Constitutional Rights Hanging by a Thread

February 2, 2010

IJ’s cutting-edge constitutional litigation sometimes places Institute attorneys in strange circumstances. For example, when the IJ Texas Chapter recently launched its constitutional challenge to the state’s oppressive cosmetology regulations, I found myself having my eyebrows “threaded” on the steps of the Travis County courthouse.

Eyebrow threading is an ancient grooming technique widely practiced in South Asia and the Middle East. Threaders, as practitioners are commonly known, tightly wind a single strand of cotton sewing thread, form a lasso and quickly brush the thread across the face of their customers. Unwanted hair is trapped in the lasso and effortlessly removed from its follicles. It is a painless procedure that I can, with some authority, recommend. (For a demonstration and brief video about the case, visit:

Eyebrow threading is a booming industry in Texas and around the United States because it is less expensive (just $10 or less), faster (just 5 minutes or less) and more precise than waxing and other Western hair-removal techniques. It is also healthier for the skin. In fact, dermatologists often recommend threading to their patients. The procedure is all-natural, time-tested and safe.

Unfortunately, the state of Texas is attempting to license eyebrow threading without even understanding what it is.

Eyebrow threading is not mentioned anywhere in Texas’ cosmetology laws or administrative rules, but state cosmetology police are threatening to shut down threading businesses and prevent individual threaders from practicing their trade because threaders do not have Western-style cosmetology training.

The state announced its regulation of threading by handing out staggering $5,000 fines to threading businesses and $2,000 fines to individual threaders.

The state is now demanding that eyebrow threaders spend $20,000 and one year of their lives in private, government-approved beauty schools. Keep in mind that Texas beauty schools do not teach threading and the state cosmetology licensing examination does not test threading.

Senselessly, the state wants eyebrow threaders­—many of whom have more than 20 years of experience—to learn hair styling, nail care, makeup and a host of other irrelevant practices that have nothing to do with their trade. This is no way for the government to act, especially in difficult economic times.

In December, eight brave eyebrow threaders joined the IJ Texas Chapter to sue the state for violating their constitutional right to economic liberty. The Texas Constitution’s Privileges or Immunities Clause protects eyebrow threaders’ right to earn an honest living in the occupation of their choosing free from arbitrary or excessive government regulation.

The case has already generated significant media attention with stories in every major media outlet in Texas; it even generated a front-page mention in the Wall Street Journal. Discouraged, the government’s lawyers quickly agreed to stay enforcement against our clients until the court can consider our request for an injunction.

At the Institute for Justice, each attorney would do nearly anything for our clients. Having my eyebrows threaded on the steps of the courthouse was the least I could do to educate the public about this safe, all-natural and soon-to-be-unlicensed practice.

Wesley Hottot is an IJ Texas Chapter staff attorney.

Also in this issue

Virginia Regulations Tie Yoga Teacher-Trainers in Knots

IJ 3, Red Wing 0 in Property Rights Battle

IJ’s Constitutional Law Fellowships: Harnessing Young Legal Talent in the Fight for Liberty

Make Your Dollar Go Even Further

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