Natural Hair Cultivation Liscense vs Cosmetologist Liscense – What is the Difference?


Hey Curls,

You may have seen my prior post on how to choose a Cosmetology School already! Now I want to address the differences between the Cosmetology License vs the Natural Hair Cultivation License in the State of Michigan. There are pros and cons to choosing either one. You could also choose to forgo either license but there are pros and cons with that as well. Check out Michigan LARA for everything about both licenses!

First off I should say that you can go through a formal program in a school or apprentice. Heck you don’t get paid either way but you can at least take home your tips!

Cosmetology License (School vs Apprentice):

In a cosmetology program you will learn everything about hair and the license allows you to

  • Length
    • School: 1 year full time  or 15-20 months part time for 1500 hours
    • Apprentice: up to 2 years and 2000 hours
  • Location
    • School: Usually in populated areas
    • Apprentice: Salon
  • Kit and Books
    • School: Should be Included in Tuition
    • Apprentice: You Pay for it $$$ or Salon Pays for it!
  • Exam
    • School: Should be Included in Tuition. School preps you for exam!
    • Apprentice: You Pay for it $$$ or Salon Pays for it! Salon preps you for it or you seek outside tutoring which you may have to pay for!
  • Clients
    • School: Diversity may depend on the area that the school is in. Some schools have a lot of traffic and some schools have none. Beauty school clients are different than regular full price paying clients.
    • Apprentice: You get to work with real people who pay real prices. You can build your clientele and not have to worry about your clients being used to cheap beauty school prices (and I mean they are dirt cheap!)
  • Structure
    • School: Formal programs have specific chapter related tests, etc.
    • Apprentice: Learning may be on the go or as you get clients. It depends on the salon. Some salons have very structured programs but I would say many do not. You do have specific mile stones and tests you need to complete.

Natural Hair Cultivation License (School vs Apprentice):

(NOTE: In the State of Michigan this license is completely voluntary, however, you cannot legally call yourself a Natural Hair Culturist without the license. You may call yourself a Natural Hair Stylist. )

  • Length
    • School: 3 months (400 hours)
    • Apprentice: 6 months (400 hours)

Besides the program length, everything else is the same just the focus is different. The focus is on braiding, twisting, extensions (sew in’s, weaves, etc.), and locs.

The State of Michigan recognizes Natural Hair Cultivation and/or Culturalist as the following in Article 12:

(m) “Natural hair cultivation” means techniques that result in tension on hair strands such as twisting, wrapping, weaving, extending, locking, or braiding of the hair by hand, which work does not include the application of dyes, reactive chemicals, or other preparations to alter the color or to straighten, curl, or alter the structure of the hair.

(n) “Natural hair culturist” means a person engaged in natural hair cultivation but does not include a person engaged in natural hair cultivation if that activity is performed as part of the practice of a recognized religion.

The Technical Issues:

There are some technical issues in the State of Michigan that cause an issue, technically you are not supposed to apply product or shampoo  a clients hair if you are not a licensed Cosmetologist. I know, dumb right?

Based on the Occupational Code in Michigan, you can perform certain services with the Cosmetology License. If you get a Cosmetology License then you automatically can claim you are a Natural Hair Culturist! So you see, the Cosmetology License is all encompassing in a way.

Some things also to consider is that if you are strictly interested in natural hair and want the full Cosmetology License, you may very well end up not doing any natural hair styles in school due to the location of the school or for other reasons.

Services that Can be Performed with a Cosmetology License in State of Michigan

  • Facials and Waxing
  • Hairdressing Arranging, Cutting, Curling, Pressing, Artifical Hair, Finger Waves, Natural Hair Cultivation
  • Scalp and Hair Treatments
  • Hair Coloring (Semi, permanent, temporary, dimensional, bleaching)
  • Chemical hair  restructuring, Permanent waving  Straightening and  relaxing
  • Manicuring and Pedicuring
  • Artificial Nails

So you see the Natural Hair Cultivation license is a little limiting for the following reasons vs the Cosmetology License (Cons):

  • You can’t color your client’s real hair.
  • You can’t trim your clients natural hair with scissors.
  • You can’t curl or flat iron your client’s real hair!
  • You can only braid, twist, or loc your client’s hair.
  • You are not supposed to peform any other service listed under the Cosmetology License unless it pertains to Natural Hair Cultivation (i.e. apply product, washing the client’s hair)

To me all those things kind of sucked so that’s why I did the Cosmetology program.

Now as far as the Pros of the Natural Hair Cultivation License vs a Cosmetology License:

  • You can start making money immediately.
  • It’s voluntary meaning you can perform natural hair services without this license in a salon but you cannot legally refer to yourself as a Natural Hair Cultivist.
  • You can start making money faster.
  • The program is shorter than a Cosmetology license by far.

Should you get a Natural Hair Cultivation License vs just being referred to as a Natural Hair Stylist (unlicensed)? Well since its voluntary, its just that, meaning its not required. It’s pretty much just a professional designation and looks good in print and in bio’s. Just be aware of what you can’t do because fines can be pretty hefty and your ability to practice period anywhere can be hindered or revoked.

Hope this helps someone wondering what the big differences are! I personally want to offer multiple services in addition to what natural hair cultivation entails to my clients. Why limit yourself?

-Genevieve Anyiah

CEO, Founder + Mixtress

~Embrace the Natural You~

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