Destination Beauty: The Traveling Esthetician

If you are considering a career as an esthetician, you have many options for what comes after completing your training. Once you earn a license, you can look for work as an esthetician in a salon, a spa, or a healthcare facility. However, if you are an adventurous sort who craves a break in the monotony, there’s another option: a career as a traveling esthetician. Believe it or not, it’s possible to make good money traveling to exotic vacation destinations around the world while doing what you love. This page will teach you about the life of a traveling esthetician, how to become one, and what to expect when you get there. 

What Is a Traveling Esthetician?

Unlike traditional estheticians who work in fixed locations like salons, spas, and health care complexes, traveling estheticians ply their trade on cruise ships, at retreats, or in resorts.

Although the location and atmosphere are different, the services traveling estheticians provide are pretty much the same as those who stay in one place. They perform treatments like hair removal procedures, chemical peels, masks, moisturizing treatments, aromatherapy, and in many cases, manicures, pedicures, makeup applications, and massages like you’d find in a spa or salon.

There are, however, several key differences beyond the work environment. For example, traditional estheticians work to build a loyal client base of repeat customers. When popular estheticians leave a job at a salon or spa, their client often base follows them to their new location—and employers on both sides of the equation know it, giving the esthetician leverage when negotiating salary.

Traveling estheticians, on the other hand, rarely see the same person twice, meaning they may have to start from scratch if they later choose to work in a traditional setting. They have little control over pricing, as those are generally set by the resort, hotel, or cruise ship for which they work—and they may need to gently remind people to tip if it is not built in. However, due to the pre-set prices, they know their salaries will be steady—and, in some cases like cruise ship work, housing may be provided.

Where Do International Estheticians Typically Work?

If you choose this unconventional path, you might work for the resort or cruise ship company itself, for luxury spa and salon chains that have partnerships with cruise lines and resorts, or you might work on a freelance basis as an independent contractor.

If you choose the resort route, your income may vary based on time of year, as most resorts have peak seasons. At ski resorts, for example, peak season is the winter. Because of the skin-damaging nature of cold, wind, and snow, traveling estheticians can earn a good living there. They can do the same at beach resorts, where the peak season is summer because estheticians help clients look their best before they head to the beach—and repair skin damage when they return.

Skincare maven Renée Rouleau recently interviewed a traveling esthetician who pairs massage therapy with skincare as a strategy for landing work in the poshest high-end resorts, destinations, and cruise ship spas. She’s developed a unique schedule where she works two peak seasons per year and takes the rest of the time off to travel for her own leisure.

Cruise lines are generally busiest in the summer, but they’re less constrained by seasonality. If you work on one, you might find yourself providing treatments in warm paradises like the Caribbean, the South Pacific, or the Far East. There are also cruises that specialize in colder locations, like Alaska and Iceland.

Requirements to Become a Traveling Esthetician

States issue licenses to estheticians and the requirements can vary quite a bit from one place to the next. Moving around complicates things even further. Some states have reciprocity agreements, and some do not. Some grant temporary licenses and others don’t. If you are a traveling esthetician who is sticking to the U.S., you need to be sure you understand and follow the laws of each state you work in.

International resorts and cruise ships often require extra licenses or certificates. Even if they’re not required, you might want to pursue dual licensure to remain competitive in the job market. That might include a license or certificate in massage therapy, as a nail technician, or as a makeup artist. In some cases, you might choose to earn a complete cosmetologist license, which generally takes longer and costs more than an esthetician license or any other sub-specialty in the field.

If you plan an international career, you’ll have to get the necessary visas and travel and work permits.  Many international employers also require certification from CIDESCO, which awards an internationally recognized credential that is widely considered to be the beauty industry standard.

The Realities of Life as a Traveling Esthetician

Life as a traveling esthetician can be an exciting alternative to a traditional career in a fixed location. It is, however, certainly not for everybody. Before you embark on this journey—which requires a serious commitment in time, effort, and often money—make sure you know what you’re signing up for.


When you work at a destination, you have a steady supply of clients. That means you don’t have to build and maintain a client base as you would if you worked as a traditional beauty professional.

You’ll also break the monotony than can come with traditional work. You can travel the world, often to exotic locations, and build strong bonds with live-in crew members that are rare among regular co-workers. You’ll meet new people all the time, you won’t spend money on food or commuting, you’ll have the job security that comes with long contracts, you’ll broaden your horizons, and see the world. 


Just as you don’t have to take on the responsibility of building a client base, you also don’t have the leverage that can come with a loyal following. Also, the lifestyle itself can be exhausting, frustrating, and for some, simply unsustainable long-term.

If you have a bad day working at a traditional salon, you can go home to decompress. This is not the case on cruise ships or resorts—there is no home to go home to. This may also mean missing holidays, birthdays, graduations, and time with your friends and family.

Conferences for Traveling Estheticians

When you become a traveling esthetician, you join a community of professionals who gather periodically for industry events. There’s a surprisingly large number of conferences for international and traveling estheticians—no matter where you live, chances are good one takes place near you. Here’s a look at some of the best in the industry.

International Esthetics, Cosmetics, and Spa Conference
This event takes place in New York, Las Vegas, Chicago, and Florida, and it’s one of the most highly regarded expos for international beauty professionals in the world. With more than 100 speakers, over 500 suppliers, and free classes, the opportunities for networking and education are nearly limitless.

International Salon and Spa Expo
Hosted by the Professional Beauty Association, this expo attracts thousands of professionals from across the industry. It includes many opportunities for education and networking with both colleagues and potential employers and features extras like exhibits and awards.

The Beauty Experience
This annual summer Las Vegas mainstay was formerly known as the International Beauty Show. There’s also a location in New York City. If you go, you’ll learn tips and tricks for landing contracts and gigs, and you’ll get to hobnob with some of the top pros in the industry while trying out new products and techniques.

Esthetics/Skin Care
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