African-style hair braiding is a common and safe practice that has existed for thousands of years. It also offers great opportunities for entrepreneurs in African-American and African immigrant communities to support themselves and their families, start their own businesses and become their own bosses.

Braiding is distinct from cosmetology. Yet to legally braid hair for a living, braiders in many states must spend thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours on cosmetology training—training that has nothing to do with African-style hair braiding. Instead of getting their businesses off the ground, braiders get tangled up in senseless occupational and salon licensing regulations.

The Institute for Justice advocates for exempting braiders from state cosmetology licensing laws. Today, 31 states completely exempt braiders from licensure: Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Nebraska, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia and Wisconsin.

Since IJ launched its Braiding Freedom initiative in 2014, 20 states—Arkansas, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nebraska, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Texas, Vermont, West Virginia and Wisconsin—have exempted braiding from cosmetology, hairstyling, or barber licenses.

IJ’s model braiding bill is based on the day-to-day practices of braiders and offers the best language from the various state braiding laws. Since 2015, IJ’s lobbying efforts have helped legislators in Arkansas, Florida, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nebraska, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Rhode Island, Texas, South Dakota and Wisconsin to enact versions of the model bill to exempt braiders from licensing laws.

Read IJ’s Latest Report on Braiding Laws

Download Braiding Report Infographic