Consequences of Practicing Cosmetology Without A License

woman cutting hair
Cosmetology is the professional study and practical use of beauty treatments. Being a professional cosmetologist or practicing cosmetology for compensation requires, by law, a license. Failure to attain a license is met with legal consequences.

Can You Practice Cosmetology Without a License?

No. You cannot practice legally without a license. The state-certified license of a cosmetologist takes time to earn and practitioners of the craft may be eager to get started, but they cannot practice cosmetology without a license. By law, any services done within the field of cosmetology for any form of compensation is illegal if done without a completed education and a license. If it is a specialized field and they have the license for that field alone, they may do so, but are not qualified for anything else.

What Are The Consequences?

As cosmetology requires a license earned over the course of thousands of hours of training and practice, there are consequences involved with being caught without the proper license or if it has expired and has not been renewed. The consequences will differ state to state, fines and misdemeanor offenses may be on your state’s list of consequences.

The process of verifying if a practitioner has a license is relatively simple and, if exposed for practicing without a license, every state has consequences for the absence of a license. These generally involve a fine, but there are more dire consequences and the practitioner could face criminal charges should someone be harmed in the process.

How to Practice Cosmetology Legally

Attaining a Cosmetology License

To start practicing cosmetology, you are required to attain a license from an accredited university or state-licensed beauty school. The basic courses are often supplemented with minor training in esthetics as well as other specialized areas but the general education provides the most expansive job opportunities.

Graduation from these schools usually requires over a thousand hours of practice as well as an exam that spans written and practical portions, and there will be programs to further your education so that your certification remains valid. It is a lifelong practice.

Can I Move With a Cosmetology License?

Licenses are not universal and, as such, require that if the license-holder wishes to continue their practice after leaving the state they have qualified to operate in, they must transfer their license.

The process of transferring a license varies depending on the states and their requirements when it comes to education within the field of cosmetology. In some cases you are only required to submit an application and fee, while others require another exam or extra hours in training.

Conclusion

In the end, attaining a license to operate as a cosmetologist is a necessity. There are ample opportunities to attain a license and open up an entire spectrum of careers by doing so. There is no reason to risk consequences from practicing cosmetology without a license.

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Duane
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Duane

So, can I work at a nail shop if I am not getting paid? I am doing it to learn the business.

John
Guest
John

It is illegal even if not paid.

K Joia
Guest
K Joia

See if your state offers apprenticeships, here in Washington. It takes some investigating but is worth checking into. I know Washington, Colorado, California, and others offer the option. Most importantly if you work an approved salon you get paid while you learn
Good luck

Robin yates
Guest
Robin yates

You must contact state licensing first. It’s called apprentice ship. The salon must be approved for this program. If it is, then you can train on the job. Depends on the state too.

Lily
Guest
Lily

Would it be legal to practice hair braiding since it does not permanently or dramatically alter/effect their appearance (they can remove it and brush it out and it looks like nothing happened) without a license and what I mean is would it be legal charge money to do it on people

Marissa
Guest
Marissa

It is still illegal, the law actually sees no difference in braiding ,coloring, cutting etc. Of course I’d check the exact law in whatever state you are in but most likely its illegal

ashley
Guest
ashley

it is illegal to charge unless you go online a complete the natural haircare course of study packet go to the health licensing agency and take the natural hair care test and state laws test to get a certified authorization certificate to do so

Emily Flan
Guest
Emily Flan

In my state, it is legal to braid hair and install wigs without a license

Kiara Strayhorn
Guest
Kiara Strayhorn

Can I color hair extensions without a license ?

Ccc
Guest
Ccc

What a fu@$ing joke….

John
Guest
John

Not really!

Tori
Guest
Tori

People can genuinely get hurt if they are going to someone not trained in sanitation, what a reaction to color looks like, diseases, etc. It’s more about preventing diseases from being spread and keeping people from going to the hospital from burns and reactions.

K Joia
Guest
K Joia

Not if the person has taken the time to actually learn ALL about nails. If you take it seriously you will have spent a tremendous amount of time learning everything about our craft. I’m not practicing, but I’m learning all I can about nails, sanitation, organizing, technique, ethics, and all the skills that would make me successful. Do your part to learn all you can about what you want to do. Better yet change the way we can learn and learn from reliable sources, get a proper education and read the text books that cover the basic skills. See what… Read more »

Sylvia
Guest
Sylvia

What us the number to call and report someone

Frank - Beauty College Ambassador
Admin
Frank - Beauty College Ambassador

Sylvia, each state has a regulatory agency that governs the industry. If you google Cosmetologist in X state, you’ll find the regulatory agency and that may be an appropriate starting point.

Cami Jones
Guest
Cami Jones

It varies from state to state, but it would be the cosmetology board in each state.

Klm
Guest
Klm

Bla bla I cut hair all the time been doing it for 30+ years. Do I have a license? Nooooo

Cami Jones
Guest
Cami Jones

You shouldn’t be.

Ksoaejd
Guest
Ksoaejd

Mothers cut hair on their kids and husbands and aunties and cousins. What’s wrong with that?

Frank - Beauty College Ambassador
Admin
Frank - Beauty College Ambassador

There isn’t anything wrong with that 🙂

Iyanna
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Iyanna

As an assistant could you wash out color without an license

Frank - Beauty College Ambassador
Admin
Frank - Beauty College Ambassador

Iyanna, you’ll have to check the scope of practice at your state. In certain states, there is a shampoo license that is required (e.g. New Hampshire, Tennessee, Alabama, Louisiana, and Texas) Other states may not have guidelines around it. Good luck!

Taz
Guest
Taz

If you want to change it, just need to start getting signatures and go to your state regulatory board as every year there’s a chance to vote against the licensure of each field. Licensing is nothing else, but economist steps to set up oligarchys in every profession and keep the gap between rich and poor, make it even harder to ever get a chance in life if you weren’t born in a well off family. Besides the licensing proceeds of course benefiting state budgets that’s why they support it. Ok, just so everybody is clear on the topic. Yes most… Read more »

Sonia Villalobos
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Sonia Villalobos

🙌🙌🙌

Deb
Guest
Deb

Taz, I believe that you are one of those who feel the “Man” is holding you back from being successful. Well let me tell you differently. There are many many people that are born into poor living situations that struggle to make ends meat but that struggle pays off and they become what they believe is successful. I yes sometimes your dreams don’t come true no matter how hard you work and study or whatever the situation is. But if you choose to blame everyone else for not becoming successful then you are the problem NOT the solution. Pick yourself… Read more »

MissyG
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MissyG

You’ve never been to Cosmo school have you? You would unmistakably see and understand what an education and required licensing protects if you had.

As for it supposedly not being accessible to those with no pot to pee in… I’m calling your bluff – I was struggling to keep a roof over my head and food on the table (with a toddler and a baby), and received a Pell Grant from the state of CA that paid fully for my education. This CAN happen for the less fortunate.

L. Ave
Guest
L. Ave

I had a girl working for me who provided me with fraudulent licenses. I fired her and reported her to DOL and they did nothing. So badically there aren’t many ramifications other than being fired aside from the fact that I was paying her on a licensed scale AND she put me in a HUGE liability position.

Kat
Guest
Kat

I’m a licensed nail tech and have a salon at my home separate from living quarters. I’m wanting to host a ladies night on proper care and ending the night with teaching my technique to paint nails so the ladies would bring a friend and they would paint each other’s nails. Curious if I’m allowed to do this or not or how that works. I would charge a very little fee to cover cost of their nail file and buffers

Frank - Beauty College Ambassador
Admin
Frank - Beauty College Ambassador

Kat, that is a great question. What state are you currently in? The regulations vary state by state.

Kkn
Guest
Kkn

Can I run a home base salon in my garage if it’s in it’s own legit cubical
Blocking the rest of the garage off and making just that room?

Olivia
Guest
Olivia

If I do my own nails does it count?

Frank - Beauty College Ambassador
Admin
Frank - Beauty College Ambassador

No it does not. Self service wouldn’t pertain to the regulatory agency

Jay
Guest
Jay

Could a teen do polygel nails at school without a license?

Barbara
Guest
Barbara

Hello my name is Barbara I studied cosmetology black in 2003 here in Atlanta GA, I took the state board test, and passed the practical part and failed the written part. With life’s situations I ended up in a different field if work. I wanted to know if I can still take the written test at this point.
Thanks,

Frank - Beauty College Ambassador
Admin
Frank - Beauty College Ambassador

That is a great question Barbara! Unfortunately, I am not as familiar with how the regulatory agency works in GA, however did find their website. Good luck! Website: https://sos.ga.gov/index.php/licensing/plb/16 Please let us know how things turn out!

Tierra L Loftus
Guest
Tierra L Loftus

I have a developmentally disabled female living with me. She likes me to do her hair. I don’t charge her, Is that illegal, or do they not count people who have a secondary relationship with the person?

Frank - Beauty College Ambassador
Admin
Frank - Beauty College Ambassador

Hello Tierra, it depends on the state, however regulations typically apply to commercial transactions.

Tay
Guest
Tay

Hello! I have a client who wants me to teach her how to cut her husbands hair. Would I be breaking any law? I would be worried if she tried to take hair cutting to other people.

Frank - Beauty College Ambassador
Admin
Frank - Beauty College Ambassador

If she is teaching you for fun, then most likely no. However, if she is charging you, there maybe a challenge. I would suggest you reach out to the regulatory agency in your state.

Juanita
Guest
Juanita

I have a doctorate degree in physical therapy. I am contemplating enrolling in a course for laser lipo used for body contouring that is being offered by a licensed esthetician in hopes of being able to provide the service myself. Do I have to become a licensed cosmetologist or esthetician to provide this service although I have a more extensive degree? I really do not want to go back to school lol.

Frank - Beauty College Ambassador
Admin
Frank - Beauty College Ambassador

Juanita, the first thing you would do is to look at your approved scope of work with your degree in PT. If it allows for operating laser or medical devices, you may not have to go back to school. However, I am not as familiar with the scope of practice for you educational qualification.

Juanita
Guest
Juanita

I have a doctorate degree in physical therapy. I will be taking a course on laser lipo for body contouring offered by an esthetician for certification to be able to provide this services myself. Do I have to become a licensed esthetician to provide this service even though I have a higher education in health science?

Frank - Beauty College Ambassador
Admin
Frank - Beauty College Ambassador

Juanita, the first thing you would do is to look at your approved scope of work with your degree in PT. If it allows for operating laser or medical devices, you may not have to go back to school. However, I am not as familiar with the scope of practice for you educational qualification.

Cori’el
Guest
Cori’el

Is doing nails as a small business, as a teen without a license illegal

Frank - Beauty College Ambassador
Admin
Frank - Beauty College Ambassador

Cori’el, thank you for your question. If you are doing it as a commercial service (taking payments), then yes, it would not be in accordance to the legal requirements.

Kkn
Guest
Kkn

Even if u say u don’t charge or take payment and they tip u outta there own good self, is it illegal?

Frank - Beauty College Ambassador
Admin
Frank - Beauty College Ambassador

That is a good question. ‘Tipping’ is typically considered compensation. Even if they ‘traded’ you something for the service would be considered compensation.

Diana
Guest
Diana

I live in California ., can I do nails from home ? If I have my license??

Frank - Beauty College Ambassador
Admin
Frank - Beauty College Ambassador

Diana, that is a great question. If you have your license, you are able to offer commercial services. However,I am not familiar with the specific licensing designation. You may want to check out you Cosmetology Board for guidance. Here is the link: https://www.barbercosmo.ca.gov/

Amy
Guest
Amy

Hi, I’m a high school student and I plan on going to an esthetician school when I graduate. I hope to one day open a small business providing esthetic services, but I’d also like to expand to some cosmetic services. I feel that cosmetology and esthetics go together and would make a fine business. If i wanted to do that, would I also have to go to cosmetology school as well and get my license even if I, myself, WON’T be the one giving the cosmetic services, but instead hire employees with cosmetology license to do them. Would that be… Read more »

Frank - Beauty College Ambassador
Admin
Frank - Beauty College Ambassador

Amy, in Washington State you are not required to have an operators license to own a spa. However, I am unsure of the requirements in Virginia or Texas. I do know that most salon/spa owners are owner/operators, hence being licensed. It may be worth serious consideration, as you can better lead your team as a licensed professional, as you can jump in to lead, and cover if needed.

Sanille
Guest
Sanille

At the end of summer, our church provides free haircuts to kids heading back to school. We are always short of stylists and we have never used the many retired stylists em who are available. This is because they do not hold a current license. There is no form of compensation to the stylist whatsoever, so could we use these ladies to give free haircuts?

Frank - Beauty College Ambassador
Admin
Frank - Beauty College Ambassador

We do a number of different events to help those that are in need. Just reach out the nearest campus and they can definitely help.

Flavia
Guest
Flavia

My youngest brother’s girlfriend is an unlicensed, “self taught” nail tech. I believe she misguided my parents into letting her accept clients in their home that has no qualifications for a salon. This is also during the Covid-19 pandemic and my parents are in their late 50s-60 and my mother is diabetic with the addition of a slew of other health issues. I am worried that the clients she brings in will also at some point bring in the virus. Additionally, I do not believe she has had any professional training and is unfit to be a nail technician. I… Read more »

Frank - Beauty College Ambassador
Admin
Frank - Beauty College Ambassador

Flavia, it sounds as though this is a complex situation. Providing services to the public without a licensed creates a lot exposure on a number of levels. It may be best to have a conversation regarding the regulations, and direct her, or your parents to the Department of Licensing, Cosmetology Division.

Bob
Guest
Bob

ONLY illegal if ANY form of compensation is given. Volunteering one’s time for free would not violate any laws

Kristal Aguirre
Guest
Kristal Aguirre

Thank you

Ariana
Guest
Ariana

If I am a self taught nail tech, can I do house calls legally if there is no compensation?

Frank - Beauty College Ambassador
Admin
Frank - Beauty College Ambassador

Ariana, if you take any compensation, even trading, you are subject to having a license. This license allows you to have insurance if something goes wrong. Many people think they can be clever and go under the radar by getting around this, but I have seem too many formal complaints, and lawsuits, when someone gets injured, no matter how minor it is. They will sue you and practicing without a license will leave you pretty much defenseless.

DiBabe
Guest
DiBabe

I am an in-home caregiver. Because the salons are closed now, the guardian of one of my clients wants me to cut my client’s hair. I wouldn’t be getting paid for the haircut itself, but I am paid to be caring for her. Would cutting her hair be legal?

Frank - Beauty College Ambassador
Admin
Frank - Beauty College Ambassador

Hello DiBabe, thank you for your question. The laws governing cosmetology is to protect consumers. You question is a little tricky as you may not be paid specifically for the the hair cut, but it could be interpreted that you paid for your services as in-home caregiver to your client, and grooming is part of that expectation. The question you are asking is a good step; if the guardian claims that you injured your client by doing unlicensed activity, there could be challenges. I would suggest you reach out the Department of Licensing to get clarification. Their website is http://www.dol.wa.gov… Read more »

Sheldon meyer
Guest
Sheldon meyer

Do you have to be licensed to style hair as a backstage personal for a theatrical tour?

Frank - Beauty College Ambassador
Admin
Frank - Beauty College Ambassador

Sheldon, that’s a good question. If you are in Washington State and am doing it for commercial services, then it would fall under a licensed service.

Danelle
Guest
Danelle

Can a cosmetologist shave a beard without a barber license? It was a shaver not a razor. Also does anyone know if beards are even allowed to be shaved in Colorado right now because of the covid regulations? A lady just shaved my husband’s beard off yesterday! Without asking! Thanks!

Frank - Beauty College Ambassador
Admin
Frank - Beauty College Ambassador

Danelle, I’m not sure what the rules are in Colorado, but in Washington it is well within the scope of practice 🙂

Scott
Guest
Scott

What if your Governor is a dictator and has no moral compass for his constituents welfare over an exaggerated pandemic that hes trying to use to get federal aid he doesnt deserve (and was denied the aid) because he bankrupted the state years ago.. How about under those circumstances?

Frank - Beauty College Ambassador
Admin
Frank - Beauty College Ambassador

Scott, the civil disobedience argument is a little bit a of different position than this blog post 🙂

Kelly marcelino
Guest
Kelly marcelino

Can you challenge state board license if your exoired

Frank - Beauty College Ambassador
Admin
Frank - Beauty College Ambassador

Kelly, that is a great question and it really varies from state to state. It’s best to reach out to your state regulatory agency. If you are in Washington State, the website is http://www.dol.wa.gov and click on Cosmetology. Good luck!

ash
Guest
ash

I’m practicing nails on myself currently, my friends want me to practice on them… I will be taking cosmetology next year in high school. Is it illegal to practice on myself and friends?

Frank - Beauty College Ambassador
Admin
Frank - Beauty College Ambassador

Ash, that is a great question. Licenses are required if you are offering services for commercial purposes, so if you are not taking payment, your exposure maybe limited. The best thing to do is to contact the Department of Licensing here in Washington State: https://www.dol.wa.gov/business/cosmetology/contact.html

Geo
Guest
Geo

So it’s illegal to work in a nail salon without taking compensation in Colorado?

Frank - Beauty College Ambassador
Admin
Frank - Beauty College Ambassador

Hello Geo, thank you for your comment/question. However, I wasn’t sure if it was more of a comment or a question. If it is a question, I am not as familiar with Colorado laws, however I would imagine if you are working without compensation, it would be considered volunteering?

Catherine Keefer
Guest
Catherine Keefer

There is this girl changing 20$ for nails and she hasn’t went to school and I refuse to continue to see her rip ppl off

Virginia R Hendrickson
Guest
Virginia R Hendrickson

I held a license in California and Hawaii. I was licensed cosmetology instructor in state of Washington from 1967 through 1997. I was so owner of Auburn Beauty School, and glorious Beauty School in Bellevue Washington. Bellevue beauty school was the first school in Washington State to be licensed to teach add license and esthetician program, Auburn was the second. I was a licensed cosmetology esthetician, Barber, and manicures licensed instructor, and school owner until 1985. I owned and operated Ginger Spice appearance Center in Federal Way and Wenatchee Washington. In 2000 I became an art teacher fo Wenatchee public… Read more »

Frank - Beauty College Ambassador
Admin
Frank - Beauty College Ambassador

Virginia, first thank you for your incredible contribution to our industry! It’s amazing to read your journey, and having been part of the industry for the past 15 years, we owe a great deal to leaders like you that you have laid the foundation of what we have today. RE: grandfathering, it’s best to reach out directly with the Department of Licensing, Cosmetology Division. I am not sure if they will just require you to re-take both the written and practical exam, or if there are other requirements that you must meet. Here is their website: https://www.dol.wa.gov/business/cosmetology/contact.html. Or if calling… Read more »

Jereisha Chapman
Guest
Jereisha Chapman

Hello, so I’ve been wanting to get into the business of making press on nails meaning I won’t be providing any face to face service just painting and designing a nail to sell what documents would I need for this?

Frank - Beauty College Ambassador
Admin
Frank - Beauty College Ambassador

Jereisha, I don’t believe this would require a professional license, although it may help. I am sorry I can’t provide any more specifics.

Kai
Guest
Kai

Would you need a vendor or small business license for it?

Frank - Beauty College Ambassador
Admin
Frank - Beauty College Ambassador

Kai, your operator license is different than the business license. If you open up your own salon and you are an operator, you would need both.

Jillian martin
Guest
Jillian martin

A friend of mine told me she was a licensed cosmetologist after the First time of her doing my hair she told me the truth but then she told me she went to take a test which was a lie because now I let her do my hair and she completely damaged it

Michaela Browder
Guest
Michaela Browder

Can you work from home to be a nail artist and do it online classes from home ? or what

Frank - Beauty College Ambassador
Admin
Frank - Beauty College Ambassador

Michaela, it depends on what state you are located in and if that state permits online education. Some states will permit it, and then you will need to find a school that can offer it. In regards to operating from home as a nail artist, many do. You just have to make sure you have the required credentials. Good luck!

Taylor Embry
Guest
Taylor Embry

Who do you call when someone is operating with no license

Frank - Beauty College Ambassador
Admin
Frank - Beauty College Ambassador

Taylor, you would actually contact the Department of Licensing Cosmetology Division.

Lisa Ramirez
Guest
Lisa Ramirez

I worked for a person who doesn’t have a barber’s license Nora Barber Shop permit and have barbers working without license I was the only one who had a legit barbers license is there anyway I can report them

Frank - Beauty College Ambassador
Admin
Frank - Beauty College Ambassador

Lisa, what state are you in?

Charlotte
Guest
Charlotte

If I were to treat a minor without any qualifications or evidence, what would the consequences be?

Frank - Beauty College Ambassador
Admin
Frank - Beauty College Ambassador

Charlotte, that’s a great question. When you say, ‘treat a minor’ what do you mean? What do you perceive as differences between treating a minor versus an adult?

Charlotte Yarnall
Guest
Charlotte Yarnall

Either treating a minor or adult without any qualifications or evidence what would be the consequences? If there is a difference in consequence what would it be?

Frank - Beauty College Ambassador
Admin
Frank - Beauty College Ambassador

Charlotte, if you are doing for commercial purposes, then regardless of age, both would be considered unlicensed activity. I am not sure what the difference in risk exposure, but would hypothesize that minors would be considered more vulnerable if there was an injury. Again, I am not well versed in this area of regulations but that would be my guess.

Charlotte Yarnall
Guest
Charlotte Yarnall

Okay thank you for helping!

Kenzie
Guest
Kenzie

I am doing nails home from I am 18 and have just started no I don’t have a license as of now , eventually I’ll be going to school. I wanted to start charging my girlfriends for nails most of them offer money to me! Basically what I’m asking is it okay to take money from my friends for doing there nails. I mean I do pay for all my product!

Frank - Beauty College Ambassador
Admin
Frank - Beauty College Ambassador

Hello Kenzie, first I want to congratulate you; to ‘self teach’ speaks to your curiosity and passion, and your desire to go to school to formalize the training is commendable. I am unsure what state you are in, but typically receiving money for the service, even if it is just for product, is considered a commercial transaction. It would therefore require a license. I would encourage you to research your state regulations, and to start your schooling sooner than later. It seems like you are ready to start your journey in the industry. There are also some great scholarships out… Read more »

Tulip
Guest
Tulip

My cousin works at a hair salon under a supposed apprenticeship, and had been for two years, but hasn’t taken any schooling and is “waiting to take her exam”. Is this legal?

Frank - Beauty College Ambassador
Admin
Frank - Beauty College Ambassador

Tulip, it really depends on the state. Although apprenticeships are not as common as going to a technical school, it is a valid, and for some individuals, a successful way to train for the industry. I would suggest that you look at your state regulations. One simple way of doing it is just to google “Cosmetology Apprenticeship Requirements in X state” … they should direct you to some resources. Good luck!

ROBIN YATES
Guest
ROBIN YATES

Can you work in a salon, IF…… You’ve completed cosmetology school, primary exam but still waiting on state boards? I have a student I want to hire but she is waiting on state boards, due to Covid. What can she legally do?

Frank - Beauty College Ambassador
Admin
Frank - Beauty College Ambassador

Robin, it depends on the state. Due to COVID some states are issuing temp approvals for not only the beauty industry, but others, like dentistry. However, if you are in Washington State, there is not that option.

Ben wehrle
Guest
Ben wehrle

Can you run a nail salon in a apartment complex without telling the management

Frank - Beauty College Ambassador
Admin
Frank - Beauty College Ambassador

Ben, there are a number of regulations you want to explore including zoning, rental agreement at your apartment complex, etc.

Vanessa
Guest
Vanessa

how do I report a person who does not have a license and works inside the apartment with body and facial aesthetics?

Kaitlin
Guest
Kaitlin

I want to offer haircuts and coloring FOR FREE without a license. Is that legal? It’s just something I want to do for experience and fun. I do not plan on charging at all.

Frank - Beauty College Ambassador
Admin
Frank - Beauty College Ambassador

You need to check with your state regulators; they will be able to give you greater guidance on your specific state. In some states, even accepting a tip, via money, or even a gift, could be considered compensation.