Are you constantly watching TikToks for makeup videos or find yourself wandering around ULTA or Sephora for hours? Have you been thinking about a career as a makeup artist? If so, you probably are now are wondering what that career requires or if you need a makeup artist license or what this career is really like.
Makeup artistry is one of the top trending career choices for those who love beauty and have a bit more creative skills than the general public is becoming a makeup artist.
And the makeup industry today is enormous. The US cosmetic business alone is worth over $62 billion and is still growing every year! Yes, there are a lot of makeup artists. That is why having the right qualifications, education, and experience is so important. It is what will make you stand out and become successful.
So, how can one become a professional makeup artist in the US? Do you even need to get a makeup artist license? Here is everything you need to know about this exciting career.
What is a makeup artist?
A makeup artist, or MUA, is a person who knows how to use a variety of cosmetic techniques and processes to create beautiful scenes on one’s face and body. This type of work enhances the appearances for special events, and in some cases, creates looks and characters suitable for film, television, theater, special occasions, and photography.
It allows artistic freedom and self-expression through different makeup techniques and approaches. This highly competitive field requires creativity, dedication to continued learning, and a strong work ethic.
How much do makeup artists make?
The latest data show that makeup artists make a median wage of $44,310 per year. Some make over a $100,000 a year, and many make much less – especially starting out. California, Nevada, and New York employ the most makeup artists in the US, and the highest wages seem to be in California, New York, and Georgia. Where you work and your education will often dictate how much you make.
Where can makeup artists work?
Just about anywhere. Maybe you just think of makeup artists that work in Hollywood for celebrities and film crews. But in reality, this is where a very small demographic of MUAs actually work.
More often you will see MUAs providing professional makeup application for:
- Family photos
- Senior photos
- Fashion shows
- Make up counters – Retail
- Spas and salons
- Film, Stage Performances, Theatre, and Entertainment
Do I need makeup artist license in the US?
So let’s begin with this. Licensure and certification are not the same thing. Licensure is legally mandatory and certification is often voluntary. States issue licenses, companies often offer certifications. This list seems to have MUA details for each state.
In general, most states in the US do not require a makeup artist license. However, there are those states where certain services fall under the category or scope of an esthetician license or cosmetology license. Here are the details about some of the states that have a high demand for makeup artists.
In the state of California, makeup application is defined as “beautifying the face, neck, arms, or upper part of the human body, by use of cosmetic preparations, antiseptics, tonics, lotions, or creams”, under the practice of a cosmetologist. However, in the “Business and Professions Code”*, makeup artists who are in the theatrical, film, TV, and radio industry, makeup artists who are working in a retail environment, and makeup artists who are working without compensation, seem to be exempt from licensing.
In the state of Texas, makeup applications do not fall under their cosmetology act, as stated by the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation.
Their Cosmetology FAQ page talks a lot about what licenses you may need for other services, like permanent makeup, threading, or eyelash extensions. If you ever decide to open a salon it Texas, here is more information on that. Texas salon or mini-salon license
You do not need to obtain a makeup artist license to apply makeup in this state for film, television, and stage performances.
MUA vs Cosmetologist vs Esthetician
But what if you want to do more than just makeup application. There is a common misconception about the different services these three different professions offer.
What if you want to offer facials with your make up artist license or do simple hair arrangement services as part of you wedding makeup package? Can you legally do that with just a makeup artist license or certification? Probably not.
Makeup artists mainly use cosmetics to alter the look of the face and body and enhance beauty. Often this does not include any hair or skincare services. Those services often are reserved for licensed estheticians and cosmetologists.
Cosmetologists offer many more services more than makeup. They can offer many services including skincare, nail care, and many hair care services (cutting, perming, coloring, and styling). Their training often includes some make up application techniquest.
Estheticians share many skills with makeup artists and cosmetologists. Typically their scope of practice includes more advanced skincare services like facials, exfoliations, hair removal, or brow/lash services. They also receive training in makeup application.
It is incredibly important to check with your state cosmetology board to see what each licensed profession allows you to do. For instance, in Florida, microblading the eyebrows requires a tattoo license and laser hair removal requires an electrolysis license.
Also, do not be surprised if salons require you to have an esthetican or cosmetology license to offer make up services in their salon. Sometimes a certification is just not enough for these environments.
One common question I get is from people that want to open a “brow bar”. States differ on what kind of license a person needs or does not need for these services. For instance, if it includes threading, tinting, or adding lashes – you should check to see what kind of license those services require, if any.
Finding The Right MUA Training
After you figure out if you want to be a makeup artist, esthetician, or cosmetologist – it is time to find a proper training to help hone your skills or fulfill a state education requirement. For those that attend a makeup artist program, you will need to take a variety of classes. These classes will include safety, skincare, hygiene, sanitation, principles of makeup for beauty and fashion, corrective techniques, application techniques for lips, brows, and all-over body, and many more.
Since most states do not require a license if you are strickly only applying makeup, you can still choose to get training. Some companies offer their own certification for make up applications.
Contact cosmetology schools in your area about their makeup artist, esthetician, or cosmetology programs. Search online for makeup artist certification programs if you only want to provide makeup applications. Ask to speak to graduates to see how they felt about their training and education.
Go! Make the World More Beautiful
Whether you decide to join the beauty industry or not, do not hesitating in sharing your unique, creative gifts with the world.