Indiana General Assembly Passes Bill to Liberalize Hair Braiding Laws

Today, the Indiana House of Representatives and the Indiana Senate overwhelmingly approved a bill to deregulate the practice of natural or African-style hair braiding. Authored by Rep. Timothy Wesco, HB 1243 now heads to Gov. Eric Holcomb for signature.

Currently, braiders can only work if they first obtain a cosmetology license, which takes at least 1,500 hours of training. Only six states have stricter requirements. But if enacted, HB 1243 will exempt braiding from the state’s licensing laws.

“Today’s vote is a win for entrepreneurship, economic liberty and just plain common sense,” said Institute for Justice Senior Legislative Counsel Lee McGrath. “This reform eliminates a completely arbitrary regulation that stops braiders from earning a honest living.”

Unlike cosmetologists, braiders do not use any harsh chemicals or dyes. And many cosmetology schools do not teach natural braiding. Yet in Indiana and 14 other states, braiders must first become licensed cosmetologists or hairstylists, which forces them to waste thousands of dollars on tuition to learn skills that are completely irrelevant to their occupation.

Currently, braiders are free to work without a government-issued license in 21 states. In February, South Dakota became the latest state to exempt braiders from occupational licensing, while similar bills have been introduced in New Hampshire, Louisiana, Missouri, New Jersey and Rhode Island.

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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