IJ Frees Arizona Eyebrow Threaders from Government Licensing Scheme

J. Justin Wilson
J. Justin Wilson · October 12, 2011

Tempe, Ariz.—Today, five Arizona entrepreneurs proved that you can stand up to government officials to fight for your civil rights—and win. Last June, five “threaders” filed a lawsuit against the state Board of Cosmetology, challenging the Board’s requirement that they first obtain a cosmetology license in order to use a single piece of cotton thread to remove facial hair. And now those same threaders have joined the Arizona Attorney General’s Office in asking a Superior Court judge to sign a Consent Judgment that will end the litigation and prevent the Board from requiring threaders to become licensed cosmetologists.

“Our clients filed this case to vindicate one of their most precious constitutional rights, the right to earn an honest living free from unreasonable government regulation,” said Tim Keller, executive director of Institute for Justice Arizona Chapter (IJ-AZ). “Once the Consent Judgment is signed, every threader in Arizona will be able to work without fear of citations, fines or harassment from the Board.”

Threading is an all-natural method of removing human hair—most commonly from around the eyebrows—with a single strand of cotton thread. A threader winds the thread between his or her fingers to form a loop that, when brushed along the skin, can be opened and closed by increasing and decreasing the tension on the thread in order to trap and remove hair from its follicles. Threading is cheaper and faster than other hair removal techniques. It costs approximately $10 and takes between five and ten minutes to complete, depending on how much hair is removed.

Nearly two years ago, the Arizona Board of Cosmetology determined that threading fell within its jurisdiction because it involved the removal of hair. That determination meant that all threaders had to obtain a Board-issued cosmetology license in order to continue practicing threading. But to be eligible to take the licensing exam, which does not test an applicant’s knowledge of threading, a would-be threader would have to take at least 600 hours of classroom instruction at a cost of over $10,000. And worse, not a single hour of that instruction teaches threading.

“Threaders do not need full-blown cosmetology training because they just use a piece of thread,” said Paul Avelar, an IJ-AZ staff attorney. “Now threaders will have a Consent Judgment to ensure they don’t have to attend hundreds of hours of classes that are completely unrelated to their practice.”

The Consent Judgment filed today, which was negotiated by IJ-AZ attorneys with the Arizona Attorney General’s Office, prohibits the Board of Cosmetology from: (1) requiring cosmetology licenses for the practice of threading; (2) requiring that threading be done only in licensed salons; (3) imposing fines and/or civil or criminal penalties on unlicensed threaders; or (4) otherwise subjecting threaders to regulation for engaging in the practice of threading without a cosmetology license.

“I am so grateful that I can work without having to first get a completely unnecessary license,” said Juana Gutierrez, an eyebrow threader and one of IJ-AZ’s clients. “I can focus on my work now and not on looking over my shoulder for some government inspector demanding to see my license.”

“It just did not make any sense to require threaders to obtain a cosmetology license,” said Rolando “Angel” Martinez, another threader and IJ-AZ client. “Cosmetology schools don’t teach threading and the Board does not test it. I am glad I can go to work without fear of fines or even jail time.”

The Consent Judgment could not have come at a better time for Yesenia Davila, who recently moved from California to Southern Arizona. California, like other nearby states, exempts threaders from having to obtain a full-blown cosmetology license. She came to Arizona with the intention of opening her own threading business, but very nearly had to open that business across the border in Mexico in order to avoid Arizona’s absurd licensing requirements. Yesenia, who is not an IJ-AZ client, will nevertheless be protected by the Consent Judgment and is now laying the groundwork to pursue her dreams in Arizona.

“Threading is growing in popularity because it is an elegant, simple and relatively painless form of hair removal,” said Keller. “Threaders create vibrant competition with other hair removal practices, creating jobs as demand for this service grows and keeping prices low for consumers.”

IJ-AZ lawsuits have scored significant victories in the past 10 years on behalf of individuals and businesses in Arizona, including untangling natural hair braiders from the Arizona Board of Cosmetology in Farmer v. Arizona Board of Cosmetology, protecting gardeners and landscapers from absurd restrictions on the use of over-the-counter weed spray in Rissmiller v. Arizona Structural Pest Control Commission, and more recently in Bell v. Pinal County Board of Supervisors, IJ-AZ scored a victory in court when it defeated a ridiculous government demand that forced entrepreneur Dale Bell to ban dancing outside his Country & Western steakhouse, San Tan Flat, or else face fines of almost $200,000 a year.