Each state has a governmental agency known as the board of cosmetology and barbering, also known as the state board, which sets licensing standards and regulations for the barbering and cosmetology industry. The primary mission of the state boards is to protect the health and safety of the consumer. Licensing is a form of ensuring minimum competency of the individual providing the service and regulation is established to enforce that health and safety practices are maintained when providing services to the public.
What does the law require?
In the state of California, African hair braiding (as defined in a lawsuit against the California State Board in 1997) is not an act of cosmetology. The lawsuit specifically sited that the State’s mandated curriculum “does not teach braiding.” As a result there is an exemption in the law for hair braiders that does not require licensure or formal training in California.
There are 19 states that require some form of formal training in natural hair styling. The hours required for the licensure or certification ranges from a 6-hour online course up to 600 hours from a board approved school. Some of the states that require training do not require a practical exam and the focus is on safety and sanitation. In states like California, licensing is not required for braiding and natural hair styling. As a result, there is no formal training on proper braiding, twisting, and locking techniques. Students of cosmetology are not taught how to properly style and maintain afro-textured or curly hair that has not been altered by heat or chemicals.
It's not required, but it's important
If you are currently licensed or interested in becoming licensed, I suggest that you first check with your state board to see if they offer training or courses that will allow you to become licensed or certified to offer natural hair styling services to the public. Otherwise, I encourage you to seek out workshops that teach how to style and maintain natural hair. The hair industry is one of the few licensed industries that do not require continuing education to maintain licensure. Although it is not required, it is vital to your success as a professional.
A number of hair shows offer opportunities for professionals to connect with industry leaders to train on new styling techniques. If you are unable to find the training you need at a hair show, do some research on who the experts are in the area of training you need to see if they offer workshops or one-on-one training. I offer hands-on training along with some of my colleagues including Felicia Leatherwood and Talia Waajid.
The hair industry is constantly evolving, and as a licensed professional, it is important that we are investing in ourselves to improve our skills and increase our level of expertise so that we can effectively address the needs of our clients.