This question is harder than I thought, because I never actually thought about it. I’ve had my hair braided more times than I can count over the past 19 years, and as I trusted everyone who graced my scalp with their talented fingers, the thought of them actually being licensed for the right to braid was never discussed and never crossed my mind. 

There have been women styling hair without a license for years! It’s nothing new and as many women read this nodding in agreement while reflecting on their childhood (or yesterday) when someone braided, pressed, permed, or colored their hair at home. Some would say it’s a rite of passage while others would say it's risky because the price might be right, but the repercussions could be irreversible.

I have a background in government regulation. I worked for state regulation and licensing for almost six years, so I’ve seen the downside to occupations or professions not having licensing. People are physically, financially, and emotionally scarred by individuals who are not required to be regulated by a governing body. As a result, we are seeing more regulation on different professions because of the harm they can impose if not properly educated or monitored.

Now, I’m taking off my regulating hat to be that entrepreneur who is trying to make an honest living from a talent I possess and the services I can offer to the public. If I were a hair braider, would I expect to be licensed by a governing body so they can ensure I don’t harm the public with my skills? Yes, with a big asterisk. Let the requirements fit the profession.

There have been some rumblings, as seen in Institute for Justice: Untangling RegulationsNPR, and Huff Post, from hair braiders and civil rights organizations about the national report that showed how many states (around 34) have severely restrictive braiding laws that are requiring thousands of hours and dollars necessary to obtain licenses. Excessive? Yes! Many of those states are requiring hair braiders to obtain cosmetology licenses when all cosmetology institution do not give extensive training on braiding. It’s comparative to electricians getting plumbing licenses. They are both identified as trades that are in the construction sector but one does not have anything to do with the other.

“On June 17, 2014, the Institute for Justice (IJ) launched its national Braiding Initiative by filing lawsuits challenging onerous and anti-competitive hair braiding regulations…Research demonstrates that occupational licensing laws, such as those governing hair braiding, create artificial and unnecessary barriers to entry for entrepreneurs seeking to take their first step on the economic ladder.” -Braiding Initiative

Each state has a right to govern various occupations to their standards, and oftentimes states tend to mirror other states, but when it comes to hair braiding, the states are all over the map (pun intended). According to Braiding Freedom, Iowa, Nebraska, and South Dakota require hair braiders to obtain a license through 2,100 hours of training, whereas, South Carolina requires only six hours and Mississippi only requires a ‘self-test’. There needs to be a fair and logical middle-ground, and although my thoughts on the matter are far from favored in this fight for a right to go into a trade and regulate, I do see the problem of overly strict and improper regulations.

Hair braiders are not cosmetologists, but they should know and understand the hair they braid as well as proper cleaning techniques in their shops. I know for a fact that some hair braiding shops are less than stellar with their cleanliness, and without proper regulation someone could become sick and have no governing body to report to for relief or restitution.

I’m all over the place on this issue and I know it’s because I am an entrepreneur who has received braiding services and worked in government regulation. This issue is not as simple as black or white nor is it anywhere near being fixed. Whether we have over-regulation or too-little regulation, the problem to me stems from the lack of the governing body to learn about the trade in order to properly regulate it according to its own standards and not the standards of other professions. They are not cosmetologists, but they are professionals and they do need to be licensed but with proper standards that are appropriate to the service they provide. Inspect shops, teach proper sanitary measures, and allow them to thrive financially without placing onerous regulations on their profession.

Perhaps once the strict and unreasonable regulations are removed we can finally have that conversation about regulations that fit the profession and keep the consumers safe.

What say you? Should hair braiders be regulated?