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Ask a Nurse: How To Transition to Cosmetic Nursing?

Nicole Galan, RN, MSN
Updated October 3, 2023
    In our Ask a Nurse series, experienced nurses provide an insider look at the nursing profession by answering your questions about nursing careers, degrees,
    Confident nursing student smiles while taking notes in classroom.Credit: SDI Productions / iStock by Getty Images

    In our Ask a Nurse series, experienced nurses provide an insider look at the nursing profession by answering your questions about nursing careers, degrees, and resources.

    Question: I currently have my bachelor of science in nursing, and I work as a dialysis registered nurse (RN), but I am interested in becoming a cosmetic nurse. How can I go about this?

    Answer: One of the best things about a nursing career (in my humble opinion) is the ability to change specialties relatively easily. There’s no need to commit to a single specialty, and it’s not difficult if you want to make a change — though it may take some strategizing.

    A cosmetic nurse performs nonsurgical aesthetic procedures to help a patient’s appearance. In addition to actually performing the procedure in some states, cosmetic nurses take medical histories, check vital signs, maintain sterile/clean procedure areas, perform patient teaching, and manage emergencies.

    Procedures that a cosmetic nurse may perform include:

    • Botox injections
    • Injection of collagen or other fillers
    • Microdermabrasion
    • Removal of tattoos
    • Photo facials
    • Laser hair removal
    • Skin rejuvenation laser therapies
    • Chemical peels
    • Light therapies

    However, your scope of practice will depend on your state and its regulations. If you are considering offering treatments or procedures using lasers, you will also likely need to obtain a certification through the state board of nursing, Department of Health and Human Services, or other radiation regulatory agency.

    While the certification procedure may vary from state to state, they all require written documentation and evidence of competency.

    So, how do you get started in this amazing specialty?

    Aesthetic nursing is quite a competitive industry and can be difficult to break into. How can you set yourself apart?

    Tips on Transitioning to Cosmetic Nursing

    1. Apply, apply, apply.

    Apply to every listing you can find. You may want to consider relocating to broaden your application radius if you are passionate about entering this field.

    2. Think about taking workshops or coursework before applying.

    This gives you some exposure to the field and procedures while demonstrating your potential to employers.

    3. Consider other ways to get your foot in the door.

    Try calling a few (or many!) aesthetic nurses or practices nearby and ask about shadowing or unpaid internship opportunities. If a job opens up, they’ll think of you first.

    4. Network!

    Do you know someone personally who does this type of work? Reach out and see if they know of any job openings. Even if you don’t, you may have a larger network than you even realize. Ask your friends and family if they know someone who might be helpful.

    Once you’ve landed your first job, continue to invest in your training and other educational opportunities. When you’re ready, consider certification from the National Council on Laser Certification, Dermatology Nurses’ Association, or International Society of Plastic and Aesthetic Nurses. You’ll need to make sure that you meet the minimum requirements for experience and education before applying.

    Nurses need additional training and continuing education credits to administer injectables like Botox. RNs can access this training and become certified to perform this procedure under indirect physician supervision.

    However, some aesthetic nurses pursue additional education to become nurse practitioners and set up independent practices. Depending on the state where you live, you may be able to prescribe and inject Botox without physician supervision. Other states may still require some physician oversight to administer Botox and other injectables.

    Aesthetic nursing is a popular field, and for good reason: It offers flexible hours, the opportunity to help people feel really good about themselves, and the potential for great pay in the private sector. Whichever route you choose, keep working toward your goal. Good luck!

    In Summary

    • Aesthetic nursing can be a competitive field.
    • Your state board of nursing determines your scope of practice. Make sure to check with the board to understand what you can and cannot do.
    • Consider alternative ways to break into the field.

    Written by:

    Portrait of Nicole Galan, RN, MSN

    Nicole Galan, RN, MSN

    Nicole Galan is a registered nurse who earned a master’s degree in nursing education from Capella University and currently works as a full-time freelance writer. Throughout her nursing career, Galan worked in a general medical/surgical care unit and then in infertility care. She has also worked for over 13 years as a freelance writer specializing in consumer health sites and educational materials for nursing students.

    Galan is a paid member of our Healthcare Review Partner Network. Learn more about our review partners.