What Licenses are Needed to Open a Hair or Nail Salon?

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Quick Reference

Starting a beauty salon requires additional licensing before opening than most businesses.   Every state requires a professional license before someone works with hair, skin and nails.  Additionally, there are licenses and permits needed to open a business.  Learn more about the licenses and permits that are needed to start a beauty salon.

Also see:
How to start a hair salon
How to start a barber shop

Professional Licensing for Cosmetologists

In order to provide beauty services such as hair cutting, shampooing, coloring, makeup, hair removal, manicure and other services, all states require the individual to get a cosmetology license. 

The requirements to get a barber license varies by state, but generally require:

  • A high school diploma or GED
  • The individual to be at least 16 years of age
  • Education from a state approved cosmetology program
  • Some states also require an apprenticeship with a licensed cosmetologist
  • Passing state exam(s), which often includes both a written and practical exam

While similar to the requirements of a cosmetologist, there is separate licensing for barbers.

How much does it cost to get a cosmetology license?

The fee for a cosmetology license will vary by state but is typically between $50 and $400.

Cosmetologist Examination

In order to become a licensed cosmetologist barber, almost all states require the passing of an exam(s).  Many states utilize the NIC (National-Interstate Council of State Boards of Cosmetology) National Cosmetology Practical Examination.   This standardized exam covers topics such as infection control, haircutting, chemical waving, facial, manicure, hair removal and more.

Find more information about state cosmetology licenses below:

Cosmetology Licenses

After getting a cosmetology license, you will be well on your way to starting a beauty salon.  Remember the cosmetology license is a professional license that each state requires to provide beauty services and is in addition to the licenses needed to open a salon. 

Do you need a cosmetology license to own a beauty salon?

While it’s common to start a salon by getting a cosmetology license and either begin working for an established salon or opening a new salon, there may be another option.  In most states it’s not required to have a license to own a beauty salon.   The owner would not be able to provide any services, so they would instead have to hire stylists.

Most states and towns/cities don’t have a specific beauty salon license, however they all have requirements for starting a business.  A few of the common licenses and permits a beauty salon may need include:

Employer Identification Number

Any business with employees and those that form as a partnership, corporation and in many cases an LLC, the business will need to get an Employer Identification Number or EIN from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). 

Learn how to get an EIN

Sales Tax Permit or Number

In order to sell products and/or offer services in a state, a sales tax permit is typically needed.  This permit creates an account number with the state’s Department of Revenue or similarly named taxing agency.

Learn more about sales tax permits.

 Resale Certificate

When buying products such as shampoo, conditioner or styling products to sell to customers, the business can purchase these items tax-free. A resale certificate allows a business to purchase inventory and instead of paying the sales tax to the vendor, they charge the sales tax to the end-user of the product. Sales tax will still need to be paid for supplies used in the shop.

Learn more about resale certificates

Certificate of Occupancy (CO)

In most communities, a retail business will need to secure a Certificate of Occupancy before opening.  This certificate is obtained from the city and allows a business to occupy and operate from a building provided the building is in compliance with zoning, codes and any other local requirements.