By the Division of Professional Licensure

Board of Registration of Cosmetology and Barbering

Barbers provide haircutting, hairstyling, facial shaving, permanent waving, hair coloring and facial services to the general public, but primarily to men. Some shops also may provide a licensed manicurist that does plain manicures only.

The Board of Registration of Cosmetology and Barbering protects the public through regulation of barbering in the Commonwealth. The Board oversees all barbers, barber shops, and barber schools licensed in the state.

Each board of registration administers and enforces its regulations regarding licensing requirements. The boards receive, investigate and adjudicate complaints against the respective licensed practitioners.

The Barber

A barber is an individual who is engaged in the practice of barbering. Barbering is to shave or trim the beard; to cut, shape, trim or blend the hair with the proper tools or instruments designed for this purpose; to shape the eyebrows, to give facial and scalp massaging, facial and scalp treatment, with any preparations made for this purpose, either by hand or by mechanical or electrical appliances; to singe and shampoo the hair or apply any makes of hair cream, hair lotions or hair tonics; to dye, color or bleach the hair and to perform any service on a wig or hairpiece; to style and to render hair straightening, hair processing, hair weaving, hair waving and curling, with such methods as: manual, mechanical, chemical or electrical with the proper devices or proper chemical compounds developed and designed for this purpose.

Consumer Tips

There are a few things you should look for in a barbershop before getting a haircut. To help insure that you receive safe and satisfactory service, check these basic points:

  • ASK to see the shop license and the license of the person providing the service. (For security reasons, personal licenses are not required to be posted at individual stations.)
  • Observe the overall condition of the salon: Floors, walls, ceilings, furniture, fixtures and other apparatus, and all other exposed surfaces in every barber shop and school should be clean and sanitary, free from dust and in good repair at all times.
  • Brooms, mops, and any other articles used to wash floors, brush or wash the walls, should not be left exposed. All residue, cut hair, dirt, etc., swept off the floor should be placed in a covered container or containers until properly disposed of outside the barbershop or school. It should appear clean and neat. Towels should be stored in closed cabinets, hair should be swept from the floor, and combs and brushes should be properly sanitized.
  • Did the barber wash his/her hands before providing his service?
  • Does the headrest of the barber chair have a clean covering of cloth or paper?
  • Are clean towels kept exclusively in a closed, clean cabinet drawer or closet?
  • Are used towels in a covered container or containers? (Your barber should not leave any used towels on a workstation, barber chair, sink or otherwise exposed at any place in a barbershop or school?
  • Be sure your barber does not use a shaving brush on you for sanitary purposes.
  • Make sure your barber uses soap in liquid form only.
  • Are jars containing cream or pomades covered at all times, and is the barber using a clean spatula to remove solvents from jars?
  • Are hair tonics, lotions and cosmetics clearly labeled with the name of the manufacturer?


All razors, scissors, clippers, tweezers, combs, rubber discs, parts of a vibrator, and all other implements, tools, appliances and utensils that come in contact with the head, neck or face of a patron, should be disinfected before use upon any patron and, thereafter, before use on another patron. No tools/implements should be left exposed on the workstation at any time but should be cleaned, disinfected and placed in a clean, closed drawer or cabinet whenever such tools are not in use or in the process of being sterilized.

Advertising and Pricing

The price list for all services must be posted in a conspicuous place in the salon. No barbershop may use any advertising that is misleading or inaccurate or misrepresent any materials or services, terms, values or policies. (For example, if a "cut and shave" are advertised at a specific price, the advertised price must include the cost of all operations necessary to complete the service. If the price of a hair cut and shave is separate, it must be stated in the advertisement.)

Filing a Complaint

While the majority of licensees conduct themselves as true professionals, the Division of Professional Licensure will take action against those who fail to maintain acceptable standards of competence and integrity.

In many cases, complaints are made by dissatisfied consumers - but, dissatisfaction alone is not proof of incompetence or sufficient grounds for disciplinary action.

If you have a serious complaint against a licensed barber, call or write the Division's Office of Investigations and ask for a complaint form. Or download a copy of the complaint form pdf format of Application for Complaint Form

Division of Professional Licensure
Office of Investigations
1000 Washington Street, Suite 710
Boston, Mass. 02118
(617) 727-7406