Before wondering if a hairdressor or esthetician is any good, something everybody should also first consider is: are they legal? Most consumers don’t know what to look for, and people are trusting that their professionals have integrity and do the right thing, so people are, for the most part, easy prey for predatory service providers. The accusation that their competition isn’t legal is also a favorite rumor to start amongst insecure service providers who know that the people they preach this gossip to don’t know the difference. So, here is my field guild to figuring out whether your beauty professional is even operating his or her business legally!

There are two types of licenses that you need to look for, and they are a professional license that allows the service provider him/herself to perform the service, and a shop license (not a business license–those are different) that allows such services to take place on those premises. These licenses must be displayed on premise! Here is a summary of what to look for:

1. Hair services – The person touching your hair must be a licensed cosmetologist. The place he or she is working out of must be a licensed salon.

2. Skin services, waxing services – Must be performed by a licensed esthetician. The place of work must be a licensed salon. (Note: cosmetologists can also perform light waxing like for the eyebrows, but not full body waxing.)

3. Lash services – Must be performed by either a licensed esthetician or cosmetologist. The place of work must be a licensed salon. (There are a lot of unlicensed lash artists out there, and it is completely illegal for them to perform lash extensions in WA state!)

4. Laser services – Must be performed by a nurse or master esthetician (different from a regular esthetician) under the direction of a physician. Without a doctor’s sign off, even a nurse or master esthetician cannot perform lasers. Ask who their medical director is and make sure he or she is a licensed physician.

5. Microneedling and dermaplaning – Estheticians may perform microneedling up to 0.5mm depth without a doctor. Estheticians may also perform dermaplaning. These procedures must be performed in a licensed salon or doctor’s office.

6. Permanent cosmetics (microneedling) – Must be performed by a licensed permanent cosmetics artist and performed in a licensed tattoo shop.

7. Nails – Must be performed by a licensed manicurist in a licensed salon.

8. Injectables (like Botox) – May be performed by a RN or LPN  under a doctor’s DIRECT supervision. Here it is from the state of Washington: “The procedure is not performed independently. It is authorized pursuant to RCW 18.79.260, 18.79.270 and is performed under the direct supervision of a physician who is present at the site where the procedure is performed and has the knowledge, skill, and ability to perform the procedure.” (So, the next time you get invited to a private Botox party performed by a solo nurse, you might want to skip out on it. Or, better yet, contact the Department of Health.)

If your service provider comes to you, instead of a salon shop license, they must have a personal services license that allows them to perform their services in your home or office. If they work in a mobile structure, they must have a mobile license.

These licenses can be verified and looked up through the Department of Licensing:

You can easily also file complaints to the Department of Licensing (for cosmetologists, manicurists, and estheticians) or to the Department of Health (for massage therapists, nurses, and doctors):



(Note: Certifications are different from licenses. Licenses allow us to legally do what we do, and certifications are simply proof of training. A license may require a certification (such as a certification from a licensed school), but most 3rd party certifications have no bearing on licensure. My certifications are listed on my website:

Both shop and personal licenses must be displayed in the place of business. So, for my business, since I do both esthetics and permanent makeup, I must have a salon license, a tattoo shop license, an esthetics license, and a permanent cosmetic artist license. (They also need to display their state and city business license, but those are more for tax purposes than for your safety.) A business must also display a notice to customers that tells them where they can send complaints to, and they must also post results from any inspections (which I do).

This topic is a bit dry and unpleasant, but now you know what to look for to ensure that your service provider and the place of business is legal!