Do you want to know if it is possible to open a hair salon without a cosmetology license? If YES, here is everything you need to know about hair salon licenses. A cosmetology license gives salon employees the right to provide beauty salon services in the salon and it is issued by the state government. Cosmetology licenses need to be renewed approximately every two years but this can vary by state. The cosmetology certificates should be clearly displayed in the salon so that both inspectors and salon clients can see them without effort.

Is It Possible to Open a Hair Salon Without a Cosmetology License?

Yes, you are not required to have a cosmetology license to open and run a salon in most states. Have it in mind that not all salon owners possess a cosmetology license. Unless the owner will be personally performing salon services on patrons, you are not required to carry any cosmetology certification. However, you will be expected to acquire and maintain any state required business licensing to operate a salon.

It is pertinent you check with your local county or appropriate state departments for information on what types of permits you will need for each of the services offered in your shop. Note that the requirements for obtaining the license vary by state but is dependent on the completion of certain hours in a cosmetology school. To understand the exact requirements for a license in your state you should go to the American Association of Cosmetology Schools website.

You will also need an investment of thousands of dollars to furnish a salon and stock it with supplies, so be prepared for that. A permit to operate the business will be necessary, as stipulated by state law. It’s not uncommon for entrepreneurial minds to have preference over owning their own business, rather than working as an employee. For one thing, there are limitless income generating possibilities with business ownership, and in the case of a salon, the rewards can be phenomenal.

Different Types of Cosmetology Licenses

It is very important you know the different cosmetology licenses when looking to start a hair salon. To attend a good Cosmetology school costs $5,000 to $15,000. Top beauty schools cost $10,000 to $20,000. The more specific programs cost $3,000 to $5,000. Knowing the different licences you can acquire from a Cosmetology school will help you understand the exact one you or your employees will need to run your hair salon. They include:

1. Cosmetologist License

This is known as the most comprehensive license and includes all types of beauty treatments. It covers both skin, hair and nails and has a long training time. It requires 1,500 hours training time in Texas and 1,600 hours in California.

2. Barber License

Barber licenses are normally for individuals who work with male hair and the courses are similar to the Cosmetologist even if additional focus is added to shaving/trimming of facial hair. Getting a barber licence in California would require 1,500 training hours.

3. Aesthetician License

This license focuses more on skin care, and Aestheticians could perform services such as permanent make up, dermabrasion treatments, and reflexology. Texas requires 1,200 training hours for such license and in Colorado it is 600 training hours.

4. Manicurist License

This licence is for pedicures, manicures and other nail and hand services. In California this requires 400 school training hours.

5. Electrologist License

Electrologists are known to use electricity to perform hair removal services on both legs, arms, back and face. In California you need 600 training hours for this license.

6. Esthetician License

These experts work similar to Aestheticians as both perform skin care treatments. Estheticians typically perform their services in a salon or spa while Aesthetician typically works in a medical setting. An Esthetician license requires 600 training hours in California.

Other Necessary Licenses Needed to Run a Hair Salon

Opening a salon in US is a huge undertaking, and here are some of the most frequently needed licences and permits to run a hair salon in the US;

a. Salon License

Every state Board of Cosmetology licenses and regulates cosmetologists, nail specialists, facial specialists, full specialists, hair braiders, hair wrappers, body wrappers, cosmetology salons, and mobile cosmetology salons. These boards mandates a salon license for any location where cosmetology or a specialty (nail, facial, full specialists) is practiced.

The intention is to make sure the public has access to salon services in a safe and sanitary environment. Note that operating a salon or barbershop without a license is considered unlicensed activity. Unlicensed activity in the US is a criminal offense and can result in misdemeanour or felony charges if an individual is convicted.

b. Salon Insurance

Full salon insurance in the US costs about $2,900 per year (approximately $240/month) for a salon with two employees. Nonetheless, the exact salon insurance cost can vary greatly, from $50/month to $1000/month, depending on the number of employees, business turnover, as well as the type of services provided. Note there are also ways you can combine insurances to bring the cost down.

c. Seller Permit

Almost every state requires every hair salon to have a specific permit in order to sell retail. A seller’s permit typically does not cost anything. However, you may be required to place a security deposit to cover any un-paid taxes in case the business closes. The amount of the deposit will be determined at the time of application.

d. Salon Business Operation License

Every state in the US requires that a hair salon must have a business license. To apply for this business license, you just need to fill out a form with your social security number and profession. A business license typically costs around $100 but the cost can range from $50 to $400. An additional processing fee of about $25 can also be added.

e. Federal Employer Identification Number (EIN)

All states in the US collect sales tax on products a hair salon sells to consumer. Typically you pay 8% of your retail price in state tax. Note that a new hair salon owner is expected to go to the state’s tax office to register for this free Tax Identification Number.

You’ll typically need to provide your business operation license, personal details, and a description of the items you are planning to sell. Note that online incorporation services charges around $75 for an EIN. However, the IRS does not charge anything for it so you can get this yourself for free by going directly to them. You can apply for a Federal Employer Identification Number online at the IRS.

f. Certificate of Occupancy

You are also expected to validate that your property is fit for the salon business you are planning to set up. A salon business notably requires specific water installation and treatment of chemicals so you want to make sure you have the property inspected before you setup your business.

However, the Certificate of Occupancy is a document that is issued by a local government agency or building department that certifies that your property is compliant with the requirements for the type of business you are planning to run.

You should request this certificate before any work is done on the property. The cost for a Certificate of Occupancy is around $20 to $80 depending on the size of your property. Commercial businesses spaces under 1,500 sq. ft. are typically around $30 where bigger ones go up to $80.


Any investor should be well versed in his/her field in order to succeed. Being a licensed hair stylist or cosmetologist would extremely be in your benefit. This way, you could also earn a greater income through providing your own services, or helping out during peak seasons. Nonetheless, if you want to open a salon business, you’ll need a cosmetology license. After all, you’ll be required to offer the services at some point, and you can’t do that if you do not have a license.