Part I

This is Part I of a two part Blog post on licensing in our industry.

Check here to see if who you are paying for beauty services is actually licensed or not!

Have you ever been confused about what kind of license a hairstylist has versus a makeup artist. Do you know if the person doing your bikini wax or manicure has a license? If you’re like me and someone calls themselves a professional then you rightly assume they are properly licensed, or have a degree, for whatever service it is they are performing,  right? Isn’t a professional someone who has done what it takes to receive a license in their state for their trade or profession? In Missouri it is the recognized blue and white license that should be displayed prominently in any business that is offering such services.

Here is a list of trades that are regulated by the state. On this list you will see our trade (cosmetology) along with surgeons and even professional wrestling, which I found surprising, but hey, wrestling is very dangerous and clearly the state deems it necessary to regulate the sport so I will trust them on that decision.

So let’s narrow it down to just the beauty industry.

Missouri Board of Cosmetology License Requirements

  • Cosmetologist License: 1500 Hours (3000 Hours Apprenticeship)
  • Barber License: 1000 Hours (2000 Hours Apprenticeship)
  • Esthetician License: 750 Hours (1500 Hours Apprenticeship)
  • Nail Technician License: 400 Hours (800 Hours Apprenticeship)
  • Permanent Make-Up License: 300 Hours Apprenticeship
  • Cosmetology Instructor License: Cosmetology License 500


What is a cosmetologist and what are they licensed for?

A cosmetologist is what I am, and it is classified as a CA (Cosmetology All) license in Missouri. It takes anywhere from a year to 18 months to complete the training in school. As you can see, the required school hours are 1500 hours or 3000 hours if you apprentice in a salon under master salon license. It took me about 11 months in 1996 working 40 hours a week. I was fortunate.  I was young and could live at home while I attended school. In this industry I’m what I call a “lifer”.  I’ve been in it since I was a teen and thank goodness I have because a 9-5 class schedule (40 hours a week) doesn’t provide much room for a job.My CA license covers hair cutting, hair coloring, manicuring and nail services, basic skin care, waxing and makeup. Pretty much everything but advanced skin care, like laser work. The trades range from 1500 hrs of training for a CA to 500 for manicuring.  I have been in my industry for 18 years. My career has taken me to Chicago, Miami and New York. I own a salon and work with the best educators in the country from our industry. Even I find this vague outline unclear on what consumer services fall under these trades. I look at this and I am confused and I am a professional in our industry. I can only imagine how confused the public is.

Applicant Flood

I recently had an unsettling incident in my own salon that has inspired this post. First, some history before I explain.

  • My blog was originally intended for my clients. I was blogging before it was called’ blogging’. In 2006 I would attach “notes to my clients” on our website. Later these posts would be termed “blogs” by the online industry. Since then I have learned (and it is flattering) that many in the beauty industry read my blog. This post in particular is very much for all salon clients, perhaps some professionals too. I am writing to inform of some startling facts about our industry.
  • I have a passion for keeping my industry professional.  It will inspire the real professionals (who are properly licensed) to say, “it is about time someone addressed this problem”.  Those of you who perform and charge people for beauty services that you are not licensed to perform- may be upset by what you are about to read.

Now for the incident. During an interview for a receptionist, (my assistant and I sorted through over 100 applications), I came across an applicant. I will call her Shelia. She was applying for a the position but was also a makeup artist. I liked her resume and I love anyone who can be multi -functional. I called her for an interview. She had a direct personality and a great website with lots of accolades. Sheila said she was a celebrity makeup artist. I was impressed. I have done hair for First Ladies, professional athletes and performers and have never referred to myself as a celebrity hairstylist, so if she referred to herself as such- she must be. At one point in my career I assisted a stylist in our industry who in our industry is a celebrity. Assisting him I was in the presence of real celebrities, but high end salons had decorum and protocols and assistants were not formally introduced to high profile clients. They were his clients, I was his assistant. That was always clear. However, having been around stylists like him, I thought to myself “Sheila must be a big deal.” Since this is the Midwest, a majority of any stylist’s clientele are not usually celebrities. In Shelia’s defense, I think she may have lived in LA at some point. Licensing a bit looser in California, harder to keep track of because of all the “private stylists” in the showbiz. I’m not really sure if she had or not but I feel like I heard this, but she didn’t mention that if she had. Given that “celebrity” artist was a current title on her website, I’ll throw out that possibility .In my opinion, a “Celebrity” stylist, makeup artist, or colorist, is a title reserved for a stylist who currently is in New York or LA, or somewhere like that, and a large concentration of their clients are legit in the entertainment industry. For example a stylist like Sally Hershberger, who is a famous New York stylist “celebrity” stylist.  Regardless Sheila had named many famous people on her resume, so I was intrigued. When I asked her what she was exactly licensed for, she informed me that you didn’t have to have a license to do makeup. She seemed so confident I believed her and I had never given it much thought before.  I thought makeup artistry was something just parlayed into our license by the state.

Unlicensed is common.

I became skilled at makeup because of necessity. I rose to occasion as the need to perform it through the years in my salon during fashion week or photo shoots, but it’s not my first love in beauty like hair. Let me explain. Most cosmetologists are hair stylists and colorists, or at least they want to be. Some salon owners, and chain salons like Beauty Brands, require them to do all services within the license for higher productivity. Full books mean more cash flow. I won’t do this because I myself wont do services I am not passionate about, like nails. Plus I feel a stylist will have lower burn out rate doing what they love. In an industry known for low long term success rate, I believe this creates a better salon culture if they can focus on what they love and develop those skills. It takes years to develop a solid clientele for hair and even longer to build a real reputable name for yourself. Plus, hair is usually what is focused on in school.

Schools educate in biology, anatomy and chemistry and how those subjects are relative to our trade but they barely cover makeup. At least that’s how it was in the nineties. Sanitation, studying for board specific topics and coloring are prioritized. One can see why applying chemicals to your head less than 2 inches from your brain is elevated in importance over makeup. Beauty school instructors believe those subjects should take priority. I agree. The beauty schools only have a year to teach you all the things I listed above that I’m licensed for. YES, sharp instruments and chemicals near and on the head should take precedence over lipstick! They briefly teach makeup and skincare and encourage continued education to students beyond school if you’re going to perform these services. Most cosmetology schools say “when you pass boards that gives you a license to learn.” If you can find a salon willing to mentor that is. That’s becoming rare. However schools teach quite a bit about sterilizing tools, cross contamination and communicable skin disease.

Back to Sheila. The next day I called one of my licensed stylists, who had both a cosmetology and aesthetics license. I was excited to tell her that when we have large wedding parties in the salon she would have help because I hired Sheila, this famous makeup artist. She listened and said, “Gemy, she’s not licensed.” This stylist had been doing bridal make- up for awhile. She was more familiar with local makeup scene then I was. I told her what Sheila said about not having to be licensed for makeup and suddenly I started to feel… out of my comfort zone. I try to inspire and educate my wonderful stylists on skill and professionalism, and I didn’t even know our state requirement for makeup!? How could this be? In my defence prior to this I had little interest in makeup and it had been 18 years since I went to test for Boards. This stylist was much newer in our industry ans said, “I’m pretty sure you do have to be licensed for CA esthetics.” So I called State Board and asked because it had clearly been awhile since I graduated from cosmetology school and the details of makeup were unclear. I explained the situation to the State Board and behold my stylist was right! In fact the State Board pressured me for this Sheila’s name. They reminded me it was my professional obligation to report her, and that people like her jeopardized our regulated trade. I hate a snitch even though I knew they were right. Feeling very uncomfortable I told them I forgot her name. I reassured them I was informed and would not hire her and quickly hung up and sent Shelia an email apologizing for any confusion on my part, that she was mistaken, you do indeed have to have a license to charge for makeup services.  I retracted my invitation for her to work at the salon then returned to my task of 5 million things to do for our salon expansion. I felt bad and annoyed at the same time, what a time waster!  These unlicensed “makeup artists” had so saturated our industry even I had become confused through the years. At least I was re-educated on the topic.

That evening I did some reflecting. I remembered a year earlier someone had called the salon saying” Hello I am the assistant of so and so, who is a celebrity (oh that word!) makeup artist and she is educating salons and beauty schools for a 3 day class which is normally $1200. She is offering a special for the price of $900. When would you like to book and how would you like to pay?”  I was a little shocked at the bold call. My family owns a construction company. I felt like that would be like us calling a homeowner and saying “the price of our luxury 3 tier deck is $20,000 but we are offering it for $15,000, when do you want us to build it and how would you like to pay?” At the time I thought, “Wow, do salons actually buy that?” I just said, “No thank you. “ Thinking back that night on the whole situation, I remembered that it was Sheila! If the whole purpose of Beauty schools (which are privately owned mind you) is to teach a student to become a licensed cosmetologist, why is she giving classes there?? Did the schools not vet freelance educators?

Upon the incident in my salon, I have started doing more research on area “makeup artists.” Many of them are unlicensed. In fact many are starting to call themselves “stylists” because they do “fluff” styling. Fluff styling is a term for curling hair and pinning it up. It refers to special event or “session” styling you would receive during a photo shoot. Light work hair styling that regardless falls under the craft of hairdressing. I feel that is incredibly inappropriate. Not only is it and a gross misrepresentation, it’s a flat out lie. It seems blatant attempt to confuse the public! Many have started even doing hair for events. This also illegal. Before you hire anyone to come in your home or to your event to do hair or makeup, ask if they have a cosmetology license. If they don’t, you should not hire them. They don’t have the right to pose as a professional and charge for services. Our state is clear that a professional is someone who is licensed, because it’s a professionally regulated trade. I was SHOOK because hiring the right people with the right licenses is important to clients health and safety, and also a direct reflection of my business.

Salon owners have to take the initiative and protect themselves and their clients from the liability of negligence that occurs when the correct sterilization practices are not applied. Health issues can arise when hygiene and cleaning protocols are not practiced because the training and licensing are not adhered to. Again, that is why it is a government regulated trade! Read more about the role of Beauty Schools and You Need to Have a License next month as we continue this topic.

In the meantime check here to see if who you are paying for beauty services is actually licensed or not! All you have to do is enter a service providers name and the county. This is a database for LICENSED people, so if their name does not show up, they are not licensed and have no right to charge for beauty services.