Dan King
Dan King · September 7, 2022

OKLAHOMA CITY—Should the government be able to force you to spend $20,000 to learn skills you don’t need to do a job you’re already qualified for? That’s exactly what the Oklahoma State Board of Cosmetology and Barbering is making a licensed eyelash extension specialist do, and in the process stripping her of her livelihood. But she’s fighting back. Today, Brandy Davis joined forces with the Institute for Justice (IJ) to file a lawsuit in state court challenging the Board’s absurd licensing requirements. 

In 2019, when she and her husband were living in Texas, Brandy completed 320 hours of coursework at eyelash extension school, passing both her written and practical exams with flying colors. Once she received her eyelash extension license from the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation, in February 2020, she opened an eyelash extension business, which quickly became popular with customers. Brandy also received a private certification from NovaLash, which is required of anyone who seeks to use their eyelash extension glue.  

Shortly thereafter, Brandy’s husband got a new job in Oklahoma, so the couple moved. This is when Brandy’s problems with the Board began. She assumed she could get a reciprocity license acknowledging her Texas license, but Oklahoma does not offer eyelash extension licenses. Instead, the Board is forcing Brandy to get a full esthetician or cosmetology license, even though she only wants to perform eyelash extensions, not other trades that are covered by the esthetician and cosmetology licenses. Brandy asked the Board repeatedly to consider her circumstances but has been denied the chance to make her case. Simply put, Brandy’s state license, private certificate and expertise mean nothing to the Board. 

“I’m not looking to do hair removal, facials or makeup work. I simply want to continue doing eyelash extensions, just like I did when I was living in Texas,” Brandy said. “I’m filing this lawsuit so people in similar situations don’t have to deal with the difficulties I’m dealing with.” 

Now Brandy works as a cosmetology apprentice at a salon in Bristow, Oklahoma.  

Brandy’s Texas eyelash extension license is still valid until February 2023, and she has completed the continuing education requirements to renew it. Her training and the exams she passed covered health and safety, infection control, eyelash care, and artificial eyelash application and removal. 

“Between her private certification and her Texas license, Brandy has studied the health and safety of eyelash extensions even more rigorously than the Oklahoma esthetician or cosmetology licenses require her to do,” said IJ Attorney Marie Miller. “She may have more certifications in eyelash extensions than anyone else in Oklahoma. And yet she is not allowed to provide eyelash extension services while cosmetologists lacking any training in eyelash extensions are allowed to practice the craft.” 

To obtain the esthetician or cosmetology license the Board requires, Brandy will have to complete 600 hours of esthetician coursework, 1,200 hours in an esthetician apprenticeship, 1,500 hours of cosmetology coursework, or 3,000 hours in a cosmetology apprenticeship. None of the programs are required to cover issues related to eyelash extensions. Afterward, Brandy would have to complete two exams, which also do not test eyelash extensions. 

“People should not be required to learn skills they will never use to do jobs they’ve already been thoroughly trained to do,” said IJ Attorney Renée Flaherty. “It makes no sense to require Brandy to spend hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars on cosmetology practices she does not want to provide.” 

IJ has fought back against similar restrictions on the ability to earn an honest living throughout the country. Last year, IJ sued the Oklahoma State Board of Cosmetology and Barbering, challenging a similar licensing requirement for eyebrow threaders. The Board responded by creating a specialty license for threaders. In 2020, IJ won a lawsuit challenging Pennsylvania’s “good moral character” requirement, which prevented two Philadelphia-area women from receiving cosmetology licenses for old criminal convictions for which they had served their time.