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Should African hair braiders need permission to work?

natural-hairstyle-simeko1Hundreds of hair braiding salons dot the streets, avenues and boulevards of metro Detroit. Michigan is one of 11 states where braiders are not required to obtain a license to work. 

Across the country, however, more people need the government’s permission in the form of a license before they can work. A  new national report released, July 16, by the Institute for Justice looks specifically at natural, or African-style hair braiding laws and finds that 34 states have severely restrictive braiding laws.

The report, Untangling Regulations: Natural Hair Braiders Fight Against Irrational Licensing documents hair braiding licensing requirements in all 50 states and Washington, D.C. The report finds that braiding regulations vary dramatically.

Natural or African-style hair braiding is a traditional beauty practice that traces its lineage back thousands of years. Today, thousands of people, mainly in African American and immigrant communities, twist, braid, weave and lock hair to earn a living. Yet, in many states, braiders are ensnared in a tangled mess of cosmetology laws. In the 24 states with the most burdensome laws, hair braiders are forced to become licensed hairstylists or cosmetologists. Attending cosmetology school can cost upwards of $20,000 and the classes teach nothing about hair braiding. Instead, braiders must learn how to provide services like manicures and facials, that are irrelevant to their businesses.   

Ten states and Washington, D.C., have created a specialty braiding license, but still require hundreds of hours of training at schools where few offer a braiding curriculum.  On average, these specialty licenses require 230 hours of instruction and can cost up to $10,000.

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