Hair Braiding Regulation Sparks Debate in Legislature

(KCPW News) Hairs were split at the State Capitol this morning when licensed cosmetologists filled a committee room to protest a potential bill that would remove the license requirement for braiding hair in Utah. Right now, a person must obtain a cosmetology license. And it should stay that way, says Brandy Peirson, who thinks this would open the doors to deregulating other cosmetology services.

“I’m licensed, I work on TV and I work on film,” she argues. “To compete against someone who YouTubed or who moved here from another country who just learned to do it because their grandma did it, because their mom did it, it’s unfair to me. It’s unjust to me. I went to school. I paid my dues. I repay student loans. This is my job.”

Republican Representative Holly Richardson is behind the proposed bill. The lawmaker, who has nine children from Africa, argues a license to braid African hair requires 2,000 hours of instruction in cosmetology, costing up to $18,000.

Industry representatives noted the dangers of braiding without a license can include a lack of proper sterilization, inability to identify disorders and diseases of the skin, and even permanent hair loss. But Jestina Clayton, a Sierra Leone refugee who supports Richardson’s proposal, says they’re grasping at straws.

“Braiding does not involve cutting, does not involve chemicals, does not involve heat or dyes or anything like that,” she says. “It does not harm the public, and I can do that at home, in my little area that I’ve set up with my kids around, and I can make a little extra for my family.”

Clayton is taking the state to federal court, claiming the regulation is anti-competitive and violates her constitutional rights. The committee tabled the bill for further discussion.