How to Become an Aesthetic/Cosmetic Nurse

11 Min Read Published August 7, 2023
aesthetic nurse

Aesthetic nurses often help plastic surgeons and cosmetic dermatologists, providing pre- and post-operative care related to plastic surgery as well as delivering care to patients under the supervision of a physician. 

In this guide, we will explain how to become an aesthetic or cosmetic nurse, the average aesthetic nurse salary, education requirements, aesthetic nurse certifications, and more.

What Is an Aesthetic/Cosmetic Nurse?

Aesthetic/cosmetic nurses are registered nurses who provide a variety of services. These can include,

  • Injections of dermal fillers and Botox neurotoxin
  • Photofacials
  • Dermabrasion
  • Micro-needling
  • Tattoo removal
  • Non-surgical body contouring 
Some employers use the alternative spelling “esthetic nurse” or “esthetician’s nurse” in job descriptions and job listings. In this guide, we’re using the traditional spelling, “aesthetic nurse.”

Cosmetic nurses usually work in private offices or medical spas affiliated with plastic surgery practices or cosmetic dermatology practices. Cosmetic nurses provide services to a wide range of patients seeking a boost in their appearance and self-confidence. 

Most patients who seek this kind of treatment are women, but men are increasingly seeking these treatments, too, adding even more demand for medical aesthetics procedures.

Youtube video

What Do Aesthetic Nurses Do?

Aesthetic nurses help plastic surgeons and dermatologists provide cosmetic procedures. These healthcare procedures -- whether invasive or non-invasive -- help improve their patient’s appearance. 

In some cases, patients seek treatment for medical purposes; for others, the procedures can provide a boost of confidence and a more youthful look. 

Whether working full-time or part-time, the job responsibilities that aesthetic/cosmetic nurses perform can include:

  • Consulting with patients, including scheduling, interviewing and medical screening prior to services being provided.
  • Examination of skin to assess both aging and other health problems.
  • Performing pre-operative and post-operative care.
  • Assisting the physician with procedures and surgeries.
  • Preparation and sterilization of instruments and surgery suites.
  • Administering injections of Botox and fillers, performing chemical peels, laser hair removal, dermabrasion, CoolSculpting, removing tattoos, and more.

Aesthetic/cosmetic nurses work in dermatology and plastic surgery offices and medspas, and they may also assist in hospital operating rooms. Occasional emergencies and adverse reactions to treatments can create some schedule unpredictability for surgery nurses, but in most cases, aesthetic nurses work regular hours with no night shifts.  

In addition to working in an environment dedicated to improving patient quality of life, aesthetic nurses can also build long-term relationships with patients who return for maintenance of existing treatments or to investigate additional treatments. 

Nurses who work in medical aesthetics can see the improvements their treatments provide and observe the boost of confidence patients can get from achieving their individual aesthetic goals.

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How To Become an Aesthetic/Cosmetic Nurse

If you want to become an aesthetic nurse, you’ll need to complete the following steps. 

Step 1. Earn Your Registered Nurse Degree

Becoming an aesthetic/cosmetic nurse begins with a registered nurse degree, which you can earn through either a two-year associate’s degree in nursing (ADN) or a four-year bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) degree. 

Some nurses decide to go beyond the BSN and earn their MSN or DNP in order to become an aesthetic nurse practitioner.

Step 2. Pass the NCLEX-RN

Once you've earned your RN degree from an accredited nursing program, you'll then need to pass the NCLEX-RN exam to become licensed by one or more states. 

Step 3. Gain Experience 

As part of your aesthetic nurse training, you must gain experience, spending at least two years working in core competencies with a board-certified physician in plastic/aesthetic/cosmetic surgery, dermatology, facial plastic surgery, or ophthalmology.

Step 4. Earn a Certified Aesthetic/Cosmetic Nurse Specialist Credential 

To position yourself for the best aesthetic/cosmetic nurse jobs, consider earning an aesthetic nurse certification. There are several options to choose from:

  • 1. Certified Aesthetic Nurse Specialist (CANS)
  • 2. Certified Plastic Surgery Nurse (CPSN)
  • 3. Dermatology Nurse Certified (DNC)
  • 4. Dermatology Certified Nurse Practitioner (DCNP)

Timeline for Becoming an Aesthetic/Cosmetic Nurse

  • Two to five years to earn ADN, BSN, or MSN degree
  • Pass NCLEX-RN exam
  • Two years working with a board-certified physician in plastic/aesthetic/cosmetic surgery, dermatology, facial plastic surgery, or ophthalmology

how to become an aesthetic nurse

Aesthetic Nurse Specialties

One of the best parts of becoming an aesthetic nurse is the many unique opportunities to help patients feel and look their best! Aesthetic nursing is a rapidly expanding field due to the introduction of new treatments and technologies, and there are many exciting specialties to choose from.

Nurse Injector

Nurse injectors specialize in cosmetic treatments designed to improve or enhance the appearance of the face via needle injections. Some types of cosmetic injectables that a nurse may specialize in include:

  • Botulinum toxins, such as Botox or Dysport, to temporarily smooth facial muscles to reduce fine lines and wrinkles
  • Dermal Fillers such as hyaluronic acid (HA) or calcium hydroxylapatite  to fill or “sculpt” the face
  • Fat reduction injections to break down “double chin” fat, such as Kybella.

Laser Facial Nurse

Nurses who perform laser facials can help patients minimize wrinkles, reduce acne scarring, and help improve skin discoloration due to too much sun exposure. Most laser facials remove the skin's outer layers to expose new skin underneath and help promote and stimulate collagen production. 

Nurses who use any type of laser equipment must accurately assess each patient's skin type and determine the most appropriate treatment and level settings. Types of laser facials include:

  • CO2 laser treatments
  • Intense pulse light (IPL) treatments
  • Pulsed-dye laser treatments
  • Fractional laser treatments

Tattoo Removal Nurse

This type of aesthetic nurse specializes in removing tattoos using laser technology. There are many different technologies available for tattoo removal, and nurses must understand the different types of laser systems, proper laser settings and removal techniques, and the potential risks of the treatment.

Laser Hair Removal Nurse

As one of the most popular and growing aesthetic procedures today,  laser hair removal is an increasingly popular specialty for aesthetic nurses. A laser hair removal nurse specializes in using laser technology to remove unwanted hair. 

Nurses who perform laser hair removal must provide safe and effective treatment and review aftercare instructions with patients. Most laser hair removal treatments require multiple visits over several months to a year, so many laser hair removal nurses get to know their patients well over time.

Chemical Peel Nurse

A chemical peel is an aesthetic treatment that involves applying a chemical solution to the skin, causing the outer layers of the skin to peel off. Chemical peels typically take several days or even weeks to heal, but the treatment ultimately reveals smoother and more youthful-looking skin underneath. Treatments typically take 1 hour or less.

Non-Surgical Body Treatment Nurse

Many cosmetic nurses enjoy giving non-surgical body treatments because they can help their patients feel better about themselves and maybe even inspire them to improve their health.

Types of non-surgical cosmetic body treatments include:

  • Radiofrequency: for cellulite reduction
  • Contouring procedures: treatments that induce powerful muscle contractions, such as Emsculpt
  • Fat reduction: a procedure that “freezes fat,” such as Coolsculpting

Aesthetic/Cosmetic Nurse Salary

Aesthetic nurse salaries can vary based on education, certification, experience and geographic location within the country. ZipRecruiter reports that the average annual pay for a cosmetic nurse is $89,970. However, some cosmetic nurses are earning as much as $138,500.

As is true in most other patient care professions, cosmetic nurses with higher levels of experience usually receive the highest levels of compensation. Nurses can also increase their overall compensation through other benefits, such as:

  • Paid vacation
  • Sick leave
  • health, dental, and vision insurance
  • Prescription coverage, and
  • Educational reimbursement

5 Tips To Becoming an Aesthetic/Cosmetic Nurse

We talked to Sabrina, an aesthetic nurse injector practicing out of Bellevue, WA. Here are her five tips on how to become an aesthetic nurse:

1: Watch YouTube Videos

Watch as many YouTube videos on the basics of neuromodulators (your Botox, Dysport and Xeomin) and different types of commonly used dermal fillers like Juvederm (Ultra/Ultra Plus, Voluma, Vollure, Volbella, etc.) Restylane (Lyft, Refyne, Defyne etc.), Galderma (Sculptra), and Revanesse (Versa). Look into what they are, how they work, what differentiates them, where on the face they are used, etc.

It seems overwhelming at first, but you’ll get it. It’s also important to know your facial anatomy and how facial muscles work. YouTube also has great videos on technique and depth, so immerse yourself in all of it. This is a great starting point. 

2:  Attend a Botox and Filler Certification Course

There, you’ll learn more about the basics of Botox and filler and get some hands-on experience. You’ll also get a certification, which will enhance your resume for future employers.

Most of you don’t have experience, which is a turn-off to most employers, so it’s important to show initiative! Show that you’re willing to do what it takes and pay the price.

Might I add; that the reason why most practices want an experienced injector is because the training is super expensive - we’re talking thousands upon thousands!

I’ve been told by several practices that nurses are notorious for getting their experience at one practice and then leaving to join another. No bueno for business. Anyways, Google “Botox and filler certifications course near me” to find a course and make sure that it includes hands-on training. I strongly urge you to attend at least one. 

3. Follow Injectors in Your Area on Social Media

Engage, engage, engage! Like, comment, be their biggest fans. Reach out to them, ask them about their experience as an injector, if their practice is hiring, for shadowing opportunities, if they have any advice for you--establish a connection.

Half of them won’t respond but the other half will! In the case that a practice is hiring, you will have leverage based on your continued support and interactiveness on their social. If they agree to a shadow day, make sure you add that to your resume. Anything and everything helps! 

4. Up Your Social Media Game

LinkedIn is a powerful tool for this industry because you can put a face to a resume. Follow as many practices in your area and all of their employees.

Send personalized messages, sharing your passion for the industry and when they have an opportunity for you to reach out.

Again, also ask for shadowing opportunities. They will remember you for being bold and messaging them (not many people do this, surprisingly. I would also make sure your headshot is professionally done so you look the part. 

5. BE PATIENT AND STAY HUNGRY

It took me almost a year to get into the industry. I applied to numerous practices, had several interviews, and was rejected over and over. But I pressed on every opportunity knowing I would eventually get in, and I did.

It ultimately comes down to how badly you want it at the end of the day. Really ask yourself why you want to get into the industry and use your “why” to motivate you in every circumstance. Don’t give up, babes - you got this!

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What Are the Continuing Education Requirements for Aesthetic/Cosmetic Nurses?

Aesthetic/cosmetic nurses who meet the requirements for CANS status must recertify every three years.

Requirements for recertification include accumulating 45 contact hours with at least two hours related specifically to patient safety.

At least 30 contact hours must be in the core specialties: plastic/aesthetic/cosmetic surgery, dermatology, facial plastic surgery, or ophthalmology.

Nurses could also retake the CANS exam every three years to maintain this certification. Once again, there’s no training course required for recertification.

FAQs 

  • What Is an Aesthetic/Cosmetic Nurse?

    • Aesthetic nurses, also known as cosmetic nurses, are registered nurses who provide aesthetic and cosmetic services and care to their patients. These nurses have specialized training in services ranging from fillers, laser skin treatments, liposuction, tattoo removal, aesthetic surgery, and more.
  • How Do I Become an Aesthetic/Cosmetic Nurse?

    • To become an aesthetic nurse, you must first complete the education required to become a registered nurse, noting that nurses with their four-year BSN degrees are likely to find it easier to find a job in their chosen profession. After getting your degree and licensure as a registered nurse, look for jobs in skincare clinics, cosmetic surgery practices, or similar areas of the medical field. Then you can seek certification from the Plastic Surgical Nursing Nursing Certification Board (PSNCB).
  • What Does an Aesthetic/Cosmetic Nurse Do?

    • Beyond providing inpatient and outpatient cosmetic services such as laser hair removal and skincare treatments, dermabrasion, Botox injections and fillers to provide a more youthful appearance, they also work by the side of physicians such as dermatologists and plastic surgeons as they perform clinical and surgical procedures for patients.
  • What Are the Educational Requirements to Become an Aesthetic/Cosmetic Nurse?

    • The path to becoming an aesthetic/cosmetic nurse starts with completing an ADN or BSN degree and passing the NCLEX-RN exam to be licensed in your state. Though certification with the PSNCB is not required, it is available and preferred by many employers in this healthcare field.
  • How Much Does an Aesthetic/Cosmetic Make?

    • According to ZipRecruiter, the average annual salary for an aesthetic/cosmetic nurse in the United States is just over $89,970. Keep in mind this average reflects advanced practice nurses (APRNs) as well as entry-level nurse salaries.
  • How Long Does it Take to Become an Aesthetic/Cosmetic Nurse?

    • Once a registered nurse has their license, they can apply for jobs as an aesthetic nurse immediately. If you are interested in being certified as an aesthetic/cosmetic nurse by the PSNCB you will need two years of experience, including one year in a related specialty area.  

Aesthetic Nurse Resources

Several organizations support aesthetic/cosmetic nurses within the scope of their practice and as they advance their careers. These organizations provide resources to help nurses’ professional development, education and research. They also promote patient safety and best evidence-based practices.

These organizations include:

You can also learn more about aesthetic/cosmetic nursing through Nurse.org! Check out our other related articles:

And lastly, it might also be helpful for you to speak to a medical company that sells botox or fillers to doctors and med spas. Oftentimes, they offer free educational resources and training, as well as guidance for nurses who want to become injectors. 

Next Steps

Beyond reading job descriptions, one of the best ways to determine whether medical aesthetics is the career path for you is to speak directly to a cosmetic/aesthetic nurse currently practicing within a private practice or medical spa. You can also reach out to pharmaceutical companies who sell fillers or botox, as some offer free training and resources for nurses as an incentive to sell their product in medspas, etc. where those RNs will go on to work. 

Nurses trained in cosmetic and aesthetic procedures can raise the level of care for patients who seek improvements in their appearance. These nurses can also earn competitive pay while enhancing the quality of life for their patients.

Whether helping a patient to look younger, removing a regretted tattoo, or smoothing away old acne scars, cosmetic nurses provide their patients with a sense of possibility and self-confidence, unlike any other type of nursing specialty. 

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$70,000 - $90,000 Associate Bachelors Aesthetic/Cosmetic Non-Bedside RN
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