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Not to be confused with Cosmology.
"Coiffeur" redirects here. Coiffeur may also refer to Hairdresser.
Cosmetology class in California, 1946

Cosmetology (from Greek κοσμητικός, kosmētikos, "beautifying";[1] and -λογία, -logia) is the study and application of beauty treatment. Branches of specialty includes hairstyling, skin care, cosmetics, manicures/pedicures, and electrology.

Cosmetology specialties[edit]


A cosmetologist is someone who is an expert in the care of makeup as well as skincare and beauty products. He or she can also offer other services such as coloring, extensions, and straightening. Cosmetologists help their clients improve on or acquire a certain look with the right hairstyle. Hair stylists often style hair for weddings, proms, and other special events in addition to routine hair styling. Some well-known schools for cosmetologists include the Marissa Montoya Academy, Regency, Marinello Schools of Beauty, and also Empire beauty school. At these beauty schools students learn to cut and style hair, execute manicures and pedicures, and apply cosmetics. There are numerous techniques required to successfully achieve each desired look of the customer. Typical cosmetology school lasts around a year or a little less. Full-time salon professionals earn average salaries of approximately $48,000 with the potential of even greater earnings.[2]

Hair colorist[edit]

A colorist is a hair stylist that specializes in coloring the hair line. In the US, some colorists are “board certified” through the American Board of Certified Hair colorists. This designation is used to recognize colorists that have a greater level of competency in the industry.

Shampoo technician[edit]

A shampoo technician shampoos and conditions a client's hair in preparation for the hair stylist. This is generally an apprentice position and a first step for many just out of cosmetology school.


Estheticians are licensed professionals who are experts in maintaining and improving healthy skin.[3] An esthetician's general scope of practice is limited to the epidermis (the outer layer of skin).[4] Estheticians work in many different environments such as salons, med spas, day spas, skin care clinics, and private practice. Estheticians may also specialize in machine treatments such as microdermabrasion, microcurrent (also called non-surgical "face lifts"), cosmetic electrotherapy treatments (galvanic current, high frequency), LED (light emitting diode), ultrasound/ultrasonic (low level), and mechanical massage (vacuum and g8 vibratory).[5][6] The esthetician may undergo special training for treatments such as laser hair removal, permanent makeup, and electrology. In the US, estheticians must be licensed in the state in which they are working and are governed by the cosmetology board of that state. Estheticians must complete a minimum 450–1500 hours of training and pass both a written and hands-on exam in order to be licensed by the state.[7] Additional post graduate training is sometimes required when specializing in areas such as medical esthetics (working in a doctor's office). Estheticians work under a dermatologist’s supervision only when employed by the dermatologist's practice. Estheticians treat a wide variety of skin issues that are cosmetic in nature, such as mild acne, hyperpigmentation, and aging skin. Skin disease and disorders are referred to a dermatologist or other medical professional. The word esthetician is an alternative spelling of aesthetician, a derivation of the word aesthetic, or beauty.[8]


Desairologist performing specialized cosmetology at funeral home

Desairology is a branch of cosmetology that involves various phases of cosmetology, a systematic coherent approach to providing highly specialized techniques for the hair, nails and skin of the deceased. Desairologists are state licensed cosmetologists and barber stylists, qualified to perform specialized hair techniques in a funeral home preparation room. They provide cosmetic, nail and haircolor services upon family request. They are accountable for preparation room regulations, maintain ethics, sanitation and assist practitioners with non - cosmetic items when requested then complete the service record given to the director upon completions. The goal of the desairologist is to make sure the deceased person looks natural and as good as he or she did while living. Noella Charest-Papagno, the author of a DESAIROLOGY – The Dressing of Decedents Hair[9] (First Edition 1980) used in cosmetology courses, coined the term Desairology. Other common terms to describe Desairology or Desairologist include Funeral Cosmetology, Mortuary Cosmetology and Deceased Hairstyling. Although the study Desairology is not widely common in school curriculum it is a post graduate elective offered as a home study course which the graduates receive a certificate of specialization with their registry number. It fills the need of integrating some of the services rendered by the funeral service practitioners and practical embalmers with services that could be best delivered by registered Desairologists. Historically, Standard Cosmetology textbook used by students had overlooked development of specialized Cosmetology techniques for the deceased. Family members could have requested salon services at the time of funeral arrangements. In some instances, families who had requested salon cosmetologists for their deceased have been disappointed when employment had been denied to the Desairologist by practitioners of two national funeral conglomerates and that they cannot work in a preparation room. The families and salon professionals had been told that cosmetologists were not OSHA certified, which is misinformation because OSHA does not certify and leaves the families no recourse. In these cases, the funeral providers do the best they can with these services. In servicing the deceased, Desairologists can recreate the hairstyle the family remembers before they died. According to OSHA[10] and the state board regulations, the hiring firm must inform the Desairologist that there may be certain hazardous materials and possibly bloodborne pathogens in the facility. Prior to the Desairologist service the director or practical embalmer washes the decedents entire body including hair and scalp with a disinfectant soap. The firm requires the Desairologist to adhere to certain operational procedures in order to reduce the risk from exposure and must sign a waiver of all liability.

Occupational hazards[edit]

Many chemicals in salon products pose potential health risks, the majority of which are not well regulated. Examples of hazardous chemicals found in common treatments (e.g. hair coloring, straightening, perms, relaxers, keratin treatments, Brazilian Blowouts, and nail treatments) include dibutyl phthalate, formaldehyde, lye (sodium hydroxide), ammonia, and coal tar. Allergies and dermatitis have forced approximately 20% of hairdressers to stop practicing their profession.[11]

Chemical exposures[edit]

Dibutyl phthalate[edit]

Dibutyl phthalate (DBP) is used in some nail enamels and hardeners. DBP is a plasticizer that is used because of its flexibility and film forming properties, making it an ideal ingredient in nail polishes. When a polish is applied, it dries to the nail as some of the other chemicals volatilize. DBP is a chemical that remains on the nail, making the polish less brittle and apt to crack. The chemical may not only be absorbed through the nail, but through the skin as well. When nail-polished hands are washed, small amounts of DBP can leach out of the polish and come into contact with the skin. The application of nail polish can also provide an opportunity for skin absorption.[12]


Formaldehyde is a colorless, strong smelling liquid that is highly volatile, making exposure to both workers and clients potentially unhealthy. Both the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) classify formaldehyde as a human carcinogen. Formaldehyde has been linked to nasal and lung cancer, with possible links to brain cancer and leukemia.[13]

Growing evidence reveals that various popular hair-smoothing treatments contain formaldehyde and release formaldehyde as a gas. Four laboratories in California, Oregon, and Canada, confirmed a popular hair straightening treatment, the Brazilian Blowout, contained between 4% and 12% formaldehyde. Oregon OSHA demonstrated that other keratin-based hair smoothing products also contain formaldehyde, with concentrations from 1% to 7%.[14]

Salon worker exposure to formaldehyde and related health effects[edit]

Formaldehyde may be present in hair smoothing solutions or as a vapor in the air. Stylists and clients may inhale formaldehyde as a gas or a vapor into the lungs and respiratory tract. Formaldehyde vapor can also make contact with mucous membranes in the eyes, nose, or throat. Formaldehyde solutions may be absorbed through the skin during the application process of liquid hair straighteners. Solutions of formaldehyde can release formaldehyde gas at room temperature and heating such solutions can speed up this process. Exposure often occurs when heat is applied to the treatment, via blow drying and flat ironing.[14][15]

Stylists and clients have reported acute health problems while using or after using certain hair smoothing treatments containing formaldehyde. Reported problems include nose-bleeds, burning eyes and throat, skin irritation and asthma attacks. Other symptoms related to formaldehyde exposure include watery eyes; runny nose; burning sensation or irritation in the eyes, nose, and throat; dry and sore throat; respiratory tract irritation; coughing; chest pain; shortness of breath; wheezing; loss of sense of smell; headaches; and fatigue.[16]

OSHA requirements regarding formaldehyde[edit]

OSHA requires manufacturers, importers, and distributors to identify formaldehyde on any product that contains more than 0.1% formaldehyde (as a gas or in a solution), or if the product can release formaldehyde at concentrations greater than 0.1 parts per million (ppm). Material safety data sheets (MSDS) must also be accompanied with the product and kept on premises with the product at all times. The MSDS must explain why a chemical in the product is hazardous, how it is harmful, how workers can protect themselves, and what they should do in an emergency.[17]

Salon owners and stylists are advised to look closely at the hair smoothing products they use (read product labels and MSDS sheets) to see if they contain methylene glycol, formalin, methylene oxide, paraform, formic aldehyde, methanal, oxomethane, oxymethylene, or CAS Number 50-00-0. According to OSHA's Formaldehyde standard, a product containing any of these names should be treated as a product containing formaldehyde. OSHA’s Hazard Communication standard (Right to Know) states that salon owners and other employers' must have a MSDS for products containing hazardous chemicals. If salon owners or other employers decide to use products that contain or release formaldehyde they are required to follow the guidelines in OSHA’s Formaldehyde standard.[17]

Notable cosmetologists[edit]


External links[edit]