March 2010

Lisa Kind - Editor

Esthetic Endeavors | by Judith Culp


Mentors Are Hiding in Plain Sight

In the fields of hairstyling and nail technology it is relatively easy to find an entry level position where either the salon chain or owners will mentor you and train you in the techniques they want used in their facility.

The field of esthetics has always been a little different. With very few exceptions, there were no salons with a lead esthetician to mentor you. Mostly, you were lucky to find a space that you could rent or work on a commission basis, but you were probably the only esthetician in the salon.

You graduated, you found a kind salon owner and then you realized everything wasn’t covered in your training and you were all alone. It was a scary situation. Technicians who tried to find a mentor in the form of a fellow esthetician were generally rebuffed if the esthetician found after trying it once or twice they were often training their competition. Often the new person generally looking for a free handout of hard learned knowledge complicated this.

Today, the situation has changed some but not a lot. With more big spas and medi-spas opening, there is an increased opportunity to get better positions. You can also get in-clinic training, but the competition for these spots is fierce and preference is given to technicians with experience and knowledge.

Why? Because the employers know about the gap between the entry level training of a new graduate and what the spa needs the esthetician to know. Clients today do not want entry-level services. So the situation is in some ways more challenging than it was 20-30 years ago.

Many estheticians turned to their manufacturers to fill the gaps. There have been some vendors that have strong educational programs although the material presented meant sales to them. Some vendors still offer separate educational programs from their product knowledge classes and these make a good option for estheticians looking for mentor type programs.

There have always been leaders in our industry who mentored those around them out of the desire to improve the level of the industry. Dr. Pugliese has mentored many of our current manufacturer leaders. Many of these in turn mentor those who take classes with them.

Some vendors have found having an educator/mentor too expensive and only offer support via a DVD or other training material. This is somewhat unfortunate since learning this way has no interaction which is vital to learning. We need to not only see, feel and touch for technique but we need to be able to ask questions and get feedback.

We are also seeing the emergence of some new mentoring styles. On the internet industry related chat rooms or chat boards allow estheticians to interact and get ideas from each other, mentoring as they learn and grow. Their networking and quick responses have helped mentor many of their peers.

Hopefully the more experienced technicians will always participate to guide those who may have incomplete information or less time in the trenches when the need arises. Another newer form is the evolution of some schools that now offer post fundamentals training. They may have workshops for just a few specific topics or it may extend for 100, 200 or even 600 additional hours to bring the technician up to the mastery level recognized in a few states and growing.

More and more estheticians are coming to understand the value of National Coalition of Estheticians, Manufacturers, Distributors, and Associations (NCEA) certification and the benefits it can have for their career. They want to set themselves apart from those with minimal training and skills. They want the enhanced career options and they are committed to ethics and continuing education. Their peers and the locations where prep classes are offered are all geared to helping estheticians achieve their certification goals. This helping others for the advancement of the industry is a true form of mentoring in process.

It’s common to see newly certified technicians reaching out to help others achieve the goal, which is the most impressive type of mentoring. The certified technician gains nothing personally from helping others become certified – except pride in their industry and a feeling of community success as another certification is awarded.

So where have all the esthetic mentors gone? They are hiding in plain sight. They are teaching advanced specialty classes, they are the networking estheticians on the chat boards giving sound factual advice to help others do safe, successful treatments and they are the peers helping peers reach for a higher standard of technician skill through national certification.

Judith Culp, a CIDESCO Diplomat has been in the esthetics industry since 1980. A CPCP permanent makeup technician for over 18 years she served a 4-year term as a Director for the Society of Permanent Cosmetic Professionals, two years as their president. She is president of Culp Enterprises Inc. and CEO of NW Institute of Esthetics. Judy Culp is available for consulting. For more information visit