This is a controversial topic that is constantly brought up in makeup artistry groups and message boards. The conversations almost always become very heated as so many passionately believe what they have been told. Sadly the truth is not as known as it should be. So I will set the record straight with facts and details to clarify what everyone should know.

Is it necessary to get a license to work as a professional makeup artist? The answer is, no! People constantly argue this and insist that it is considered illegal as per the State Board. What they are unaware of is the fact that the State Boards ONLY govern what transpires inside of a SALON OR SPA. It is true that individuals are not allowed to cut, color or chemically process hair without a license both in or out of a salon. However, styling hair or doing makeup on location for TV, film, print, or special occasion events, which include working on brides DOES NOT, fall under the jurisdiction of the Board of Cosmetology.

There is often an argument that the type of work allowed without a license is determined by whether the client is to be “on camera” or not. Even if that were true, obviously brides hire professional videographers as well as photographers; making this a moot point and working as a bridal makeup artist or hairstylist fine to work without a license. The point is that “being on camera” would mean that live events, concerts and theater performances would also be in question. So that is not the case. The guidelines reference that individuals who perform hairstyling or makeup services for professional/entertainment purposes do not need a license. That means, TV, video, film, and print jobs. It also includes live events and special occasion events. Technically, if you have guests over to a dinner party, you are “entertaining friends”. A wedding, prom/ball, runway/catwalk show, pageant, fitness competition, quinceanera, concert, political debate, dance recital, speaking seminar, graduation, school reunion, etc. are ALL events put on for entertainment purposes for the attendees and audiences. Hence, every type of event is NOT in any way, shape or form in violation with the state board of cosmetology guidelines.

I’ve written about this topic many times in many different online groups. Often these conversation threads get deleted either by those that become angry or occasionally by the Admins, as they have previously posted that they think it is illegal to work as a hairstylist or makeup artist without a license, and they become embarrassed once shown the facts.

I actually worked with the State Board of California approximately 15 years ago, when they approached me to consult for them to help update their curriculum.  Due to their archaic policies, I did not get involved. However, I can tell you that they are in desperate need of an update as most of the curriculum still being taught was written in the 1940’s! Everything has progressed since then such as industry techniques, technology, ingredients, products, what we know about skin and such. However, the curriculum remains almost the same as it was originally written.

I want to point out that I am not just a Freelance Artist that “Thinks” this is how the licensing issue works. For over twenty years, I’ve owned a makeup studio, an agency that represents hairstylists and makeup artists as well as a professional makeup artistry academy. In addition, I travel all over the world as a top Educator, educating on the industry. In the past 3 years I’ve taught in the United States of America, Australia, Mexico, Indonesia, United Kingdom and New Zealand (Hell, I am in Sydney, Australia right now typing this on my first day off in what seems like months!) Obviously I HAVE to know and abide by the state rules, guidelines and jurisdiction of the law.

The State Board CONSTANTLY alludes to the fact that everyone needs a license. Why? Because it’s estimated that nearly 30% of their income comes from freelance hairstylists and makeup artists (or aspiring ones) that throw unnecessary money at them based on their threats. Search almost any makeup artist group for previous conversation threads about this topic and you will discover dozens, if not hundreds of peoples’ comments on this and how everyone is convinced they are right, yet have no valid evidence.

I’m not saying that no one needs a license or that getting a license is a waste of time. I’m saying that there are literally millions of people every year that get their license that have ZERO intention of working in a salon or spa where the license IS needed because they wish to work professionally in the entertainment industry. On a side note, to do hair for TV or film and be part of the UNION, you must be licensed to do hair (Because you may cut, color etc. when the script calls for it for the characters you work on). However, you do not need to be licensed to do makeup for the Union. Why? Because there is no license necessary, not to mention that cosmetology schools do not teach the skills necessary to work in television or film. So, the fact that unions do not require a license in order to do makeup should be a big light bulb moment for many.

You know who else does not require makeup artists to be licensed?! Makeup artistry agencies. That’s right, the highest paid makeup artists in the world that work on major celebrities and do magazine work, music videos, runway shows, editorials, commercial projects and all the biggest ticket fashion and beauty campaigns do not need a license. Of all the most famous makeup artists in the world, I don’t personally know of any that are licensed. Why? Because it is not necessary and the schools hardly teach any makeup in the first place! The majority of schools spend only a couple hours or days on makeup. And quite a few of the schools training consists of not much more than doing makeup on face charts or doll heads with Q-tips.

It has been noted by MANY professionals that each time the State Board in just about every state is asked to clarify the facts, that they are told completely different things by different people when trying to get to the bottom of this constant debate. Do you want to know why no one at the State Board can get their stories straight? It’s because some of their employees know the whole truth and some don’t. The whole truth being that no license is needed, however if they admit this, they could potentially lose millions in enrollments each year. So they are expected to allude to needing a license. Which translates into the point that they basically lie. Of course, some people are bad liars or are not comfortable lying when asked. So they are just evasive. Because exposing the truth will result in a MAJOR dip in enrollments due to the MASSIVE negative exposure. If the facts leaked, there would most likely be huge layoffs for those employees and many Class Action Lawsuits would develop from tens of thousands of people that spent their time and money getting their license when it was not necessary if they only wanted to work professionally.

Furthermore, please remember that most top artists of the world are not licensed. Do you really think that all of the Makeup and Hair agencies such as Cloutier Remix, Exclusives, Art & Commerce, Streeters, Artists by Timothy Priano and all the other agencies are illegal operations?! Don’t be ridiculous. Of course, they are not running illegitimate businesses.   I challenge anyone that thinks a license is necessary to contact some of the agencies and ask!

There are many stories and rumors spread about “this & that person” who DID get fined for not having a license. Interestingly enough, it’s rare that the actual people who received a citation or fine from a State Board ever comments. It’s typically someone on their soapbox arguing that, they heard “this or that”. I’ve spoken to several artists or hairstylists that have received a letter or citation from the State Board. Most often, the people were doing more than hair styling. But they don’t want to admit that publically. Or they were caught working IN A SALON without a license or for cutting or chemical processing hair or doing makeup, nails, facials, waxing, etc. And that is not what I am addressing. Of course, you cannot work inside a salon without a license.

The world has millions of licensed professionals that insist these rumors are true. Most, because they believed it and spent time & money to get licensed and they want to set themselves apart from the rest. They don’t know that what they were told was inaccurate and when presented with the facts, many get angry. I am delivering the facts and evidence as I know. States vary in their working of their codes, but not by much. Note the word is “Codes” not laws. So even if you are not in California, please read the section below to better understand what the code actually says, and I will clarify what has so many people confused.

Please allow me to break down what the California State Board Code 7317 ACTUALLY says. I will explain what is known as the #7 comment that people always reference in posts, and I will clarify what is being overlooked and misunderstood. As previously mentioned, the verbiage is MEANT to be confusing and difficult for the average person to 100% understand. That is exactly how government business and law is utilized to create fear and misinformation which then translates into income. Sadly, ALL government entities use this tactic. Anyone in the legal industry will attest to this and anyone with a background in Psychology will validate that it works.

This is what the code says,

“Any type of service that is regulated by the Board needs to be performed by a Licensee in a licensed establishment may be cited for Business and Profession Code 7317. Practice of Barbering, Cosmetology or Electrolysis for Compensation Without License, which carries a $1,000 fine.


<<I will break down the California Code sentence by sentence>>


“Any type of service that is regulated by the Board”

(People forget the State Board ONLY governs salons/spas)


“Needs to be performed by a Licensee in a licensed establishment”

First of all, a “Licensee’s” is a Cosmetologists or Esthetician WITH a License.

Therefore, the phrase says, “Needs to be performed by a Licensed Cosmetologist or Esthetician only within a licensed salon or spa only” Because it’s the only place the State Board oversees and has authority over and is allowed to govern and check.


“MAY be cited for Business and Profession Code 7317, Practicing Cosmetology for compensation WITHOUT a license.”

Read it again! This Code threatens LICENSED PEOPLE for PRACTICING WITHOUT A LICENSE. The very statement contradicts itself!


Nowhere does this code say that they can fine freelance makeup artists that do not have a license to work in a salon, BECAUSE THEY ARE NOT WORKING IN A SALON.

***The entire code is addressing LICENSED PEOPLE! Why? Because THAT IS ALL THE STATE BOARD ONLY GOVERNS or has ANY say over. (The licensed people in a salon!)

***The board is threatening to give $1,000 fine for Code 7317 to a “LICENSED” person for practicing cosmetology WITHOUT a License?!

Since I have made this information public a few years ago, within the past year the State Board of Cosmetology has reworded something of interest. See below.

Are spa/bridal parties in a home office or church legal in California?

Not if a licensee is providing the services. Any type of service that is regulated by the Board needs to be performed by a licensee in a licensed establishment. The Board must be able to inspect the tools and the location where services are being provided for the safety of the consumers of California.

So the State Board of California’s own statement says that licensed cosmetologists or estheticians are NOT allowed to do on location services or ANY services outside of the salon. Once again, this is because the state board can only check on the licensed individuals INSIDE a salon.

Does the code ban all licensed cosmetologists from doing on-location bridal work? Yes. But is anyone spreading rumors that Hairstylists are only allowed to earn income inside a salon? No, but that is what the code actually says!

So the question above is underlined and the answer is straight from the website of the State Board.

The question is, are spa/bridal parties in a HOME OFFICE, or CHURCH legal in California? First of all, most brides don’t get ready at the church or a home office. They get ready in a home or at a hotel or resort. But the important fact here is that their own reply to that question states that doing wedding parties are NOT legal if a licensed person is doing the work. In other words, a freelance makeup artist or hairstylist CAN legally do the work because the state board has no jurisdiction over them.

Again, it is meant to be confusing. It’s called a loophole. It costs a lot of money to have a lawyer write this kind of thing to benefit a company. No one should be embarrassed that they didn’t understand it to be that way, or if they fell for the sneaky marketing of the Cosmetology industry and got a license that they don’t need if they intend to do freelance work. Millions of people believe their trickery and sadly that is what government run industries bank on. Most people read the confusing paragraph, don’t really know what it means but then they read the last sentence that says WITHOUT A LICENSE which carries a $1,000 fine and comes to their own conclusion of what that means and don’t bother to analyze/interpret the rest of the paragraph.

So now you know better. I hope that you make your best career decision based on the facts and start paying it forward by spreading the truth about this situation.

Love and Wisdom,
Donna xoxo