Best 11 Cosmetology Schools in San Francisco / Oakland / San Jose (2022)
With an affluent, diverse population open to many types of beauty services, the San Francisco Bay Area can be a great place to start your new cosmetology career. Check out this list of the top 11 cosmetology schools in the area, with information on cosmetology classes, required hours, student reviews, and more.
Note: California has reduced its required cosmetology training hours from 1,600 to 1,000. Several schools still offer 1,600-hour programs but may make changes in the future to accommodate new regulations.
Top Cosmetology Schools in San Francisco / Oakland / San Jose
Top Cosmetology Schools in San Francisco / Oakland / San Jose (Full List)
Since first opening its doors in 2010, this Danville-based beauty school has trained students from all over the Bay Area and beyond in both esthetics and cosmetology. The school's curriculum teaches students via a mixture of hands-on experience and dedicated classroom support, with experienced mentors assisting every step of the way.
As of 2022, the school's cosmetology program takes 1,500 hours to complete (500 more than the state requirement) and starts with the fundamentals of hair and beauty, then guides students through some of the most advanced techniques in the business.
The school has a high rating on Indeed, with happy reviews from former students. "Good combination of classroom and hands on training. Nice clientele for being a school along with tips. Great teachers and many different outside classes for training that come in and teach."
This family-owned and operated school has over 43 years of experience in the beauty industry and offers students comprehensive programs in both cosmetology and esthetics at its Santa Rosa facility.
The school's cosmetology program splits into seven six-week modules, each of which teaches a different aspect of hair and beauty. Lytles is proud to be a Pivot Point member school, with access to tools such as the Designers' Approach Library, L.A.B. (Learn About Beauty), and Snap Cap mannequins. The school is also proud to enrich its programs with other career-building activities, including resume writing, portfolio building, field trips, and guest speakers. The school is also part of the cosmetology Externship program.
"I never expected to be given so much love and support when I signed up to come here," says one student on the school's website. "This school is so much more than just a Beauty College!"
This popular school is in the heart of San Francisco, on bustling Folsom Street. It's a Paul Mitchell partner school and offers students comprehensive cosmetology, esthetics, barbering, and manicuring programs.
The school's cosmetology program takes 1,000 hours to complete and is designed to train students (or "Future Professionals," as the school calls them) in basic hair, skin, makeup, and nail techniques; impeccable health and safety standards; proper sanitation habits; business building skills; and professionalism. The curriculum mixes hands-on training with written theory, and the school limits class sizes to 18 to ensure every student gets the attention they deserve.
Reviews from alumni are positive, with one testimonial on the school's website saying, "SFIEC has been life changing. The Institute not only educated me in the field of cosmetology but has also made me a professional. I feel extremely confident with the skills I have gained. I know that I am set up for success."
Adrian's College of Beauty has several locations, and this campus is handily situated in the heart of Turlock, making it easy to get to via public transit and close to amenities. The school offers several programs, including cosmetology, esthetics, barbering, and manicuring. It also offers an advanced cosmetology instructor program and a barber crossover for those who already have their cosmetology license but want to venture into something new.
Trained Pivot Point educators conduct the school's 1,600-hour cosmetology course and encourage students to explore their creativity and enter competitions and seminars to further their learning. The program covers all aspects of cosmetology, including hair, skin care, and nails.
Reviews are favorable, with one student on Facebook saying she is "so thankful to be in this school. I am so happy to have a great future ahead of me."
As an Aveda school, the Cinta Aveda Institute teaches students the skills needed to thrive in the beauty industry while focusing on environmental sustainability. With a fast-growing network of renowned salons and industry experts, Aveda also prepares its students with many connections and career opportunities.
The Institute offers programs in cosmetology, esthetics, barbering, makeup, and the prestigious Comité International d'Esthétique et de Cosmétologie (CIDESCO) qualification, which awards a skin care diploma that's comparable to a master's degree in an academic field.
The 1,600-hour cosmetology program teaches students the technical, personal, and business skills needed to achieve professional success, ranging from basic hair and beauty techniques to advanced chemical services.
One reviewer on Google says, "I graduated from Cinta Aveda institute last year and had a great experience. When it came to the state board exam I passed on my first try thanks to the multiple mock exams they set up for you! I highly recommend this school, you’re just not learning hair you’re learning the science and safety of beauty. You'll be able to customize / formulate your own hair colors! The school also donates the most money to the clean water fund, very responsible!"
For more than 20 years, this school has been teaching students the essentials of hair and beauty from its facility in bustling Oakland. The college is committed to ensuring its students graduate debt-free and offers several financial aid options to those who qualify and a no-interest payment plan. Students can also choose to attend on a full- or part-time basis to fit their studies around other commitments.
Students can choose from programs in cosmetology, esthetics, manicuring, makeup artistry, eyelashes, and the Externship program, which serves as a bridge between college and employment. The cosmetology course takes 1,000 hours to complete and covers a wide range of hair and beauty topics, including hair cutting and styling, coloring, manicures, facials, makeup, hair removal, and more.
"It is an excellent school," says one recent Facebook reviewer. "Has its space for every career cosmetology manicure & beauticians, all instructors are very kind. It is my first year and the truth I like it and those who want to study something of beauty and live in the Bay Area I recommend the International School of Cosmetology."
This San Jose school prides itself on preparing its students for much more than just passing the state board exams. It teaches them to become salon professionals with technical skills in hair and beauty, business and marketing, and guest handling.
The school offers classes in cosmetology and esthetics, with various scholarship opportunities and grants available for those who qualify. The 1,600-hour cosmetology program uses world-famous Redken products and techniques to teach hair cutting, coloring, styling, nail and skin care, resume workshops, and more. Each student receives a kit (including a brand-new iPad) upon enrollment to assist with their studies.
One former student reviewer on Indeed explains, "Hands on training on cuts color and other chemical treatments. Amazing teachers always take the extra time to teach you on anything you need. Happy students."
This multi-language school can teach students in both English and Spanish and offers programs in cosmetology and esthetics and a teacher training program. The 1,600-hour cosmetology program usually takes around 12-18 months to complete, depending on whether students study full- or part-time.
The hands-on course covers all areas of cosmetology, including hair cutting, coloring, styling, skin care, manicuring, and pedicuring. Hilltop starts cosmetology students at a basic freshman level, then graduates them through junior and senior studies before completing their training hours. Students have access to the college's onsite salon and library and receive professional tools and equipment in their kit to help them learn the tricks of the trade.
"The best decision I ever made was choosing to go to Hilltop Beauty School," says one Yelp reviewer. "...Bottom line if you want to pass that test, have fun, make connections, feel accomplished, be successful, be surrounded by good people and so much more Hilltop is the place to go."
This Paul Mitchell School in Pleasant Hill was established in 2005 and offers students an excellent education in everything hair and beauty. The college provides courses in cosmetology, barbering, and esthetics and encourages students to express their creativity, build their professional skills, and give back to the local community via regular FUNraising events. To date, Paul Mitchell Schools has donated over $22million to charities worldwide.
The school's 1,600-hour cosmetology course guides students through three distinct phases, covering core, adaptive, and advanced techniques in hair, skin, makeup, and nails. Those who wish to take their skills further can opt into the school's Phase Two advanced skills program. Learners can join student teams, where they socialize with like-minded friends, positively impact the local area, and build their professional contacts through team meetings, events, and public outreach.
"I currently attend school here and it's amazing. Very good staff!" says one Facebook reviewer.
This modern school in Stockton combines expert instruction with the latest techniques that follow a Redken and O.P.I-based curriculum. Upon enrollment, students receive textbooks and professional tools and conduct their studies in a state-of-the-art 14,000 square-foot campus. The school is also committed to helping students launch their careers, with regular job placements and mock interviews for graduates.
Students can choose from many programs, including esthetics, barbering, manicuring, and cosmetology. Crossover programs are also available for those who wish to build on their existing skills.
The school's 1,600-hour cosmetology course usually takes 12-14 months to complete and covers everything students need to know to start a successful career in hair and beauty. Students work with live clients as salon apprentices throughout the course, learning everything from business and marketing to hair styling and coloring, makeup application, and advanced design.
This barber college in Oakland offers students a variety of programs, including esthetics, barbering, cosmetology, and a ten-week barbering/cosmetology crossover program for those who already have their license but want to learn additional skills.
The school's cosmetology program takes 1,600 hours to complete over just 11 months (46 weeks). It covers all aspects of hair and beauty, including styling and coloring, permanent waving and straightening, eyebrows and makeup, nails, shop management, health and safety, and local laws and regulations. The program has regular start dates with classes available full-time, part-time, day, or night, so it's easy to fit in around busy schedules.
Indeed reviews are positive: "The Barber College was great, we received plenty of hands on training, bookwork was carefully explained and few students in each class. I was very satisfied with the instructor and classmates."
How We Ranked San Francisco / Oakland / San Jose Cosmetology Programs
The cosmetology schools ranked are accredited or state-approved to provide cosmetology programming according to the licensing requirements in the state. We researched schools that qualified as Title IV institutions and had an average of at least 25 students enrolled in the most recent 3 academic years of available data (2018 - 2020). These schools are all within 50 miles of a major city center and had a weighted 3-year average graduation rate (2018, 2019, and 2020) greater than 50%. After filtering for those requirements, we sorted the remaining programs by the highest weighted average graduation rate to determine the top 11 cosmetology schools in San Francisco / Oakland / San Jose.
Graduation rate and student enrollment data are from the U.S. Department of Education's Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) reports. Schools with key data points missing from IPEDS reports may be omitted from the ranking, as are schools with data that is unattributable to its beauty programs. Many excellent educational institutions—including community colleges—offering a wide variety of vocational programs may, as a result, not be represented on these rankings of top beauty schools.