units dedicated to fundamental business relating knowledge including customer service, finance and work compliances, there is limelight towards career paths as salon managers and owners. Beauty therapists tend to find careers in the spa sector and have the responsibility to develop a relaxing and calm atmosphere that reflects on the treatments. This pathway can lead therapists to acquire jobs on cruise ships, hotels, salons, clinics and resorts.

It is common for dermal therapy students to work alongside other professions in the skin industry such as dermatologists, surgeons and nurses due to having training in dermoscopy, OH&S and infection control. Dermal therapists can also further study nursing if looking into injectables as a career prospect. Furthermore, dermal therapists have been approached by places like aged care facilities due to their knowledge in skin management and wound care. And of course, they can work in skin clinics to perform skin treatments.