What to know about California’s Cosmetology License Changes

California's cosmetology license changes


Good news for aspiring cosmetologists in California! A senate bill has gotten rid of the hands-on state board exam and reduced the number of cosmetology hours of training to obtain a cosmetology and barbering license, among many other hallmark changes. 

Effective January 1, 2022, the California Board of Barbering and Cosmetology passed Senate Bill (SB) 803. This made several significant changes to all fields and made it easier to obtain a license. These changes to California Barbering and Cosmetology schools mark some of the most significant changes yet.

California cosmetology changes from SB 803 include:

  • Reducing the California cosmetology hours from 1,600 hours to 1,000 hours 
  • Reducing the California barbering hours from 1,500 hours to 1,000 hours 
  • Creating an entirely new 600-hour program for a non-chemical hairstylist license
  • Changing the esthetic program and scope of practice to include lash and brow tinting and perming and facial dermaplaning
  • Removing the practical exam for students and eliminating the pre-application process, leaving only the written portion of the state board exam
  • Increasing the number of board members from 9 to 13
  • Allowing for a more efficient transfer process for out-of-state licenses
  • Requiring an apprentice to receive their pre-apprentice training from the Board prior to licensure
  • Updating the requirements for a mobile unit for those who wish to practice on-the-go
  • Increasing the hours allowed in the extern program

These California cosmetology changes make it easier for students to complete their cosmetology license and pass their examination. It also adds more services for estheticians and an entirely new, streamlined license for hairstylists who wish to perform cuts and styling without the use of chemicals. It also makes it easier to transfer an out-of-state cosmetology license for those who have already completed school and their state board exam and wish to practice in California. 

Why did California make changes to their cosmetology laws?

SB 803 was passed to make it easier and more accessible for prospective cosmetologists, barbers, estheticians, and apprentices to receive their license in California as well as cut back on schooling costs. It was also passed to make it easier to work in California for those who already have their license in another state. 

California is not the first state to cut back on cosmetology schooling and exam requirements. Other states such as Pennsylvania who eliminated their practical exam in 2014 and Texas who reduced their required program hours for cosmetology to 1,000 in 2019 have also eased license and exam requirements for cosmetology students.

How will these changes impact current cosmetology students in California? 

The same range of subjects will still be included as those before the changes of SB 803. However, now they will require fewer hours overall. There are also more training hours towards health and safety.

Cosmetology schools in California that already have an established curriculum of 1,600 hours for cosmetology (or 1,500 hours for barbering) may still continue teaching their programs with the additional hours. However, they must inform students that the additional hours are not required to take the exam and obtain their license. 

There is no longer a practical portion of the cosmetology state board exam for all licenses in California. This also means the pre-application process for the practical exam has also been eliminated. Only the written exam will need to be taken and passed in order to be issued a license. 

There has been no change to the fee of the application and exam and it will cover the costs of the application, license, and written examination. There are no changes to the written exam. Just as before, students will be able to schedule their written exam at one of the 15 PSI locations throughout California. 

How will these changes affect out-of-state cosmetologists coming to California?

The changes of SB 803 make it easier for out-of-state cosmetologists to work in California. Anyone who is licensed in another state can now transfer their license to California in the same field. Cosmetologists who obtained their license in California and wish to move to another state should be able to transfer their license as most states will accept the 1,000 hours. However, every state varies on whether additional hours or examination will be required. 

What is California’s New Hairstylist License?

Another major addition to California cosmetology that SB 803 added is the new non-chemical hairstylist license that has a 600-hour program. 

The new hairstylist license in California allows the following services to be performed: 

  • Cutting
  • Hairstyling including blow drying, curling, and non-chemical straightening with or without the use of devices and cosmetic products such as styling aids
  • Arranging the hair (updos and wet sets)
  • Cleansing, shampooing, massaging, cleaning, or stimulating the scalp, face, and neck 

The new hairlist license course in California is ideal for those who only want to offer haircuts and won’t be performing chemical services such as colors, perms, and straightening treatments. The 600 program is open to those who are at least 17 years of age and completed the 10th grade. After completing the program, only the written exam must be passed to become licensed. 

California cosmetology changes for estheticians

California SB 803 also brought changes for estheticians in California, allowing them to perform lash and brow lamination and tint services, and dermaplaning. Cosmetologists could already perform lash and brow services under their training, but now those who hold an esthetic license may do so as well. Dermaplaning has also been added to the list of approved services and can now be performed by both estheticians and cosmetologists.

Depending on your program, a California cosmetology school may or may not include training on these services. Estheticians and cosmetologists should make sure they are fully trained and comfortable performing these services before offering them to clients. 

Will these changes affect student aid for California cosmetology students?

With the reduction in hours required for completing the cosmetology and barbering programs, California student aid for cosmetology may be affected for students who would have previously qualified.

If your student aid has been affected by these changes or you wish to know if you will still qualify, you may contact the California State Board of Cosmetology directly at (800) 952-5210 or by email at barbercosmo@dca.ca.gov.

To read more about SB 803, click here

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