Defending Licensure With Proactive Reforms

Originally published here by Stylist Newspapers

In May I wrote a column about the growing, nationwide effort to either deregulate our industry or chip away at our regulated scope of licensure. I informed Stylist readers about a California effort to do the latter (by removing shampooing and non-cut/color hairstyling).

Even though we were able to defeat that legislation — only after it overwhelming passed one house of our legislature, that fight served as a needed wake-up call.

If such an effort can gain legs in a blue state like mine, it can take hold in any of the other 49 states, as six states have already witnessed in the shampooing arena. So this is a very real threat to anyone who’s played by the rules and are now earning an honest living in the barbering and beauty industry.

As I explained in May, this movement isn’t limited to just far-right, libertarian policymakers; it has caught on with some on the left, who see costly (time/money) barriers to entry into the workforce as disproportionately impacting those on the lower end of the socioeconomic spectrum.

I’m pleased to report that our State Board of Barbering & Cosmetology has received the message loud-and-clear and are in real-time seeking reforms aimed at answering licensure critics and those concerned about unreasonable “barriers to entry.” They are deliberating on how to responsibly offer a freelance permit (a so-called “personal service permit”) for licensees operating outside a licensed salon, considering the creation of more sub-licenses (e.g., hairstyling, waxing and even makeup) that have much less schooling requirements, and expanding Externships to students pursuing all licensed categories. Here’s a link to a recent article acknowledging their reform efforts:


My organization wants to go further, including: elongating Externships (sooner/longer) and allowing salons at their option to pay them (so they can earn while they learn); and reinstituting aggregate scoring of the two-part licensure exam (to remove the inaccurate perception the practical and written exams are two, separate licensing hurdles).

While we balk at establishing a plethora of sub-licensed categories, most especially a makeup artist license (for fear of inviting further unlicensed activity in salons by those holding minor permits), we have embraced a hairstylist license with an abbreviated schooling requirement (given over 90 percent of our Cosmetologists surveyed say they only do hair services, anyway).

By proactively offering policymakers such reform initiatives, we hope to blunt this growing de-licensure movement and help control the policy deliberations. Next year, our State Board is up for it’s five-year Sunset Review, in which Legislators could decide not to extend its operations, or even if they do, impose all sorts of new statutory reforms upon our industry and its regulatory body. So the stakes for the most populous state in the Union (with over a half-million licensees and nearly 55,000 salons) couldn’t be higher.

As we will continue to explain to our policymakers, the barbering and beauty industry has a long history of relying upon licensure to protect consumers, inform employers of a potential employee’s capabilities, and regulate safe standards in salons. Ours is an industry that has been built on a system of formal education and apprenticing — which have historically been regulated by state agencies to protect the interest of students and apprentices.

We should be asking policymakers tempted by this movement what are the real-world consequences of eroding regulatory oversight of our industry? And we should shift the burden back to them to explain why perceived barriers haven’t prevented millions from entering this vibrant industry.

However, while it’s important for our industry to be united against delicensure and deregulation policy reform initiatives, we also need to consider what we might do to lessen its building inertia.

This movement is a clear and present danger to our industry. Arm yourself with the knowledge to resist it, and then get active in your state’s policy setting arena to help guide the debate in a more favorable direction.