What Can a Cosmetologist Do in Illinois?

Oct 05 2022

black woman wearing glasses and thinking

So you want to be a cosmetologist. In your research you’ve probably noticed by now that each state requires different levels of education and the outcomes of the license can be varied. In the state of Illinois, licensed cosmetologists are allowed to provide (or do) the following services according to The Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation:

  • Scalp, hair, skin and nail analysis and treatment
  • Cutting and styling of hair
  • Waving and relaxing of hair
  • Coloring and lightening of hair
  • Nail services (manicures and pedicures)
  • Skin services (makeup application and waxing)

In addition to services, licensed cosmetologists must demonstrate proficiency in the safety and sanitation of the salon, products, tools and working area.

Interested in learning more about where a cosmetologist can work? Click here!

Below we will break down what exactly all of these mean and what services they include. All of these topics are covered in the state examination that must be completed and passed to be eligible for licensure. In other words, think of this as a mini study guide suggestion! You can see the state’s test content and recommended study material resource here.

Analysis and Treatment of Scalp, Hair, Skin and Nails

As a part of the license examination, those who wish to become cosmetologists must be able to show a certain level of understanding in the analysis of the scalp, hair, skin and nails. Analysis may include identifying disorders or conditions. A knowledgeable cosmetologist will be able to make a decision as to whether or not a product or service is right for a client based on the analysis of the area being treated.

In addition to properly analyzing the area the service is being performed on, they must know how to treat it if necessary. If a condition or disorder exists, a cosmetologist should be able to educate and advise a client of treatment options or be able to provide them.

red headed model getting her hair braided by a hairstylist

Cutting and Styling of Hair

According to the state guide, there are several areas in which cosmetologists must demonstrate understanding of theory as well as be able to perform it proficiently.

Advising Clients

As a part of analysis and treatment, advising clients on the health of their hair, the products being used and the service being provided is important. You would want to know what’s happening during your hair treatment, right? In order to properly perform a service (and to maintain a good client-stylist relationship) advice is going to be key!

Styling Hair

Hairstyling is a keystone service in a cosmetologists repertoire! Almost every practicing cosmetologist has hairstyling as a service on their menu. Updos, bridal styles, every day styling and even texture-specific hairstyling may all be things you’ll need to know! Not only can being educated on these topics be helpful in obtaining your license, but they can also help you be a better stylist in the salon!

Cutting Hair

Cutting hair is one of the other most common services to be on a cosmetologist’s menu. In fact, some people strictly and exclusively offer hair cutting as their only service. Many choose to be this way because they love it and are very well educated in it. Lobs, A-lines, shags, oh my! There are so many ways to cut hair, and those who wish to become licensed must demonstrate their ability to cut hair with confidence.

Thermal Styling & Drying

Ever heard of a blowout bar or blow dry bar? These trendy hair speciality shops are centered around blow dries and thermal styling. During this section of the examination, you must be able to show off your skills in styling hair with hot tools with grace, precision and knowledge.

Reducing Bulk

Some people are just born with it. It being naturally thick, heavy or coarse hair. In most cases, it does the hair good to reduce the bulk in order to make styling easier and more manageable. In order to be able to do that for your clients, you must be able to demonstrate your ability to use thinning shears, bulk-reducing cutting techniques and more during your exam.

Wigs & Extensions

Wigs and extensions have always been popular, but thanks to music and beauty sensations like Cardi B. and Kylie Jenner they are skyrocketing in demand more than ever. The art of wig maintenance and installation is a skill on its own, and placing extensions can be its own speciality, too. Your exam will require you to show that you know how to provide these types of services at a certain level.

black girl with textured hair shaking her hair

Waving and Relaxing of Hair

Some people prefer their hair worn in a relaxed or waved style over their natural texture. A cosmetologist is the one who can help them accomplish that!

Client Characteristics

Being able to recognize and prioritize the client’s hair’s needs is important before you perform the service. These types of services are semi-permanent, so you’ll want to make sure you’re on the same page and both understand the process before moving forward.

Perming & Relaxing

Ahh, the perm. A perm makes hair curly. That’s the bottom line! They became popular in the 70s, but they are making a come back! Getting your hair relaxed is basically the opposite of a perm. It takes curly hair and gives it a sleeker look.

Product Effects

Cosmetologists must be knowledgeable in how a product might interact with the client or another product. This is just another level of knowledge that is required when you’re working with chemicals.

Selecting & Using Products

This area of the exam goes along with understanding a product’s side effects and interactions. The more you know about product affects, the better off you’ll be in making the proper selection when it comes time to use them.

Safety & Sanitation

There is a proper way to handle perming and relaxing products and tools. To keep you and your clients as safe as possible, this section is key.

hairstylist applying hair color to blonde strands

Coloring and Lightening of Hair

Hair coloring services come in as another service in high demand for cosmetologists everywhere. Like hair cutting, some cosmetologists choose to specialize only in hair coloring.

Client Characteristics

There’s nothing more unflattering than the wrong hair color. Cosmetologists must be able to advise and help make decisions with the client on choosing the right hair color for their skin tone and style. That’s why they’re professionals! They know what works!

Coloring & Lightening

If you’ve ever gone to your hairstylist and asked for an ombre, balayage or even just an all-over color, this is the part of the skill set they are flexing when they do it! This is the method in which they apply the color, how the color interacts with other colors, the ratio of color ingredients and more. Knowing the proper procedure when applying color, especially when lightening, is key to getting the desired result.

Product Effects

This side of cosmetology is a little more scientific than some may think. You must be able to mix your products properly and at the right measurements and know what kind of chemical reactions could come from improper mixes and conditions that may exist.

Selecting & Using Products

Because this side of cosmetology can be a bit more scientific and mathematical, you’ll need to know which products are the proper choice for the service. Not all products work the same way with certain hair types or other products.

Safety & Sanitation

Caution: hair color is a chemical. There are ingredients in it that some people may be allergic to, and there is a proper way of handling it to be as safe as possible. When performing a new service on someone, or using a new chemical product on their hair, it is vital to do a patch test to insure there won’t be a negative result. No one wants a weird reaction!

cosmetologist performing a manicure

Nail Services

Beautifully maintained fingers and toes are always in fashion. There’s a trend, style or color for everyone! Even men are jumping on the MANi trend.


When you’re doing nails you’re armed with a set of tools and implements that will help you get the job done! These need to be professional grade. Without these tools, you won’t be able to provide a level of necessary professional work that most people are looking for. In this section of your exam you’ll be tested on your ability to use the tools and implements properly.

Artificial Nails

Not everyone is graced with naturally thick and long nails. That’s where artificial nails come in. Artificial nails are offered at a lot of salons, and in this section of the exam you’ll be tested on the latest techniques for applying, maintaining and removing this type of nail.

Manicures & Pedicures

Manicures and pedicures can both be combined with the application of artificial nails, but they can also stand alone. A mani or pedi may include a relaxing massage, a foot masque or a variety of other product applications. During this section you’ll put your skills to the test in providing a certain level of service when it comes to performing both services.

Safety & Sanitation

Like almost all other things in the salon or spa, nail products, implements and tools require a high level of sanitation and safety before and after use. You’ll be tested on the proper way to maintain, store and use all of the tools in your nail kit.

makeup artist applying eyeshadow to a client

Skin Services

Skin services are another common offering on the salon or spa menu! While some cosmetologists fall in love with hair, others fall in love with makeup and skin care services.


Makeup application is an art. It can even be a career within itself! Foundation, contour, highlight and more! You’ll need to understand color theory, skin tones and even certain styles of makeup. Put your makeup artistry skills to the test during this section to prove that you know how to do makeup at a professional level.

Selecting & Using Products

Does your client have dry skin or oily skin? Do they have an allergy? What undertones does their skin have? You’ll want to be able to identify all of these things when it comes to this portion of the exam. Choosing the right product for the right client and for the service is key.

Removing Unwanted Hair

Whether it be with tweezers or wax, hair removal is important to a lot of men and women in Illinois. Basic waxing services are common across salons and spas, but there are even brow and waxing bars popping up across the state. This is just another chance to specialize! You must know how to properly cleanse the area and remove unwanted hair in this section.

Safety & Sanitation

Like other services in the beauty industry, there is a level of sanitation and safety that needs to be maintained throughout the service and after. This might be one of the most important elements in this section.

So That’s What a Cosmetology License Includes in Illinois

Phew. That was a lot, but it’s important to know the type of information you’ll be expected to master in order to try obtain your license. Being well-versed in all of these areas will not only help you prepare for the test, but these are also skills that real cosmetologists use every day at their jobs!

Do You Want to Become a Cosmetologist in Illinois?

Douglas J Aveda Institute has a campus located in Chicago, and we offer a cosmetology program! Our program meets state requirements for preparing students to sit for the state exam. If you’re interested in learning more about how to get enrolled, click here!

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