J. Justin Wilson
J. Justin Wilson · May 11, 2017

Today, the Louisiana House of Representatives overwhelmingly approved two bills that would repeal the state’s expensive, unnecessary and time-consuming license for African-style natural hair braiders. In Louisiana, braiders can only work if they first obtain a specialty license in “alternative hair design,” which takes at least 500 hours of training. Yet no schools currently offer that curriculum.

That stringent red tape has stifled entrepreneurship. Research by the Institute for Justice found that Louisiana had only 32 licensed braiders in 2012. By comparison, neighboring Mississippi, which does not license braiders, had over 1,200, even though Louisiana has a larger African-American population.

Sponsored by Rep. Julie Emerson, HCR 5 would eliminate the state’s alternative hair design permit, while HB 468 would exempt natural hair braiding from the state’s cosmetology laws. Both bills have earned endorsements from across the political spectrum, including from the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry, the Louisiana Legislative Black Caucus, the Institute for Justice and Americans for Prosperity.

“The government has no business licensing something as safe and common as braiding hair,” said Institute for Justice Senior Legislative Counsel Lee McGrath. “These reforms would eliminate a completely arbitrary regulation that stops braiders from earning an honest living.”

Louisiana may soon join a growing, nationwide movement to get government regulators out of braiders’ hair. Currently, 22 states have exempted hair braiding entirely from licensing laws, including, most recently, South Dakota and Indiana. Similar bills are pending in New Hampshire, New Jersey and Rhode Island.

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.