Across the country, states are reconsidering their requirements for licensing and registration of African-style hair braiders, a move that the Institute for Justice — which calls itself the nation’s only libertarian public-interest law firm — is applauding.
The IJ released a report in July advocating for fewer restrictions on practitioners who want to provide braiding services.
The report, titled “Barriers to Braiding: How Job-Killing Licensing Laws Tangle Natural Hair Care in Needless Red Tape,” concludes that hair braiding is relatively safe, regardless of licensing policies in place, so licensing laws meant to protect consumers’ health and safety are not necessary. Beyond being unnecessary, the report says licensing laws are barriers to entry for people wanting to start hair braiding businesses, because the time and money required for licensing can shut people out.
Policies are determined at the state level and vary greatly. In Indiana, hair braiding requires a cosmetologist license from the state Professional Licensing Agency. The IJ report says the license requires 1,500 hours of classes. There are 15 other states that require the full cosmetology license, IJ says, though the cost and number of required hours varies.
As of July 2016, 18 states do not require braiders to earn licenses or to register, the report says. In the past year, five states — Delaware, Iowa, Kentucky, Nebraska and West Virginia — have opted to eliminate licensing requirements for braiders.
The report’s author, Angela Erickson, says licensing requirements are tightly linked to the number of braiders in a state, despite the size of the state’s Black population.
“In 2012, Mississippi, which requires zero hours of training, had over 1,200 registered braiders. Neighboring Louisiana, which requires 500 hours, had only 32 licensed braiders — despite its larger black population,” the report reads.
Alizabeth Toles, a natural hairstylist and co-owner of Naturally U Hair Salon with locations on the east and west sides of Indianapolis, said despite the report’s claims about the safety of hair braiding, she thinks braiders should still have to be licensed.
“Although they don’t use chemicals, they’re still dealing with people’s hair,” Toles said. “There are still certain things you have to know, as far as if they have alopecia or psoriasis … there are all kinds of things that could go wrong that a licensed hair stylist would know.”
The IJ report explains that the art of hair braiding is one that is often taught among families and friends, something people learn to do while growing up. But Toles said there are aspects of a formal education that are important for hair braiders to know, such as rules for sanitizing and storing tools.
“I believe braiders should be licensed, because you never know what might happen or occur,” Toles said. “Something may go wrong, and they have nothing to back them up in case any legal things happen.”
For more information about the IJ report, visit braidingfreedom.com.