In 2017, New Hampshire officially became the 23rd state (now up to 26 states) to allow African-style natural hair braiders to work without a permission slip from the government.

At the beginning of 2017, New Hampshire was one of the worst states in the nation for braiders. In order to work legally in the Granite State, braiders were required to complete a 3,000-hour apprenticeship over at least two years or complete 1,500 hours of irrelevant cosmetology training to become a licensed cosmetologist.

But braiding is not cosmetology.

In fact, cosmetology classes in New Hampshire include courses like learning how to use dyes and chemicals—practices braiders reject as natural hair advocates. That’s why braiders across the state formed the New Hampshire Natural Hair & Braiding Freedom Advocates.

On January 4, Representative Carol McGuire introduced H.B. 82, a bill that defines what natural hair braiding is and exempts it from the burdensome cosmetology regulations. Members of the New Hampshire Natural Hair & Braiding Freedom Advocates testified at both the House and Senate Executive Departments and Administration Committees alongside IJ in support of the bill.

As braider Yvette McDonnell shared, New Hampshire’s cosmetology requirement didn’t make her business safer; it just made it harder to start.

After unanimously passing in the House, the bill successfully made its way through the Senate. With Governor Sununu’s signature, New Hampshire hair braiders were officially freed from the harmful barriers that prevented them from working legally. Today, braiders like Yvette are able to provide their communities with safe, cultural services and provide for themselves and their families.