Body and Machine Work Not OK in California


The following question was recently submitted to Skin Inc. magazine and we reached out to Deedee Crossett, founder of the San Francisco Institute of Esthetics and Cosmetology (SFIEC) in San Francisco and member of the California State Board of Board of Barbering and Cosmetology, for the answer.


I have been licensed since 1981 as a manicurist and since 1996 as an esthetician. In your articles, I am seeing more and more treatments on the body as the spa industry continues to evolve. In the past 25 years, the day spa has grown by leaps and bounds, and I understand that this is more then a $6 billion a year industry. Is this so?

I have read your magazine and attended your show in San Francisco since the beginning, yet I have just gotten off the phone with an officer in the state board office here in California after a conversation regarding an article in California Stylist's September issue under the board news. It states in the Scope of An Esthetician section that esthetician may provide facial services only on the face, neck, chest and arms and that we may only work above the shoulders.

I called the office in regards to this and was told by the officer that this has always been the law, and that estheticians are not allowed to provide body treatments of any kind. The officer also said that we are not allowed to use any machines labeled as or that imitate medical devices on the face or body. Their words not mine: “Estheticians are not doctors, and we are going to put a stop to it. Their skills are limited, and they are going to cite us. There is no such thing as a medical esthetician and they better stop advertising it.” There is so much more they told me, and, by the way, I asked them to send me that information via e-mail and they did; most of it anyway.

Now, why would this interest me so much? I have been fined for working on women’s legs because they looked at my menu and saw that I had treatments for women’s legs! Not that I did anything wrong to any client. I have been told to take my LED light machine and any acids more than 30% and any other machine except my galvanic current machine out of the spa. They will revoke my license if they find them when they come for inspection.

I am wondering how you think this will affect our industry if the state should begin to go after body treatments and start the citation process and these services are removed from the spas. They said it did not matter whether the spa is big or small; that they are going to get them. This is what they have said to me. Next, the officer started talking about laser clinics and medical spas, and oh boy wait until you hear what that is all about. Physicians and nurses are in for a rude awakening.

Please respond. This is no joke. It is very serious and I am very concerned about an industry that I have spent 25 years in.

Dayle Gooch, Bella Piel, Visalia, CA


California has one esthetic license at this time. Within the Board of Barbering and Cosmetology, we don’t have a medical esthetician license. The board would cite an esthetician if they were performing any medical procedures.

Currently our license allows estheticians to perform skin services on the face, neck and decollete. We are also able to perform hair removal for all body hair. Advertising a leg treatment that involves body massage would be outside of an esthetician’s scope of practice, unless they were also a massage therapist.

Estheticians are not allowed to use any equipment that visually stimulates the muscle or treats the dermal layer of the skin. Machines are a big question right now for inspectors and estheticians. To stay in compliance as an esthetic license in a licensed establishment with machines and peels, stay within the epidermis. The percentage of the chemical doesn’t matter as much as the pH scale of the acid, and how deep the exfoliation reaches. The moment an esthetician is peeling to the dermal layer, she is outside her scope of practice.

Estheticians are not able to peel, lance or perform any procedure that disrupt the dermal layer of the skin. This includes using equipment or tools to remove moles, verrucas, skin tags, angiomas or milia. The board welcomes feedback and encourages licensees to get involved by writing to the board, their government representatives and attending meetings. The meeting schedule can be found on the Web site at (Contact information for all state boards in the United States.)

Remember that the California Board of Barbering and Cosmetology falls under the Department of Consumer Affairs, so the main focus is consumer protection. For those interested in adding a master esthetician license (Utah, for example, has a two-tiered license), this would take a change in legislation and would need to show that it benefited the consumer. Board members are a group of volunteers, and active licensees can help evolve the current rules and regulations. I hope this helps.

Deedee Crossett, founder SFIEC and California Board of Barbering and Cosmetology board member

Comments? Questions? E-mail us!

After our initial posting, several of you had an opinion to share. These are posted below.

"I am a licensed skin care specialist in New Jersey and New York. I also hold a manicurist license and have worked in spas, as well as medical offices.

The cosmetology board does not regulate or investigate medical offices because it is out of their jurisdiction. The medical board licenses and governs the medical field.

There are massage therapists doing facials as they claim they can perform massage anywhere!

LED is not invasive and is extremely helpful in the skin care room. Exfoliation/dermabrasion is a necessary treatment and very beneficial. LED treatments don't damage the skin and do not break the skin and are not invasive. Tanning beds are very dangerous! So who trains, inspects, regulates this industry? Do you find skin care therapists working in that industry. NO!

Cosmetologists claim to be skin care professionals! They do not have a practical administered by the boards. The education is limited and not nearly as indepth as an esthetician's training.

It would be professionally helpful and refreshing if the state boards would work with us, the professionals, and stop being bullies and so threating!

They act like they are on a power trip. I agree that everyone needs to be protected. The clients need to be more informed to make safe and beneficial choices for themselves."

Suzanne Mayorga, licensed skin care specialist/esthetician--NJ/NY

I actually attended SFIEC back in 2003 and received my esthetic license shortly thereafter. In school, we were never told that we were not allowed to perform body treatments. In fact, we did body scrubs there on other students, as well as clients. I understand not being able to do massage unless you are certified, but I was under the impression that body wraps and sugar/salt scrubs followed by an application of lotion was perfectly OK. If this is the law, the schools should be enforcing it and informing students of exactly what they will be licensed to do. And skin care companies need to make sure that they are not selling products, machines, etc. that estheticians are not permitted to use. This is all very concerning for our industry! It is bad enough that the economy is dow,n and now our services are going to be further limited.


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