Braid Free or Die: New Hampshire Governor Signs Bill to Eliminate Licenses for Hair Braiders

New Hampshire became the latest state to eliminate an expensive, unnecessary and time-consuming licensing requirement for African-style natural hair braiders thanks to a newly signed law by Gov. Chris Sununu. Sponsored by Rep. Carol McGuire, HB 82 will exempt braiding entirely from the state’s licensing laws.

“The government has no business licensing something as safe and common as braiding hair,” said Paige Halper, outreach coordinator at the Institute for Justice (IJ). “New Hampshire’s new law will eliminate a completely arbitrary regulation that stops braiders from earning an honest living.”

Unlike cosmetologists, braiders do not use any harsh chemicals or dyes, while many cosmetology schools do not teach natural braiding styles or techniques. But previously, under New Hampshire law, a braider could only legally work if she first became a licensed cosmetologist, which takes at least 1,500 hours of training and can cost nearly $20,000. Only six states had stricter requirements.

“New Hampshire has famously urged residents to ‘live free or die,’” said Institute for Justice Senior Legislative Counsel Lee McGrath. “This new law proves those words are more than a motto by getting government regulators out of braiders’ hair. More states should copy such a common-sense reform.”

New Hampshire is now the latest state to join a growing, nationwide movement. With Gov. Sununu’s signature, there are currently 23 states that do not license braiders. Following similar reforms that passed in South Dakota and Indiana, New Hampshire is the third state this year to deregulate twisting, locking and braiding hair naturally.

More reforms may be on the horizon. In May, the Rhode Island House of Representatives voted unanimously on a similar exemption bill, while state senators in New Jersey introduced their own measure to eliminate licensing barriers for braiders.

Since its founding, the Institute for Justice has filed over a dozen lawsuits on behalf of natural hair braiders and is currently challenging licensing for braiding in Missouri. Last year, the Institute for Justice published Barriers to Braiding: How Job-Killing Licensing Laws Tangle Natural Hair Care in Needless Red Tape, which found that braiders received very few complaints and that strict licensing laws stifle economic opportunity.

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