Makeup Artist Certification and License Guide

If you’re enthusiastic about makeup artistry, nothing is as exciting as turning that passion into your livelihood. It’s the perfect opportunity to earn a comfortable living while doing what you love. To work as a professional makeup artist (MUA), you need more than determination and knowledge of the latest beauty trends — you may also need to get formally trained and certified first.

Types of MUA and Beauty Careers and Their Requirements

You can take several different career paths to become an MUA or otherwise get involved in the beauty industry.

1. Professional Makeup Artists

A professional MUA specializes in the application of makeup. They use makeup, cosmetics, paint, prosthetics, wigs, and other accessories to alter their clients’ physical appearances. There are many things you can do as an MUA, including working as a freelancer, working for an individual, or working for an organization.

MUAs often work in retail, entertainment, fashion, theater, cosmetic or beauty services. Typically, states don’t offer professional MUA licenses or have MUA-specific educational requirements. However, employers may give preference to those who have graduated from MUA educational programs.

2. Cosmetologists

Cosmetologists care for their client’s hair, skin, and nails. They can work in all three of those areas or have a specialty. Most states regulate the licensure of cosmetologists and require a blend of education and practical experience (often several years’ worth) before you can secure your license.

3. Estheticians

Estheticians specialize in cosmetic skincare treatments, focusing on only the superficial layers of the skin. Their standard services include facials and acne treatments, body hair removal, microdermabrasion, and body wraps, masks, and scrubs. Generally, you’ll need a license from the appropriate governing body in your state to work as an esthetician. Because they only work on skin, the training for estheticians tends to be shorter and less intensive than it is for cosmetologists.

Educational Programs for Professional Makeup Artists

Two important considerations when pursuing a career as a professional makeup artist or special makeup effects artist are: 1) what are the state requirements, and 2) what skills, schooling, and certification employers require?

Formal education may provide you with high-level skills and knowledge, and receiving a diploma from an accredited makeup artistry school shows potential employers the level of training you have completed. Employers in the beauty field look at potential new hires graduating with a diploma from an accredited makeup artistry or special effects program the same way other professions require a bachelor’s or master’s degree.

Whether you want to work as a freelance MUA, on set, in production, at a haunt, at a salon, or in a retail cosmetic store, if you know what you want to do, you can begin making preparations to launch your career as soon as possible.

Always do your research and check into the requirements of the state you live in or intend to work in and be open to studying out-of-state and bringing those skills and competitive advantage back to your home state.

What Is the Difference Between Certification and Licensure?

When it comes to makeup artistry, “certification” and “licensure” do not refer to the same professional credentials. Essentially, licensure is legally mandatory, while certification is often voluntary and based on completing a program at an Accredited Makeup Artistry or Special Effects Makeup School and undergoing the necessary training or education to work as an MUA.

As an MUA, you can attend advanced courses such as special effects makeup, airbrushing and body painting, or advanced prosthetics. These types of classes make you more desirable, versatile, and well-rounded which employers like.

Most states have don’t require a license for MUAs working in specific industries. However, estheticians and cosmetologists are often required to be licensed and to meet minimum education requirements.

Educational Options and Programs for Licensure

For MUAs, cosmetologists, and estheticians, potential employers like to see education and hands-on training. All types of makeup artists can obtain education and training programs from various sources.

Makeup Artistry Institutes or Academies

Makeup artistry institutes or academies offer vocational programs to prepare you as an MUA or special effects artist. You can enroll in a comprehensive program or take individual courses as needed to advance your skills. Many schools and institutions have a straightforward application and enrollment process for prospective students of all skill levels.

Practicum Hours and Apprenticeships

In addition to attending an MUA program, you can also secure an apprenticeship. An apprenticeship provides you with the opportunity to get hands-on experience with supervision from an expert.

Exams

If you are attending a cosmetology or esthetics program, you may have to take an exam to earn your license after completing your training and education. Many states will verify your knowledge with a written or theoretical exam, as well as a practical exam to test your skills. Upon passing these exams, you will earn your license.

Union Memberships

In certain states, you may want to consider joining a union. You may need to gain practical work experience or graduate from a makeup artistry school to become a union member. In doing so, joining an association may help pursue a career as an MUA in theater or film. Start with IATSE, or the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, Moving Picture Technicians, Artists, and Allied Crafts of the United States, Its Territories, and Canada, to find a local union or chapter in your area.

Continuing Education

Most states have continuing education requirements for licensed cosmetologists and estheticians. Typically, if you don’t obtain the correct amount of continuing education, your license will lapse or become inactive. Continuing education often involves reviewing best practices, such as how to sanitize makeup properly, but depending on your license and location, it could also include expanding your knowledge base so you can offer more services, such as learning how to style hair.

Most Continuing Education for MUA’s is voluntary but important. Even successful professional makeup artists stay up-to-date with the latest trends and techniques and new hygiene and sanitary practices, especially now that we live in the new world of Covid-19.

Each state has its unique licensure requirements and certification recommendations for professionals in the beauty industry. Make sure you are familiar with the guidelines in your area before you choose an MUA program, so you can successfully pursue your career goals.

MUA State Requirements

There is no such thing as an MUA license. Makeup artists are certified for technical training and receive a diploma from an accredited trade school to show employers and agencies that they are professionally trained in makeup artistry. When pursuing an MUA career, be sure that you research state requirements within your area, the available training programs, and contact a professional makeup artistry school to discuss your career goals.

Licensed cosmetologists and estheticians (sometimes “aestheticians” according to different state laws and definitions) have separate licensing and certification requirements for these professions.

4 Things to Note about Cosmetology Licensing

  • Nevada and Texas are two states that MUA’s can work anywhere in the state, even in Salons without a Cosmetology or Esthetics license. Due to the efforts of L Makeup Institute’s founder Lissette Waugh, Nevada allows MUA’s to register with the State Board of Cosmetology as an MUA.
  • In almost every state, MUAs are exempt from cosmetology and esthetics licensing, and makeup artists are allowed to work in film, television, photography, print, fashion, music videos, freelance, mortuaries, or in a cosmetic retail environment without a license or having passed a state exam.
  • Nebraska allows you to register as a cosmetician and, Louisiana allows MUA’s to obtain an MUA permit.
  • Three states, Nevada, Nebraska, and Louisiana, allow for MUA’s to register or obtain a permit.

Cosmetology and Esthetician Licensing

*Always check the appropriate state regulatory agency for the latest information.

Look below to find more information about licensing guidelines in your state:

Alabama

The state of Alabama requires a single license that covers both estheticians and cosmetologists to work in the state. Makeup Artists DO NOT need a license to work in the theatre, television, film, or radio industry, or as a makeup artist in a retail environment (e.g. working at a makeup counter, working with a direct sales company, etc.)

Alaska

Alaska no longer offers a cosmetology license, but instead offers separate licenses for estheticians and hairdressers; MUAs working in retail, performing a demonstration of makeup products/technique are exempt from the licensing requirement, while those working for limited purposes (as in an entertainment industry production) may need a temporary permit, but do not have to obtain a license.

Arizona

Arizona licenses cosmetologists and aestheticians. MUAs do not need a license to work professionally in Arizona if they do not provide any other cosmetology/aesthetic services, or if they are performing limited demonstrations as in a retail environment.

Arkansas

The Arkansas Department of Health licenses and regulates cosmetologists and salons, but does not require licenses for any other MUA professionals.

California

California provides a single licensing application for cosmetologists and estheticians, along with other beauty professionals. You do not need a license to work as a freelance MUA, production of film, television, or musical entertainment, or to apply makeup when recommending or selling cosmetic products (either in a store or as a freelancer).

Colorado

Colorado requires licensing for cosmetologists and estheticians; MUAs do not need a license to work in the state.

Connecticut

The state provides a single license for professionals called “cosmeticians” in Connecticut (combining cosmetologists and estheticians into a single classification). MUAs providing a product demonstration, or providing limited services on a temporary basis not serving the general public do not need to obtain a license or temporary permit.

Delaware

While you do not need a license to work as a freelancer, in retail, or in visual arts, you do need one if you plan to work in a salon as a cosmetologist or esthetician.

District of Columbia

There is no licensing requirement for MUAs except when working in a salon you must be licensed as a cosmetologist or esthetician.

Florida

In the state of Florida, under the newly passed “Occupational Freedom and Opportunity Act”, a license is not required by makeup artists.

Georgia

You must obtain either an Esthetician or Cosmetology license to work in a salon in the state of Georgia; each profession carries slightly different education and training requirements. MUAs working in the production of film, television, or musical entertainment are exempt from these licensing requirements.

Hawaii

There is no licensing requirement for MUAs except when working in a salon you must be licensed as a cosmetologist or esthetician.

Idaho

You need to obtain either an Esthetician or Cosmetology license in the state of Idaho to work in the state; while there is no licensing requirement for MUAs, there are requirements for certification of MUAs in Idaho.

Illinois

Illinois has definitions for both esthetician and cosmetology and requires a license in order to work in a salon. MUAs employed by the motion picture, film, television, stage play, or related industry are exempt from state licensing requirements.

Indiana

There is no licensing requirement for MUAs except when working in a salon you must be licensed as a cosmetologist or esthetician.

Iowa

You do not need a license to become a makeup artist in Iowa if: You’re working as a makeup artist in a retail environment, working with a direct sales company, etc.

Kansas

To practice as a makeup artist, you do not need a license.

Kentucky

The state of Kentucky does require that makeup artists in the state be licensed in order to practice. Individuals must attend an accredited institution for a minimum of 233 days of instruction.

Louisiana

There is no licensing requirement for MUAs, but Louisiana allows MUA’s to obtain an MUA permit.

Maine

You are required to be licensed to practice as a makeup artist in Maine. To obtain the license, you must have at least 140 hours of training at an accredited school or program.

Maryland

There are no licensing requirements for MUAs. However, many spas, salons, and clients will want to see evidence that you have attended an accredited program where you have been trained in all aspects of the craft.

Massachusetts

The Commonwealth of Massachusetts does not have licensure requirements for MUAs.

Michigan

There are no licensing requirements for MUAs.

Minnesota

You must obtain a cosmetology license to work in a salon or provide esthetic services in Minnesota. You are not required to have a license to work as an MUA, but you must undergo at least four hours of “health, safety, and infection-control” training.

Mississippi

No license is required to work professionally as a Makeup Artist. You must obtain either an Esthetician or Cosmetologist license to work in a salon in Mississippi

Missouri

You will need a Cosmetology license to work in a salon, but there is no licensing requirement for freelance work as an MUA.

Montana

The Montana Board of Barbering and Cosmetology requires that all would-be makeup artists in the state complete 650 hours of approved training in a licensed school of esthetics or of cosmetology, but Montana does not require a license for an MUA working in film, TV, or the visual arts.

Nebraska

To apply makeup professionally in Nebraska, you must become licensed as a cosmetician. There are no specific training hour requirements. You must simply provide proof that you have been trained in the chemical properties of the cosmetics you’ll be applying and that you understand how to apply cosmetics appropriately.

Nevada

Nevada is the only state that currently licenses MUAs separately from cosmetologists or estheticians. MUA applicants must pay a $25 fee to either transfer out-of-state credentials, or sit an examination in order to earn the state MUA license. All three types of MUA are licensed to work in salons.

New Hampshire

The state of New Hampshire requires either an esthetician or cosmetologist license for those working in a salon; MUAs do not need a license to sell or apply makeup, or to work in retail.

New Jersey

You do not need a license to work in the production of film, television, or musical entertainment, or to apply makeup when recommending or selling cosmetic products (either in a store or as a freelancer).

New Mexico

You are required to obtain an esthetician license to work in a salon.

New York

You are required to obtain an esthetician license to work in a salon in the state of New York; MUAs working in entertainment or other freelance and retail environments do not have any licensing requirement.

North Carolina

The state of North Carolina requires all persons who apply makeup professionally to obtain an esthetician license.

North Dakota

You will need either an esthetician or cosmetologist license to work in a salon; MUAs do not need to obtain a license to apply makeup professionally.

Ohio

You are required to obtain either an esthetician or cosmetologist license to work in a salon; there are no additional requirements for MUAs.

Oklahoma

According to the Oklahoma licensing requirements* for cosmetologists, a license is not required for makeup artistry. https://www.ok.gov/cosmo/Licensing_&_Fee_Information/index.html

Oregon

You need to secure an esthetician license to work in a salon; however, freelance MUAs and those working in film or entertainment, or in retail environments do not need a license to apply temporary makeup.

Pennsylvania

You are required to have a cosmetologist license when applying makeup for pay in any capacity in Pennsylvania; unlike most states, there does is no clear exemption made for MUAs working in film, television, or entertainment.

Rhode Island

You will need either an esthetician or cosmetologist license to work in a salon or apply makeup.

South Carolina

You are required to maintain an active Esthetician or Cosmetologist license to work in a salon; retail workers and MUAs engaged in temporary educational or exhibition activities are exempt from the licensing requirement.

South Dakota

Even though you do not need an official makeup license in South Dakota, you should consider the benefits of finding a makeup artist program that will give you a complete set of professional skills.

Tennessee

MUAs working in a freelance capacity or in entertainment and performance contexts are exempt from licensing requirements.

Texas

In the state of Texas, practicing makeup artists are not required to be licensed, as stated by the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation. You can work in salons without a cosmetologist license.

Utah

You need an esthetician license to work in a salon; otherwise, you do not need a license to work as an MUA in Utah.

Vermont

MUA’s are required to have either an esthetician or cosmetologist license unless working in an entertainment or performance industry.

Virginia

You must have an esthetician license to work in a salon; however, MUAs who only apply makeup but provide no ancillary cosmetology services are not required to be licensed.

Washington

You do not need to have a license to work as an MUA in the state of Washington. In the state of Washington, makeup application is not defined under the term “Cosmetology” nor “Esthetics” (Chapter 18, Section18.16.020, (29) and (30))*, therefore, the act of makeup artistry is not regulated by the Washington Licensing Department.

West Virginia

You are required to hold either an esthetician or cosmetologist license to apply makeup professionally in West Virginia.

Wisconsin

You will need either an aesthetician or cosmetologist license to work in a salon; MUAs do not need a license when providing makeup services in retail or when working in the entertainment and performance industries.

Wyoming

The state of Wyoming requires MUAs to hold either an esthetician or cosmetologist license, including work in temporary or event-based settings (such as for wedding or photography events).

How can you become a makeup artist?

The most rewarding part of furthering your education is discovering what you will love to do in life. At the L Makeup Institute, our mission is to discover, educate, develop and place the best makeup artist and special makeup effects talent. If you are interested in a career in makeup, contact us for information on Programs or Courses at either our Las Vegas or Dallas campuses.

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