If you’re enthusiastic about makeup and making the world a beautiful place, 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
There are several different career paths you can take to become an MUA or otherwise get involved in the beauty industry:
- Professional Makeup Artists: Professional MUAs specialize 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, and depending on the state Salons. Typically, states don’t offer professional MUA licenses or have MUA-specific educational requirements. If you’re looking to improve your knowledge or appeal to employers and clients, it can still be helpful to pursue educational opportunities for MUAs.
- Cosmetologists: Cosmetologists care for their clients’ hair, skin, and nails. They can work in all three areas, or have a specialty in one area, such as a hairstylist. 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.
- Estheticians: Estheticians specialize in cosmetic skin care treatments, focusing on only the superficial layers of the skin. Common services offered by estheticians 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.
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 are employers requiring? Since each state defines these careers — as well as their requirements in different ways. It’s crucial to make sure that you have chosen the correct path and understand all licensure, certification, and training, and education requirements needed to pursue it successfully.
Formal education may not only provide you with high-level skills and knowledge but also receiving a diploma from an Accredited makeup artistry school shows potential employers the type of training you have received and the number of hours 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. Always do your research and check into the requirements of the state you live in or intend to work in, as well as, be open to studying out-of-state and bringing those skills and competitive advantage back to your home state.
Whether you want to work as a freelance MUA, on set, in production, at a haunt, at a salon, and/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.
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 is based on completing a certain number of hours at an Accredited Makeup Artistry or Special Effects Makeup School and undergone the necessary training or education to work as an MUA.
Most states have exemptions for MUAs in certain industries. For estheticians, and cosmetologists to obtain a government-issued license you’ll have to meet educational, training, or testing requirements to earn that license.
Certification shows that you’ve completed training or education. You can receive certifications separate from any type of license. Some employers may ask you to obtain certifications to prove expertise in a given area. You can attend a makeup artistry or special makeup effects program which should include certification in advanced courses and other styles of makeup artistry or specialties — such as special effects makeup, airbrushing and body painting, or advanced prosthetics — which can make you a more desirable, versatile, and well-rounded MUA.
Educational Options and Programs for Licensure
For MUAs, cosmetologists, and estheticians alike, most states require some amount of education and hands-on training prior to licensure. These requirements vary from state to state, but generally include:
- Makeup Artistry Institutes or Academy: Makeup artistry institutes or academies offer vocational programs to prepare you for work as an MUA or special effects artist. You can enroll in a comprehensive program, or take individual courses as needed or to advance your skills. Many academies and institutions have a straightforward application and enrollment process for prospective students of all skill levels.
- Practicum Hours and Apprenticeships: In addition to an MUA program, you can also secure an apprenticeship under an experienced MUA, cosmetologist, or esthetician. This 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, after completing your training and education, you may have to take an exam to earn your license. 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 member of a union. In doing so, joining a union may be helpful in pursuing a career as an MUA in stage 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 refreshing essential best practices, such as how to properly sanitize makeup, but depending on your license and location, it could also involve 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 for even successful professional makeup artists to stay up-to-date with the latest trends and techniques and in the new world of Covid-19, new hygiene and sanitary practices.
Each state has its own 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 and in which styles of makeup artistry. Be sure when pursuing an MUA career, you research state requirements within your area, the training programs that are available, and contact a professional makeup artistry school to discuss your career goals. Licensed cosmetologists and/or estheticians (sometimes “aesthetician” according to different state laws and definitions), and have separate licensing and/or certification requirements for these professions.
While requirements for makeup artistry vary from state to state, MUAs are typically not regulated or licensed in order to work, but should obtain certification by attending an Accredited Makeup Artistry and Special Effects school before beginning their careers. In almost every state certain types of makeup artistry 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 passing a state exam. Three states, Nevada, Nebraska, and Louisiana allow for MUA’s to register or obtain a permit. With more states recognizing that Makeup Artistry is separate and unique from Cosmetology and Esthetics creating more and more opportunities for makeup artists. Due to the efforts of L Makeup Institute’s founder Lissette Waugh, Nevada allows MUA’s to register with Nevada’s State Board of Cosmetology and work in Salon’s. Nebraska allows you to register as a cosmetician. And, Louisiana allows MUA’s to obtain an MUA permit.
*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 does license 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 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 no license is required 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: 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. https://www.tdlr.texas.gov/cosmet/cosmetlaw.htm You will need either an esthetician or cosmetologist license to work in a salon.
- 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).