Beauty Regulations in United States

Beauty services or professions in the US have various licensing laws based on each state. Most states are strictly regulated, and only a few services are not. Anyone interested to work in a specific region must understand the licensing rules and should follow them to avoid penalties and other punishments for disobeying the law.

This page helps you learn the standard terms or processes used in the country and navigate to the specific state you want to learn the regulations about. You’ll also know the general procedure for becoming a licensed practitioner in the US.

Below is the list of all the states in the country. Click the state you want to visit to know its beauty regulations:


Cosmetology is a broad scope of beauty services, which includes hair, skin and nail care and enhancements. All states provide a cosmetologist license to qualified applicants to allow them to work and earn.

Examples of the services under cosmetology are:

  • Hairstylists
  • Skin care experts
  • Nail technicians
  • Makeup artists
  • Lash technicians
  • Waxing technicians

With a cosmetologist license, one can offer many services, allowing them to have various sources of income. Cosmetology is ideal for someone interested in providing multiple beauty services to clients.


Esthetics is also another popular area of beauty, which covers multiple services as well. It usually focuses on skin care services but also includes other areas. Like cosmetology, all states provide an esthetician license to any qualified applicant.

Areas of esthetics include:

  • Facialists
  • Waxing technicians
  • Lash technicians
  • Makeup artists

Licensed estheticians are able to earn from multiple services while enjoying the world of skin care.


Barbering may involve services offered in cosmetology or esthetics but focuses on men’s grooming.

It’s considered a separate area of beauty that provides services like:

  • Haircutting
  • Shaving
  • Bear trimming and styling
  • Manicuring and pedicuring
  • Facials
  • Facial massage

Licensed barbers are not limited to male practitioners as female professionals can provide barbering services.

Massage Therapy

Like barbering, massage therapy is also considered a separate area, with a standalone regulatory board. Aside from completing a training program, massage therapists must pass a national or board-approved examination for massage therapy and bodywork. Liability insurance is also needed for massage therapists in most states.


Most states offer apprenticeship programs to applicants as another method to qualify for a licensure examination. Apprenticeships involve working with clients under the supervision of a licensed practitioner. This program also requires more hours than taking the classroom training route. Apprenticeship permits or registrations might be needed before starting the proper work training.

Crossover Licenses

Crossover licenses are legal permits issued by a state to licensed professionals interested in another license. Cosmetologists and barbers are given crossover licenses in many states. Licensed cosmetologists can take barbering courses and become licensed barbers and vice versa. Training credits may be given during the crossover education, allowing a licensed professional to take additional hours only to complete the required number of hours for the interested license and not go through the entire training anymore.

Cosmetology and barbering share a common area of focus, which is usually hair care. This is why it’s easier and faster for a licensed cosmetologist or barber to earn the crossover license.

Out-of-State and Out-of-Country Licensure Applications

Many US states accept applicants from another jurisdiction or country. Applicants must ensure, however, that they meet the requirements of the state they are applying to. Typically, state boards review the qualifications of applicants and decide how these applicants should go from there.

How to Become a Licensed Beauty Practitioner in the US

This step-by-step procedure for becoming a licensed beauty practitioner in the country is the general process. It’s still entirely up to each state’s regulations on how they license an applicant.

Know the Training Requirements

Given you already know which license to get in the state you want to work into, the first thing you should learn is the training requirements. Commonly, the state’s regulatory board provides the number of hours required and other requirements you should secure before getting into the proper training. Age limits and fees are common pre-training requirements.

Complete the Training or Apprenticeship Program

Once you meet all the requirements, it’s time to focus on finishing your training or apprenticeship. The curriculum serves as your guide in completing the right number of hours for each subject of the training or skill you need to practice in apprenticeships. It may take a year or more for you to complete the training.

Pass the Examination

This is the final stage of your licensure journey. Once you finish your training or apprenticeship, the state examination follows. It usually has written and practical areas you must pass to earn a license.