There’s a lot of hot air around HB2011, the “blow dry bar bill,” which will free people who want to perform hair grooming services from government regulation that the public never asked for and does not need.
Let’s start with what the bill is and is not. HB2011 will alleviate the regulatory burden on people trying to make an honest living by shampooing, conditioning, blow-drying, arranging, styling, dressing, curling, and hot-ironing hair. For simplicity’s sake, let’s call people who perform these services blow-dry stylists. The bill proposes no changes to regulation for those who cut, color, use reactive chemicals that alter the structure of hair, or permanently curl and straighten hair.
The currently regulatory regime for a blow-dry stylist requires approximately 1,000-1,600 experience hours and a cost of $10,000-$18,000 for a government-approved beauty school, plus the testing for licensure required for government permission to work. Much of the mandated curriculum deals with services a blow-dry stylist does not perform.
Put another way, current regulations make this work illegal for people who are not rich enough to afford the education, or who do not have the time or flexibility to obtain the mandatory education. Their actual talent plays no role in the calculation.
Reform opponents paint a nightmarish picture of the public health and safety doomsday just around the corner should this modest reform occur. If HB2011 passes, the critics say, Arizonans will suffer rampant disease outbreaks, parasites, and burnt scalps. Listening to these claims, one would presume current law is holding back a mob of fools armed with brushes and blow-dryers ready to abuse the public with their ignorance and unsanitary practices. If such fear-mongering did not lead to negative economic and social consequences for real people, often the most economically vulnerable among us, the hyperbole would be laughable.
HB2011 would not be the first time the public survived a decrease in the regulatory authority of the Arizona State Board of Cosmetology:
In 2004, hair braiders fought and won the freedom to work without government permission. The instruction braiders were required to receive to get a license didn’t teach natural hair braiding anyway.
In 2011, the board stopped trying to regulate eye brow threading, which is the ancient practice of plucking individual hairs using a string. Like braiding, threading wasn’t a part of the mandated curriculum.
In 2014, the board agreed to stop trying to regulate a small business that connected homebound elderly and sick individuals with licensed cosmetologists willing to travel to their homes to provide services. The board wanted to regulate the business as a salon, even though the entire concept was that customers could not physically get to a salon.
In 2015, Arizona removed the cosmetology licensure requirement for make-up artists. Before this, the cosmetology board deemed it safe for unlicensed individuals to apply make-up only to help sell the make-up.
In 2017, Governor Doug Ducey intervened to protect a cosmetology student giving free haircuts to the homeless from an investigation that could have resulted in significant professional consequences.
The public has not missed these regulations because negative effects of their removal are non-existent. And, if Arizona consumers really want whatever safety or quality they believe a government license can provide, nothing in HB2011 will stop them from seeing or becoming a licensed cosmetologist.
Unchecked occupational licensing expansion in any industry creates barriers to entry, restricts competition and economic mobility, and measurably serves the economic interests of existing business with no commensurate benefit to the public. This disproportionately impacts the poor, individuals re-entering the workforce for a variety of reasons, and especially women looking to start a career in the cosmetology industry. These are the last people in our community that the government should be stepping on as they try to ascend the economic ladder.
— Brandy Wells is vice president of external affairs at the Arizona Chamber of Commerce & Industry and serves as a public member of the Arizona State Board of Cosmetology, but is speaking as a private individual and not on behalf of either entity in this commentary.
The views expressed in guest commentaries are those of the author and are not the views of the Arizona Capitol Times.