Meeting the Requirements for a Makeup Artist License

Individuals interested in turning their enthusiasm and passion for makeup into a career must not only prepare through education and training, they need to make sure they are practicing within the parameters of the law. Though licensing requirements for makeup artists are not as straightforward as they are for other beauty professionals like cosmetologists, many of the services makeup artists routinely perform do require an esthetician’s license in most states.

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Meeting the Requirements for a Makeup Artist License

Unlike other licensed professions, state laws concerning makeup artistry are often ambiguous, at best. Some states, such as Colorado, have clear licensing requirements for makeup artists, which include being licensed as an esthetician, while other states, such as Connecticut, have little or non-existent language in their cosmetology regulations that address makeup artistry. Still others require licensure for makeup artists performing their services in salon settings, but do not require licensure for makeup artists performing wedding or theatrical makeup services outside of a salon.

Currently, Louisiana is the only state that offers a makeup artistry license. Maryland repealed its makeup artist license in 2008, while the California State Board of Barbering and Cosmetology is considering a bill that would introduce a makeup artist certification. (Makeup artists must currently be licensed as estheticians.) Adding to the confusion is the fact that some states, like Florida, do not license makeup artists; instead, they require them to complete a skincare program of 260 hours and then register with the Department of Business and Regulation.

With all of the confusion surrounding makeup artist licensure, one thing remains clear: many employers now prefer makeup artists who are licensed as either cosmetologists or estheticians. Because the education/training requirements for cosmetologists are typically much more arduous, esthetician licenses among makeup artists are commonplace.

The best course of action any aspiring makeup artist can take is to contact their state board of cosmetology to ensure they are meeting licensing requirements which, for many states, requires:

  • Completing an approved program of esthetics/cosmetology
  • Applying for licensure and meeting a number of license requirements, such as meeting minimum age and education requirements
  • Taking and passing state license examinations, which typically include both a written and practical examination

Just a few examples of state license requirements for makeup artists include:

  • The Alaska Board of Barbers and Hairdressers requires any beauty professional who provides makeup services to be licensed as an esthetician, which requires the successful completion of a program of at least 350 hours of formal training or an apprenticeship of the same length.
  • The Delaware Division of Professional Regulation requires makeup artists that work in salons to possess an aesthetician license, which involves completing an aesthetician program of at least 600 hours or an approved apprenticeship of at least 1,200 hours. However, makeup artists in Delaware who work for retail cosmetic sales or for makeup artists in the theatrical, television, film, modeling, or photography industries don’t require a license.
  • The Montana Board of Barbers and Cosmetologists require makeup artists to possess an esthetician license, which requires the completion of an approved program of at least 650 hours, with the exception of makeup artists providing services to a theatrical or other visual arts production, including television and motion pictures, when employed or under contract to provide those services.
  • The Kentucky Board of Hairdressers and Cosmetologists requires the completion of an esthetics program of at least 1,000 hours to qualify for an esthetician license, which includes providing makeup artist services, including corrective and camouflage techniques.

Education Options for Meeting Makeup Artist License Requirements

Due to the differing requirements from one state to the next regarding state licensing, most individuals will find that the curriculum of makeup artistry programs also differs quite a bit from one program to the next.

If an esthetician or cosmetologist license is required to practice makeup artistry, individuals are typically bound by programs that are approved by their state board of cosmetology. Individuals planning to practice makeup artistry in a state where licensure requirements for makeup artists do not exist often have more flexibility with the type of makeup artistry program they choose; however, because makeup artists may benefit from an esthetician or cosmetologist license, these beauty professionals often choose to complete an approved program and become licensed as an esthetician or cosmetologist as a way to broaden their professional opportunities and display a commitment to their craft.

For makeup artists who choose to complete a program in cosmetology, the process may be lengthy, with many states, such as Arizona, requiring a cosmetology program of at least 1,600 hours to qualify for licensure. In contrast, estheticians in Arizona need only complete an esthetics program of 600 hours to achieve licensure. It comes as no surprise, therefore, that the chosen route for makeup artists is typically an esthetician license.

Makeup artist programs are often designed as either basic programs or advanced/specialty programs. For makeup artist candidates, a basic, comprehensive program is the best choice, as it includes both theoretical and practical study in areas such as:

  • Safety, sanitation, and hygiene
  • Principles of makeup
  • Makeup artist toolkits, brushes, and cosmetics
  • Color theory
  • Face shapes, skin types, hair and eye color
  • Contouring and highlighting
  • Makeup blending techniques
  • Corrective makeup techniques
  • Application and techniques of foundations, eyeliners, primers, concealers, false lashes, eyebrow shaping and coloring, lip lining and lip color, blush, etc.
  • Special event/bridal makeup
  • Makeup for broadcast and photography
  • Day and evening makeup looks
  • Theater and stage makeup

Advanced/specialty programs in makeup artistry, on the other hand, are designed for practicing makeup artists who want to pursue additional study in a specific area of makeup artistry. These programs may include study in areas such as:

  • Special FX
  • Airbrush makeup
  • Fashion and runway makeup
  • Theatrical makeup and prosthetics

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