Requiring a license for hair braiding has become a controversial issue. Several practitioners around the country have sued against the licensure boards in their states for the right to practice hair braiding without a cosmetology license. Many of these lawsuits have been decided in the favor of the plaintiff, leading to regulatory changes at the state level that benefit those who wish to make careers out of natural hair braiding. One of the latest states to change their laws is Texas.
The History of the Controversy
Although natural, African-style hair braiders have recently made the news for fighting for the right to not have a license, their fight actually goes back decades. The Institute for Justice, which works on defending the rights of those who practice hair braiding, was initially founded in 1990. Their first case was Taalib-Din Abdul Uqdah v. District of Columbia in 1991, and they have worked with several clients since then. According to their Untangling Regulations report, eleven states currently do not require a license for natural hair braiders.
One of their recent clients was Isis Brantly, who owned a braiding school in Dallas known as the Institute for Ancestral Braiding. Brantly was arrested in 1997 for not having a cosmetology license. She fought the regulations for over 10 years, including those that required her to convert her braiding school into a barber college. Finally, in January 2015, she won her case, when a federal judge ruled that the laws in Texas were unconstitutional and did not have any benefit to public health and safety.
Why it is a Hot-Button Issue in Texas
The reason that requiring cosmetology licenses for hair braiding is a hot button issue in Texas and other states is simply because it requires a person to undergo extensive training that does not apply to the actual job. With natural hair braiding, there is no shampooing, use of chemicals, cutting of the hair, or other actions requiring the same knowledge as a cosmetologist, including best practices for health and safety. Therefore, undergoing a complete cosmetology or barber course just to become a hair braider is unnecessary, and unhelpful since the courses typically do not cover natural hair braiding. It can also be expensive and take an extensive amount of time, which can be limiting to some who wish to pursue the occupation.
For Brantly and her institution, it also meant having to put in expensive and unnecessary equipment into her school to abide by regulations, such as needing 10 sinks, according to the Dallas News. By closing down her school, she was also unable to train future hair braiders to take up the occupation.
Why The Judge Settled in Favor of Hair Braiders
Ultimately, the settlement called for the deregulation for hair braiding. It acknowledges that hair braiding is a separate occupation that does not use the same supplies and skills as cosmetology and barbery, so a hair braider does not benefit from attending these schools or having this license. Additionally, the court recognized that requiring such an occupational license severely limits the ability for many people to try to gain a living from braiding.
Although Brantly’s case was won in January, it took until June for the law to change. On June 8, 2015, Texas Governor Abbot signed HB 2717 bill that deregulates hair braiding. The bill was written by Representative Craig Goldman and sponsored by Texas senator Royce West. The Texas House of Representatives voted unanimously in April to pass the bill.
What This Means for You
For those who wish to be a hair braider in the state of Texas, you no longer need to attend cosmetology school, and you do not have to take the state exam to be licensed. However, if you plan to offer natural hair braiding as an additional service to your hair cutting, dying, or styling services, then you will still need a license.
Likewise, if you plan to offer shampooing, dying, cutting, or other hair services along with your braiding, you will need a license. In other states, you may still require a license. If you want to know more about whether you need a license for African hair braiding, you can read this blog post.
For those with a cosmetology license who are looking for continuing education classes to expand your services and education while complying with your state requirements, check out our courses.