What Are Nail Salon License Requirements in 2023?

If you’re getting ready to open a nail salon, you’re probably wondering how to apply for a nail salon license, what the licensing requirements are for nail salon owners, and where to start.

What You Will Learn

We’ll go through the business license requirements for nail salon owners, the nail technician licensing process for employees, along with the fees and what to expect as a business owner.

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  1. What License Do You Need To Open A Nail Salon?
  2. How Much Does A Nail Salon License Cost?
  3. Nail Technician License Requirements
  4. Can You Open A Nail Salon Without A License?
  5. Conclusion

What License Do You Need To Open A Nail Salon?


So, do you need a license to open a nail salon? Actually, you’ll probably need more than one. While it’s true that you don’t necessarily need to be a certified nail tech to run a successful nail salon, nail salon owners still need to ensure their businesses meet a state’s requirements.

Let’s take a closer look at what’s legally required for a nail salon business to operate:

Nail salon license application
Nail Salon License Application

Nail Salon Business License: All small businesses need to be licensed in order to legally operate, and this includes nail salons.

If you’re wondering how to get a nail salon business license, there are two ways- you can apply using the website for your state department, or you can contact the U.S. Small Business Administration. You’ll need to give them your business name, your own name, and your social security number.

Professional License: Some places require a state-issued Cosmetology License for nails, while others let you become a Certified Nail Tech through a specific program that grants a manicure and pedicure license. You’ll need to maintain and cosmetology licenses and keep them up to date.

Employer Identification Number: Sometimes referred to as an EIN, you’ll need to obtain this to file federal or state taxes, fill out payroll forms for staff members or complete multiple other employer-related documents.

Retail Permits: Most nail salon businesses also sell retail products (and many states collect sales tax). This means that most nail salon owners will need to obtain a retail seller permit if nail care product sales are part of their business plan. You can purchase these permits from your state department website, or through the U.S. Small Business Administration.

Certificate of Occupancy: You’ll need an inspection to get this from your state department or city. Inspectors need to check your nail salon’s location to make sure you have enough space for work stations to provide services to clients, the right water and electrical hookups, and are in compliance with the fire safety regulations.

Building Permits: Any renovations at your business will need a permit from the state or city. After filing an application, you can expect a building inspector to come out to check the location and go over any plans for the work before they sign off on it.

Pro Tip: Regular nail salon and booth rental license requirements and regulations may not be the same, so be sure to verify your state’s policies for each one before applying to save time and fees.

We recommend you to check out our post on nail salon expenses.

Nail salon certificate of occupancy
Nail Salon Certificate of Occupancy

How Much Does A Nail Salon License Cost?


Different states have slightly different licensing requirements for nail services (for most businesses, really), and they frequently change or introduce new regulations which can affect what you’ll need to pay for licenses. That said, here’s an overview of the general costs:

Nail Salon Business License: Depending on the state a business owner lives in, a basic small business operation license cost can range from $100-$400 (this application fee includes processing costs). Keep in mind that you’ll have to renew nail salon license paperwork regularly in order to maintain it.

Cosmetology License/ Nail Tech License: Each of your nail techs will need to have either a state issued cosmetology license or have a specific license for nail technician work, depending on your state’s regulations.

While average nail technician programs can cost as much as $10,000 (and may include the nail tech license fee), applicants can expect to pay anywhere from $50 to $100 or more for a nail license, and around $50 or more to renew it.

Certificate of Occupancy: The fee is usually at least $250, and many states charge more. Keep in mind that any problems the building inspector identifies may require a second inspection (plus fees) to make sure you’re in compliance once repairs are made before they can issue any permits.

Insurance: Liability insurance legally required and is also a sensible idea for nail salons (or any business that provides salon services to customers). General liability Insurance commonly costs from $50 to $250 each month.

Nail salon building permit
Nail Salon Building Permit

Nail Technician License Requirements


Whether you’re wondering how to apply for a nail technician license, or you’re opening a nail salon that will employ multiple nail technicians and you want to ensure that everyone on staff has the proper license to do nails, it’s important to understand the requirements.

Let’s start with nail salon owners.

The U.S. Small Business Administration: This is the place to apply for Business Licenses and get your Retail Permit. You can also check their website for a lot of useful resources on things like getting your business plan ready, securing a loan, and attracting new clients.

States Websites: Here’s where you can find details about local services like Building Permits, Health and Safety requirements and getting your Certificate of Occupancy. This is also where you can apply for a Federal Employer Identification Number.

If you’re the one providing nail salon services to clients, you’ll most likely be required to have:

A Nail License/ Cosmetology License: One of the first steps in figuring out how to get licensed as a nail technician in your state will be finding a school or program that’s accredited by the National Accrediting Commission of Cosmetology Arts and Sciences, or NACCAS. They set the industry standard for getting a nails license.

The next step in how to get a nail technician license is meeting some basic requirements. In most states, you’ll need to:

  • Be at least 16 years old to enter the program
  • Have your high school diploma or GED

If you meet these criteria, you’re probably still wondering how to obtain a nail technician license. Once you’ve been accepted into a program of study, you’ll need to:

  • Complete the course
  • Complete any practicum training hours
  • Pass the licensure exam (this usually includes a written and practical exam)

Pro Tip: Some states have reciprocal licensing agreements, so your manicure license might be transferable if you were trained elsewhere. Of course, some states require you to apply for a new license before setting up shop. Make sure to check your local website for more details.

Do not miss our post on how to open a nail salon.

Nail salon EIN
Nail Salon EIN

Can You Open A Nail Salon Without A License?


Can you work in a nail salon without a license? What if you run the salon? The answer is: sort of. Let’s look closer at this.

Nail Technicians: Can you be a nail tech without a license? Definitely not. Every state has regulations in place and you’ll need to meet these when you apply for nail tech license there.

Nail Salon Owners: Do you need a license to do nails? Yes. But, do you need a nail tech license to run the salon? No. If you’re not providing manicures, pedicures etc. or doing nail art, license requirements are limited to the tax, safety and general business ones previously mentioned.

Apprentices: Can you do nails without a cosmetology license? In some states such as Georgia you can do it as part of an apprenticeship. Of course, the nail tech supervising you will need all of their licenses.

Do not miss our post on nail captions for Instagram.



Starting a new nail salon business is a lot of work, but it can also be very rewarding to see everything come together.

We hope that we’ve been able to help you understand the nail salon license process and requirements more clearly, and we wish you the very best of luck. If you think we’ve missed anything, please let us know.


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