Do You Need a License?

Do you need a license to be a makeup artist?

In most states you are not required to have a license to work as a freelance independent Makeup Artist (specifically in the fashion, film, television, and entertainment industry). Salons typically require a Cosmetology or Esthetician license as you will be working with clients beyond makeup application (including skincare and additional beauty applications) in a licensed salon environment.
In California “No license required” to work as a professional freelance Makeup Artist
(within the film, television, entertainment industry), or if you are applying makeup professionally to recommend/sell cosmetic products (department store and/or freelance sales)
We’re always getting asked (and understandably so!) what being licensed requires and what exactly it means for someone who wants to become a Makeup Artist and apply makeup professionally, as a business, to clients.
We explain the differences between a certified Makeup Artist and licensed Cosmetologist or Esthetician. Each career and schooling path have its own place, so read below to get a better understanding of the journey that is right for you!
What is the difference between a Certified Makeup Artist, a Cosmetologist, or an Esthetician?
Below find a basic breakdown of the individual requirements and how they may best apply to the Makeup Artist professional that you are looking to become!
A certified makeup artist will specialize in makeup application. By taking a course from a makeup school, you can learn to apply makeup professionally to others, and after completing the course curriculum, receive a certificate of completion that recognizes you as a Certified Makeup Artist, with a mastery in professional makeup application. We offer an educational makeup program that is taught by professional master artists that have a wealth of knowledge and experience in the celebrity, editorial, and private client freelance based areas of the Makeup Artist industry. As a result, they can offer a unique one on one opportunity to guide you through your makeup artistry education.
A Cosmetologist will require a formal educational training beyond makeup artistry to receive your degree. You can find Cosmetology programs throughout the United States and internationally. If you are interested in working with hair, skin, and nails (and learning very little about makeup application in general), Cosmetology may be the right career path for you. A Cosmetologist typically specializes in hair (cutting, coloring, styling), skin (care, treatments, cosmetics), and/or nails (manicure, pedicure, etc.). However, a Cosmetologist’s schooling curriculum will only lightly touch upon makeup artistry and professional makeup application, and many Cosmetologists who are interested in makeup will still seek to receive additional knowledge and learn from a school that specializes in Makeup Artist certification, through continuing education classes or any other additional certificate-based schooling that specifically focuses on the teaching and technical skills of makeup artistry.
An Esthetician specializes in the appearance, treatment, and maintenance of skincare. Like the Cosmetology program as detailed above, you will require a more formal educational training beyond makeup artistry to receive your degree. You will not be able to become an Esthetician (or a Cosmetologist!) through an online program, as both specifically require a set amount of in school hours and then working hours after schooling. An Esthetician program is great for an individual who is looking to become a skincare specialist (which could also include applying makeup to a certain degree) in a salon environment focusing on skin care processes (such as facials, micro dermabrasion, and various other treatments). Though, even with this specified training and schooling, you will still learn a minimal amount about actual makeup application, and again, many students who are interested primarily in makeup, will seek to continue their education by following up with a specialized program and certification in makeup artistry, to become a more well-rounded professional.
Do I have to be licensed to become a professional Makeup Artist?
In short, the answer is typically ‘no’. However, as mentioned above, this is not written in black and white and can easily be confusing as you try to navigate your way in the industry and establish your business and yourself as a professional Makeup Artist. The Board of Cosmetology (which varies state by state) generally only covers the specific licensing requirements for Cosmetologists and Estheticians, who again, practice both the treatment of skincare and haircare, and do not specifically work as a Makeup Artist. Louisiana is the only state that is an exception, offering a direct license to work professionally as a Makeup Artist. Several states will vary, without clear or concise regulations for applying makeup professionally, and not requiring any form of license to work as a professional Makeup Artist. While other states will require a license as a Cosmetologist or Esthetician, even if you only want to practice makeup artistry (and not skin or haircare).
In general, if you are looking to work in the freelance field, most states will not require a license, due to the non-specific terms for applying only makeup on a professional level, and will allow you to work as a professional (freelance) Makeup Artist in the film, television, entertainment, or private client track as an independent business. Additionally, in most cases you do not require a license to apply makeup professionally to sell a cosmetic product (for example working at a makeup counter, or as an independent sales consultant). If you desire to work in a salon environment, you will likely need to possess a license (though there are exceptions in many states if you are only applying makeup in the salon and/or selling cosmetic product).