African-style, natural hair braiding is a time-tested practice that is deeply rooted in African cultural heritage.  And it’s totally safe:  it is simply braiding hair.  Yet some states require braiders to obtain cosmetology licenses in order to braid legally, which can require thousands of hours of irrelevant training in using harmful dyes and chemicals—practices braiders abhor.  But across the country, legislatures are exempting braiders from these licenses, and Rhode Island may be next.

Barriers to Braiding: How Job-Killing Licensing Laws Tangle Natural Hair Care in Needless Red Tape

In Rhode Island, braiders must obtain 1,500 hours of cosmetology training—coursework that starts at $15,000—learning how to use dyes, chemicals, and heat, practices that braiders reject.  But braiding is not cosmetology.  Plus, it’s likely the legislature never even intended to regulate braiders as cosmetologists in the first place.  These regulations keep hard-working braiders in the illegal underground economy, or out of work completely.

That’s why Rep. Anastasia Williams teamed up with IJ and a local hair braider to introduce H.B. 5436, which simply exempts braiders from the state’s cosmetology regime.  It passed the House unanimously in May, and we await a committee hearing in the Senate.

This bill would allow Rhode Island’s hard-working braiders like Jocelyn DoCouto to become legally protected entrepreneurs.  Jocelyn is a talented and passionate braider, who has spent her career advocating for the use of protective and natural styling to her clients—yet she’s required to take classes that teach the opposite, or be an outlaw.

This bill would ensure that a growing industry dominated by African American women isn’t stifled by a burdensome law that was never intended to regulate it.  And it would add Rhode Island to the growing roster of states that have adopted similar legislation.

Braiding is safe for braiders to perform and safe for the people getting their hair braided.  Braiders and natural hair stylists do absolutely nothing to a patron’s hair and scalp that the patron may or may not do to themselves, at home.   We will fight to ensure that Rhode Island is one of the next states to join the other 23 that do not require a license to braid hair.

Check out IJ’s model braiding bill here.