Arizona Hairbraiding

Institute for Justice Arizona Chapter Unbraids Arizona’s Cosmetology Licensing Laws for African Hairbraiders
Farmer v. Arizona Board of Cosmetology

Essence Farmer

Institute for Justice Arizona Chapter client Essence Farmer

The Institute for Justice Arizona Chapter helped secure a major economic liberty victory for Essence Farmer and other aspiring natural hairbraiders in Arizona when the state legislature passed in April 2004 a law exempting braiders from the State’s cosmetology licensing scheme.  

Arizona’s Board of Cosmetology had required individuals who practice natural hairbraiding, but no other activity considered “cosmetology,” to obtain a full cosmetology license.  This requires 1,600 hours of classroom instruction and at least $10,000 in tuition.  Yet the Board-approved cosmetology curriculum does not include any instruction on natural hairbraiding.  Rather, the curriculum requires extensive knowledge of practices that are antithetical to the principles of natural hair care.

The legislature took notice when IJ-AZ filed a civil rights lawsuit on behalf of Essence in December 2003, seeking to have the scheme declared an unconstitutional infringement of the right to earn an honest living without excessive government interference.  With the legislation freeing her to pursue her chosen career, Essence began the work of opening her own studio, Rare Essence Braiding Studio, in Phoenix.


Essential Background


Backgrounder: Untangling African Hairbraiders from Arizona’s Cosmetology Regime

Client Photo

Client Video - none available

Latest Release: Essence Farmer Announces the Grand Opening of Rare Essence Braiding Studio in Glendale, AZ (July 13, 2006)

Legal Briefs and Decisions

none available

Launch Release: Economic Liberty Lawsuit Challenges Arizona’s Cosmetology Licensing Laws (December 8, 2003)

Case Timeline

Filed Lawsuit:


December 8, 2003

Court Filed:


Maricopa County Superior Court

Key Dates(s):


April 16, 2004:  Arizona Governor signs legislation exempting hairbraiders from the State’s cosmetology laws



April 22, 2004: IJ-AZ dismissed lawsuit following the passage of a law exempting hairbraiders from Arizona’s unreasonable cosmetology licensing scheme

Additional Releases

Maps, Charts and Facts

Release: Institute for Justice Arizona Chapter Declares Victory & Dismisses Lawsuit Challenging Arizona’s Cosmetology Regime (April 22, 2004)

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Op-eds, News Articles and Links

Article: Arizona Hairbraiders Declare Independence From State Cosmetology Regime, Liberty & Law (October, 2006)



Article: IJ-AZ Untangles Burdensome Barrier (June 2004)

Article: Untangling Arizona’s Hairbraiding Law (February 2004)

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