Nevada Should Blush Over Makeup Artist Licensing Law

July 30, 2012

May the government require teachers to obtain government licenses to teach an occupation that individuals do not need a license to practice? According to the Nevada State Board of Cosmetology, the answer is yes.

Welcome to IJ’s latest lawsuit on behalf of makeup artists from Nevada.

In Nevada, anyone may perform makeup artistry without a license. These skilled artists work on movie sets, photo shoots and at runway shows. But even though anybody may perform makeup artistry without a license, the Nevada State Board of Cosmetology dictates that no one may teach it without first getting the government’s permission in the form of a cosmetology instructor’s license.

Makeup artistry is different from cosmetology—which involves skincare, hair care and nail care—and it is not taught in cosmetology schools. IJ clients Lissette Waugh and Wendy Robin are experienced makeup artists who wanted to share their passion for this craft. They opened their own specialized makeup artistry schools to teach others the skills to succeed as freelance makeup artists in film, television, print photography and retail cosmetics.

But the state of Nevada has ordered Lissette and Wendy to shut down their schools and threatened them with fines of up to $2,000 unless they obtain cosmetology instructor’s licenses, a process that costs thousands of dollars and requires hundreds of hours, none of which teach makeup artistry.

Even if Lissette and Wendy become licensed instructors, they still would not be allowed to operate their schools. According to the state board, Lissette and Wendy may only teach makeup artistry if they also teach Nevada’s entire cosmetology curriculum, including lessons on how to cut and color hair, and perform facials, waxing and manicures—things that are totally irrelevant to makeup artistry. And once licensed, Lissette and Wendy would be forced to spend thousands of dollars to install cosmetology equipment in their schools that is completely irrelevant to their craft—equipment like shampoo bowls and facial chairs.

As discussed in the Institute for Justice’s recent report, License to Work, such laws are often put in place only to protect the profits of existing businesses and government-mandated schools that provide costly services to their students.

These regulations are not only outrageous and irrational—they are unconstitutional. Teaching is speech protected by the First Amendment to the Constitution. If anyone is free to perform makeup artistry then anyone should be free to teach it. The Constitution also protects the right to earn an honest living free from unreasonable government regulation. Nothing could be more unreasonable than forcing Lissette and Wendy to take irrelevant classes, teach irrelevant material and install irrelevant equipment to operate their businesses.

That is why Lissette and Wendy have filed suit to fight for their rights to speak freely and to earn an honest living. Their federal lawsuit, filed in June against the state board, continues IJ’s long tradition of fighting for the rights of entrepreneurs nationwide. While lawmakers and the cosmetology cartel may try to mask what’s going on here, no amount of lipstick will make these purely anticompetitive laws look any better.

Doran Arik is an IJ attorney.

Subscribe to get Liberty & Law magazine direct to your mailbox!

Sign up to receive IJ's bimonthly magazine, Liberty & Law, along with breaking news updates about the Institute for Justice's fight to protect the rights of all Americans.