Hair braiders in Kentucky were finally untangled from burdensome and unnecessary laws earlier this month. On April 8, Kentucky became the latest state to exempt hair braiders from cosmetology licensing laws. The Institute for Justice’s Activism team helped Kentucky hair braiders organize to demand reforms to the state’s cosmetology licensing laws. Gov. Matt Bevin signed SB269 into law, which exempts hair braiders from needing to spend 1,800 hours and up to $20,000 to obtain a cosmetology license to go into business for themselves. Prior to the bill’s passage, the penalties for braiding hair without a license were up to $500 in fines and up to six months in jail.

Natural hair braider Kine Gueye told WDRB, “I am free now, and everyone else… [s]isters, aunties and anyone else braiding hair all over Louisville: you are free to open your shop.”

However, according to WDRB, the Kentucky Congress of Cosmetologists, a trade association representing license holders, is “lobbying the state to revise its new law, claiming it’s dangerous for customers.” Stephanie Hicks, of the Kentucky Congress of Cosmetologists, objected to the new law saying, “They’re braiding with the lack of knowledge in caring for the scalp, scalp disorders, skin disorders…Basically, it’s like discrimination…You are singling out one group from the rest.”

Hicks’ claim of discrimination is outrageous and a pretextual excuse to keep her competition locked out of an industry. The only discrimination going on was that of the women kept from starting their own hair braiding businesses. According to IJ’s report Untangling Regulations hair braiding is a perfectly safe profession. 15 other states do not license hair braiders whatsoever and have not suffered negative effects as a result. Kentucky was not the only state to protect braiders this year. Nebraska also exempted hair braiders from needing to get a cosmetology license after the governor signed L.B.898 into law back in March.

Since its founding, IJ has protected the rights of braiders in Washington, D.C., California, Ohio, Arizona, Mississippi, Minnesota, Utah, Texas, Washington, and Arkansas. IJ is currently challenging the licensing of hair braiders in Iowa and Missouri.