Thanatoaesthetics and thanatopraxy: differences, techniques and professions

31 May 2024

Thanatoaesthetics and thanatopraxy are two concepts that are sometimes confused. Although both refer to the preparation of our loved one after their death, they are not the same and employ different techniques. Today, at Áltima, we will explain the differences between these two professions.

Understanding thanatoaesthetics and thanatopraxy

There is a certain degree of confusion between the terms thanatoaesthetics and thanatopraxy. Even though they have many similarities, there are also important differences between them.

What is thanatoaesthetics and what is its origin?

Let's start with a definition of thanatoaesthetics to find out what it entails. It is a discipline that encompasses the techniques related to the restoration and aesthetic care of a deceased person.

Once the body has been preserved, this process prepares the deceased visually so that their appearance is as natural and dignified as possible. This allows relatives and friends to visit and say goodbye in a way that is more comforting, since they are able to see their loved one as they remember them.

To achieve this objective, aesthetic techniques are performed by applying make-up and other materials in order to improve the appearance of the deceased person.

What is thanatopraxy and what is its origin?

Let us now look at what thanatopraxy is. It is a speciality that uses different techniques for the hygiene, conservation, restoration, aesthetic care and embalming of a deceased person. It is a set of practices that aim to improve both the visible and unseen state of the deceased.

Thanatopraxy has its origins in ancient Egypt and its purpose is to care for and preserve the deceased so that their relatives can say goodbye to them, even if a few days have passed.

The techniques therefore focus on the cleaning and preservation of the deceased.

Key differences between the two practices

The main difference between thanatoaesthetics and thanatopraxy is that the former derives from the latter. Thanatopraxy deals with more general preparation, while thanatoaesthetics is a more specific task.

Thanatoaesthetics and thanatopraxy procedures and techniques

Despite the similarities between thanatoaesthetics and thanatopraxy, each discipline has its own techniques and procedures.

Thanatopraxy deals not only with the body’s appearance but also with the inside of the body. The thanatopractor therefore deals with activities such as:

  1. Disinfection and cleaning of the deceased to remove any bacteria that would accelerate the decomposition process. Sanitisation is carried out with chemical products so that the wake is safe for the relatives.

  2. Removal of tissues and other elements. Sometimes the thanatopractor is responsible for removing prostheses or pacemakers.

  3. Preservation and embalming of the deceased.

  4. Restoration and construction which is necessary when death is caused by an accident or an illness that leaves visible damage to the appearance of the deceased.

  5. Make-up and dressing of the deceased.


In the case of thanatoaesthetics, the functions that are carried out include:

  • Collecting and receiving the deceased person.

  • Positioning the deceased and elevating their head.

  • Verifying and working with the deceased.

  • Dressing the deceased, combing their hair and applying make-up.

  • Placing the deceased in the coffin.

How long do these processes take?

The application of the different thanatoaesthetics and thanatopraxy procedures and techniques can last several hours to ensure the deceased person has the best possible final appearance.

Each case is different and, depending on the circumstances of death, it may take more or less time. The professionals involved have a mastery of the practices they carry out. This means they will aim to complete their work in a timely manner so that relatives can see their loved one as soon as possible and give them the farewell they want.

Key aspects of the thanatoaesthetics and thanatopraxy professions

The number of professionals involved in thanatoaesthetics and thanatopraxy is growing every day, due to the high demand for qualified personnel to carry out these tasks.

What studies are required to go into these professions?

There are numerous courses in thanatoaesthetics and thanatopraxy that provide professionals with the necessary knowledge and techniques to carry out this kind of work.

It is important that this training is provided by a legally accredited college so that you truly acquire the competencies and skills necessary to become a professional in thanatoaesthetics and thanatopraxy.

In order to improve your career prospects, it is often recommended that you do both courses, as this increases your future job opportunities.

It should be pointed out that thanatoaesthetics and thanatopraxy studies are not university degrees, master's degrees or professional training in these branches. Generally, they are specific courses taught in various colleges.

What is the average salary of a specialist in thanatoaesthetics and thanatopraxy?

In addition to the professional opportunities and the wide range of jobs available, one of the main attractions of studying thanatoaesthetics and thanatopraxy is the salary. These qualified professionals can earn around 2,000 euros per month.

This figure can be even higher for professionals that are better qualified. This is why it is very attractive for many people to focus their careers in this field.

Since the vast majority of funeral companies offer this type of service to relatives when a loved one dies, there is a need for qualified professionals who can achieve this natural and dignified appearance of a deceased person.

At Áltima we always try to offer families the most comprehensive funeral services. Have a look at all the services we offer so that you can personalise the funeral of your loved one and give them the send-off they deserve.