What Is an Aesthetic/Cosmetic Nurse?

Nursing is an extremely versatile field, encompassing many different types of specialties. The one common denominator in any nursing specialty is that the nurses help patients maintain their overall health and well-being. Aesthetic/cosmetic nurses help patients feel their best and boost confidence. This, in turn, allows patients to live their best life. An aesthetic/cosmetic nurse performs many non-surgical procedures and therapeutics to assist patients in their cosmetic appearance. They assess a patient's response to treatments and educate patients on aftercare. They may focus on procedures such as anti-aging fillers and injectables, dermabrasion, acne treatments, and laser removal. This role is similar to a plastic surgery nurse, though the aesthetic nurse is typically more involved with non-invasive, in-office cosmetic treatments rather than surgical procedures.

Becoming an Aesthetic/Cosmetic Nurse

Aesthetic/cosmetic nursing can be a rewarding and fulfilling career. When one thinks of cosmetic procedures, they may just think of a nurse injecting Botox and lip fillers for patients who want to look younger. However, the reality is that aesthetic nursing is much deeper. Patients who seek cosmetic procedures may be suffering from body image disturbances, depression, and anxiety. Aesthetic/cosmetic nurses should demonstrate a calm, caring, and compassionate demeanor as well as empathy for the patients they serve.

What Are the Education Requirements for an Aesthetic/Cosmetic Nurse?

Those interested in aesthetic/cosmetic nursing should first earn their RN degree through a university that offers either a two-year Associate's Degree in Nursing (ADN) or four-year Bachelor's of Science in Nursing (BSN). However, some organizations preferentially hire BSN-prepared nurses, so students should always determine what their goals and needs are before choosing an educational program pathway.

Following completion of an accredited ADN or BSN program, nurses must complete the NCLEX-RN exam to become licensed in their state.

Though it's not typically a requirement for the job, some aesthetic nurses may wish to advance to a Nurse Practitioner (NP) role. In this case, they will need to earn a Master's of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree or higher. NPs are typically given more responsibility and autonomy, though this will vary based on state.

Any Certification or Credentials Needed?

While not required, certification for aesthetic/cosmetic nursing is available through the Plastic Surgical Nursing Certification Board (PSNCB). Nurses can earn a Certified Aesthetic Nurse Specialist credential. Requirements for certification include:

  • Have a current RN license
  • Have accrued at least 1,000 hours in core competency specialties in the last 2 years
  • Have a minimum of 2 years of nursing experience within the designated 4 core competencies with a board-certified physician within a core specialty (Plastic/Aesthetic Surgery, Ophthalmology, Dermatology, or Facial Plastic Surgery)
  • Must have a supervising core physician endorse the applicant's application

Where Do Aesthetic/Cosmetic Nurses Work?

Aesthetic/cosmetic nurses don't usually work in a hospital setting. The treatments and procedures they perform are not considered "acute" to where extended observation and monitoring is needed. Rather, they mainly work in outpatient medical clinics, medical spas, private offices, and occasionally in outpatient surgery centers.

No matter where aesthetic nurses work, they need to be prepared for the occasional emergency or reaction to treatments. They also are quite busy, managing a full schedule of patients.

What Does an Aesthetic/Cosmetic Nurse Do?

Aesthetic nurses perform many different procedures and treatments. Examples include:

  • Injections
    • Botox
    • Collagen/other fillers
    • Sclerotherapy
  • Skin treatments
    • Microdermabrasion
    • Tattoo removal
    • Chemical peels
    • Photo facials
    • Light therapy
  • Laser treatments
    • Hair removal
    • Skin rejuvenation laser treatments

What Are the Roles & Duties of an Aesthetic/Cosmetic Nurse?

Aesthetic/cosmetic nurses have several roles and duties they are responsible for. Working under the direction of a physician and following their state's Nurse Practice Act, aesthetic nurses are responsible for:

  • Taking and assessing a patient's medical history
  • Checking a patient's vital signs
  • Educating patients on procedures and treatments, to include what to expect and aftercare
  • Preparing the procedure area and equipment
  • Maintaining a clean/sterile environment
  • Monitoring patients during a procedure
  • Assessing healing and identifying adverse responses to treatment
  • Managing emergent situations in which patients become clinically unstable

Aesthetic/Cosmetic Nurse Salary & Employment

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), registered nurse employment is expected to increase 12% until 2028. Additionally, the BLS reports that the median salary for RNs is $71,730 annually. Salary can vary greatly depending on the state, city, years of employment, degrees and certifications held, and employer. For example, ZipRecruiter reports that the average annual salary for an aesthetic nurse lands around $90,142. The average hourly wage is roughly $43.00 per hour.

Helpful Organizations, Societies, & Agencies

Aesthetic/Cosmetic Nurse FAQs

In most states, RNs may administer treatments or procedures utilizing laser light. Laser, light and energy-emitting devices (LLED) is a growing field as more institutions and private physician offices are offering elective LLED services to patients.

Lasers are used in dermatology and other areas of medical practice to remove hair or superficial layers of skin. The Dermatology Nurse’s Association (DNA) position paper for laser therapy states that nurses who provide laser therapies to patients must have documentation of appropriate competency and credentialing. The DNA recommends nurses seek education from validated sources such as professional organizations (including the DNA), physician organizations, or laser manufacturers.

Most states regulate the use of lasers by non-physician providers through the Board of Nursing, the State Electrolysis Board, the Department of State Health and Human Services, or a radiation regulatory agency. Although states will vary on how much regulation occurs, all states require written documentation of training and competency.

The National Laser Institute offers courses to provide the nurse a certificate of education and continuing education units. Other organizations, such as the National Council on Laser Certification, offers proctored exams to certify nurses and other professionals in laser light therapies. Certification exams include Certified Aesthetic Laser Operator, Certified Hair Removal Specialist, Certified Laser Hair Removal Supervisor, Certified Medical Laser Safety Officer, and Certified Laser Repair Technician.

Yes, RNs can administer Botox to patients as a cosmetic medical procedure under the supervision of a physician. Botox, Dysport, and Xeomin are all forms of purified neurotoxin botulinum toxin A, which means they do not have the actual risk of botulism when used properly to reduce the appearance of wrinkles.

Nurses who are considering this role must first seek education and certification from a validated institution such as the American Association of Aesthetic Medicine and Surgery (AAAMS). Courses range from a simple weekend course to two weeks where medical professionals can gain certification in injecting Botox and other cosmetic medical procedures. Course instruction should include anatomy and physiology of the face, key facial muscles, and the pharmacology and side effects of neurotoxins.

Once an RN has completed certification, Botox injections must be performed under the supervision of a physician. Supervision can be indirect where the physician is readily available if there are any untoward effects requiring an increase in medical attention. Ideally, physicians should evaluate a patient and order the appropriate amount of Botox prior to the nurse administering the toxin. Nurses should always consult their local state Board of Nursing and State Medical Board for the defined scope of practice for each area.