Governor Signs Bill Freeing Eyebrow Threaders from Arbitrary Licensing Scheme

J. Justin Wilson
J. Justin Wilson · March 16, 2012

Phoenix, Ariz.—Entrepreneurs who use their unique skills to remove and shape eyebrow hair with nothing more than a single piece of cotton thread are now free to continue working without having to first obtain an expensive and unnecessary government license. Late yesterday, Arizona Governor Janice K. Brewer signed HB 2262, a bill drafted by attorneys with the Institute for Justice and sponsored by Rep. Heather Carter of Phoenix, exempting eyebrow threaders from the state’s cosmetology licensing scheme. Arizona now joins California, Utah and Nevada as states that have recognized threading as a safe and sanitary practice by exempting threaders from cosmetology licensing laws.

“This bill eliminates an unnecessary government roadblock to earning an honest living,” said Rep. Carter. “Cosmetology schools do not teach threading. Requiring threaders to attend cosmetology school and pass the cosmetology licensing exam simply did not make any sense.”

Threading is an ancient eastern form of hair removal. The threader twists a single strand of cotton thread around her hands to form a loop that can be opened and closed. As the threader brushes the thread along the skin, the loop traps hair and removes it from the follicle. Threading is growing in popularity both in Arizona and nationwide as a method of shaping and removing unwanted eyebrow hair because it is faster, cleaner, and less painful than western hair removal techniques, such as waxing.

“HB 2262 solidifies the victory the Institute for Justice earned last year when it sued the Arizona Board of Cosmetology for its decision to require threaders to obtain a license,” explained Tim Keller, executive director of the Institute’s Arizona Chapter. “Rep. Carter’s bill protects the economic liberty of Arizona threaders and ensures Arizona consumers have access to a service that is safe, desirable and cheaper than other forms of hair removal.”

In 2009, the Board of Cosmetology declared, on its own accord, that threading fell within its jurisdiction and began requiring all threaders to obtain a cosmetology license. To obtain a license, threaders had to take at least 600 hours of classroom instruction at a cost of more than $10,000, not a single hour of which taught threading. In response to that declaration, the Institute for Justice filed a lawsuit in June 2011 challenging the board’s requirement that threaders first obtain a cosmetology license to use cotton thread to remove facial hair. Four months after filing the case, the board backed down and agreed to a consent judgment that allowed threaders to work without obtaining a cosmetology license. The consent judgment, however, left open the possibility that the board could have required licensure in the future—largely at the board’s discretion. HB 2262 forecloses that possibility and recognizes that threaders do not need to be licensed under any circumstances.

Occupational licensing is one of the biggest economic issues of our day. Twenty-nine percent of all American workers must secure a government-issued licensed before they can practice their trade. Too often, these government-demanded licenses are imposed for no other reason than to protect industry insiders from competition—hardly a proper use of government force. Licensing thus creates barriers to entry that block individuals who may be otherwise qualified and capable but who do not have the financial means or time to spend studying for a written test or obtaining a degree.

“There is more work to be done to reduce the burdens of occupational licensure in Arizona,” said Keller. “We will continue to advocate in court and in the Legislature to reduce and eliminate licensing schemes that do nothing more than fence out competition and drive up prices for consumers.”