Hot combs, hair styles, and chemical treatments aside, many hairstylists face an unforeseen battle when trying to get licensed for their craft — even if their craft is as simple as braiding hair.

Earning a cosmetology license requires 1700 hours of training, thousands of dollars which may not even focus on African-style braiding. In states like Oregon, Wyoming, Colorado, and Illinois, braiders are required to get cosmetology licenses to braid hair, a time consuming and unnecessary feat when compared to some other states, such as New York, Pennsylvania, Minnesota, and Michigan, all that require states to get a specialty license for that very craft. Click here for a full list.

As a child, I couldn’t imagine my mother or anyone family member whom I knew, having to be required to get a license to braid my hair. It almost seems relatively pointless, as doing hair in my house had become a regular past time. It also was a time for bonding between children and adults.

Amber Starks, a braider who began her own business north of the border in Vancouver, is fighting to change the law.

“They’re requiring people who want to do the most basic natural care for African-American women to learn all sorts of things that will never be relevant,” Starks said. “It’s like the entire system is designed to marginalize my community.”

Portland law makers, catching wind to Starks case, are now trying to file a “Natural Hair Act” for 2013 legislative session for acquiring looser standards when working in hair care.

Starks isn’t the only one having to struggle through occupational hazards in her braiding career.

Jestina Clayton, a hair braider profiled in The New York Times, was threatened to be reported after placing an ad in the state of Utah for her braiding services. She chose to fight it:

“After being shot down by the board, Clayton allied with a Utah state representative who had adopted several children from Africa,” the article reads. “The representative proposed a bill that would exempt hair-braiding from the cosmetology licensing law, but she was no match for the cosmetologists, who have started grass-roots campaigns in several states to fight the loosening of license rules. They turned out in full force in Utah.”

In a dramatic twist of fate, Clayton won her right to braid hair without a license, as a federal judge, David Sam, ruled that it was “unconstitutional and invalid,” this according to The Grio.

“I’m excited. I can’t believe it,” Clayton said of the ruling. “You go in with the hope, but sometimes things don’t go your way.”

What do you think? Should braiders be held under strict licensing restrictions or should they be placed more at ease?


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  1. Ms. Information

    Having had my natural hair destroyed from a faulty braider in Georgia, I am all for licensing…licensing enforces responsibility.

  2. I wish African braiders had to get a license for rudeness. I can’t stand their attitudes

    • @Kelly:
      So, according to you, all African braiders have attitudes? I’ve had my hair straightened at one Dominican shop and while they did have some questionable practices, I’d never stereotype ALL Dominican stylists for the mistakes of a few.

      P.S. I’m sure you’ve encountered African-American stylists w/attitudes as well. I know I have!

    • @Kelly: They are rude if you don’t engage them but yeah you can’t lump them all in one category.

      • Ms. Information

        Ladies, be aware that they also call African Americans “Keishas” and many of them do have a disdain for us…many not all.

  3. I’m SHOCKED that a Utah judge ruled in favor of this black African woman but most states will make sure that they’ll throw a bone to nonsense cases like these in order to protect shit like polygamy. They should very lax regulation so that they can provide insurance just in case something does go wrong

  4. dont blame other people about losing your hair, you sat there and had someone braids your hair very tightly cause you wanted you hair to be perfect. if you care about your edges, speak up.
    if you dont like ppls attitudes when they do your hair, stop going and do your own hair.

  5. Braiders in shops need some regulations but there should be some type of more individual based regulations instead of the one size fits all approach that usually ends up marginalizing

  6. As a licensed stylist and Braider. I do NOT believe Braiders, Locticians and natural stylist should be required to have a cosmetology license since majority cosmetology schools I have encountered do not teach braiding, African american hair care, or loc maintenance.nor do most natural hair stylist use any chemicals or scissors on the hair. And also they don’t usually provide facials,do nails, wax or color hair. Which is all taught in cosmetology.
    I do think a brading /naturalhair/wrapping/ license is still a little stupid but not unnecessary. Because I believe all stylist should learn the basics of hair and scalp and sanitation(which is all braid and natural hair licenses require you to learn)
    So as far as unfortunate experiences like Ms.Information had you may still end up in the same predicament. Research your stylist before going to them. Check to see if they have photos of their work. If you are able to talk to their other customers, do it. Find out if they practice healthy hair care. check out their place of business (home,shop,studio etc and see if their clean. because I guarantee these will be the things that make your experience better not them getting a cosmetology license because if the stylist doesn’t care about the health of your hair, doesn’t sanitize, or at least have photos of their work . you will be walking into the same trap but with a license.

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