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Forced schooling burdens beauty professionals

Eyelash Extension Procedure. (Deposit Photo)

Chefs study cooking. Pilots receive flight instruction. But Arizona beauty professionals get a different experience when they specialize in eyelash extensions, the synthetic fibers that technicians meticulously glue to individual natural lashes.

Before students can focus on the occupation, they must waste hundreds of hours and pay thousands of dollars learning skills they will not use. Most Arizona beauty schools do not even offer eyelash extension services in their student salons, which means aspiring eyelash technicians must spend their days giving clients chemical peels, applying makeup and performing other spa services.

Marie Miller

Those are all great skills to possess. So is knowing how to bake a soufflé or land an airplane. But eyelash technicians do nothing but apply and maintain eyelash extensions.

The niche service has become common in recent years as demand has grown. Unfortunately, Arizona doesn’t know what to do with the occupation, so it lumps it in with other beauty professions and requires a full esthetician or cosmetologist license.

Clearing the hurdle is not cheap — something policymakers should consider in the debate on student debt and loan forgiveness.

Arizona esthetician programs require 600 hours of instruction and can top $10,000. Cosmetology programs require 1,600 hours of instruction and can top $20,000. Once students graduate, they must pay licensing fees and pass two exams — which again have little or nothing to do with eyelash extensions. Only then can aspiring eyelash technicians seek relevant instruction.

They are stuck, and they are not alone.

mugshot, Daryl James, licensing, occupations

Daryl James

Beauty School Debt and Drop-Outs,” a 2021 report from our public interest law firm, the Institute for Justice, finds a raw deal based on program costs, loan amounts, graduation rates and salaries. Nationwide, cosmetology students were more likely to take loans than the average student across all federal aid-eligible U.S. universities, colleges and vocational schools. They also borrowed more per year.

The result in Arizona is a beauty school debt trap.

Even when state-mandated instruction is relevant, it is excessive compared to other occupations more closely associated with health and safety. Arizona crane operators, for example, can work without an occupational license. But manicurists need 600 hours of training to paint nails.

Arizona chefs can work in a commercial kitchen with just a food handler’s card, which costs $7.95 and takes 30 minutes online. But estheticians need 600 hours of training to give spa treatments.

Meanwhile, emergency medical technicians can assist in life-or-death situations after 130 hours of instruction. Cosmetologists need more than 12 times that amount before they can cut and dye hair. Time after time, Arizona singles out beauty professionals for out-of-proportion oversight.

State lawmakers have acknowledged the problem. Following an Institute for Justice lawsuit in 2003, they eliminated licensing requirements for African-style hair braiders. Following another Institute for Justice lawsuit in 2011, they eliminated licensing requirements for eyebrow threaders.

Arizona also exempts makeup artists, shampooers and hairstylists from licensing. And in 2020, Arizona passed a universal recognition law that allows licensees from other states to transfer their credentials when they move to Arizona.

These are incremental reforms, but the regulatory regime needs an extreme makeover. State-mandated schooling should focus only on health and safety. Everything else should be voluntary.

Most other professions already operate this way. Schools are available for everything from auto mechanics to journalism, but students enroll because they want a competitive edge — not because the government makes them.

Beauty schools follow different rules. State lawmakers give them a captive audience, so they collect tuition even when they fail to meet students’ needs. The sticker shock is especially bad for eyelash technicians, who don’t even learn the right occupation.

Marie Miller is an attorney and Daryl James is a writer at the Institute for Justice in Arlington, Va.



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