J. Justin Wilson
J. Justin Wilson · April 28, 2017

Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb has signed a bill that exempts natural or African-style hair braiding from the state’s cosmetology laws. Authored by Rep. Timothy Wesco and Sen. Liz Brown, HB 1243 passed by wide margins in the Indiana General Assembly.

“Indiana has long prided itself as ‘a state that works,’” said Institute for Justice Senior Legislative Counsel Lee McGrath. “This reform proves that those words are more than a motto by repealing a completely arbitrary labor-market regulation that stops braiders from earning an honest living.”

Previously, braiders could only work if they first obtained a cosmetology license, which takes at least 1,500 hours of training. Yet unlike cosmetologists, braiders do not use any harsh chemicals or dyes, while many cosmetology schools do not teach natural braiding. Unlicensed braiding could mean risking a misdemeanor charge punishable by up to $500 in fines.

“Indiana should not require a license for something as safe and common as braiding,” said Nicole Barnes-Thomas, a small business owner who had to stop braiding because of the state’s cosmetology laws. “I am proud that this bill passed and look forward to being able to get back to work as a braider.”

Indiana is now the 22nd state to exempt hair braiders from licensing laws. In February, South Dakota became the latest state to exempt braiders from occupational licensing, while similar bills have been introduced in New Hampshire, Louisiana, Missouri, New Jersey and Rhode Island this year.

Since its founding, the Institute for Justice has filed over a dozen lawsuits on behalf of natural hair braiders and is currently challenging licensing for braiding in Missouri. Last year, the Institute for Justice published Barriers to Braiding: How Job-Killing Licensing Laws Tangle Natural Hair Care in Needless Red Tape, which found that braiders received very few complaints and that strict licensing laws stifle economic opportunity.