Minnesota Ends Licenses For Freelance Makeup Artists and Hairstylists, Preserves Over 1,000 Jobs

J. Justin Wilson
J. Justin Wilson · May 27, 2020

Today, Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz signed a major reform bill that eliminates licensing requirements for hair and makeup artists, a move that will protect more than 1,000 jobs. Under SF 2898/ HF 3202, hair and makeup artists will be free to style hair and apply makeup as soon as they finish a four-hour course on health, safety, and infection control. Critically, these beauticians will be able to work at weddings, proms, and other social gatherings, and even offer at-home services. But performing other beauty treatments, like facials, haircuts, and manicures, would still need a license.

“By passing this bill, the Minnesota Legislature has protected hundreds of jobs and small businesses in the state,” noted Institute for Justice Legislative Counsel Meagan Forbes, who worked with lawmakers on the bill. “This important bipartisan reform will bring much needed relief to hair and makeup artists and create opportunity for many others.”

Prior to reform, anyone who wanted to earn a living applying makeup or styling hair at special events could only legally work if they obtained three separate licenses and permits. Starting in December 2018, the Minnesota Board of Cosmetologist Examiners began cracking down on beauticians, slapping them with cease and desist orders and heavy fines.

“Two years ago, the Cosmetology Board arbitrarily changed its interpretation of the law and stripped freelance hair and makeup artists of their livelihoods. These men and women are finally free to resume doing what they love,” said bill sponsor and Sen. Karin Housley.  “We should be supporting our small businesses–many of which are women-owned–not making it impossible for them to make a living.”

Compliance was a bureaucratic nightmare. Artists who styled hair and applied makeup outside of salons were forced to first obtain a license in either esthetics or cosmetology (which take 600 and 1,550 hours of training respectively), then become licensed salon managers, and then acquire a special-events permit to work at weddings and the like. Worse, cosmetology schools can charge upwards of $20,000 in tuition. In fact, Minnesota’s restrictions were so burdensome, they even triggered a civil-rights lawsuit against the Board.

“This bill means so much to me because when it’s safe for me to return to work, I will still have my business I’ve worked so hard for so many years at building,” said one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit, Cristina Ziemer, a bridal hair and makeup artist who owns Cristina Ziemer Beauty in Stillwater. “I will be so relieved to be able to pay my bills again and I’ll feel secure knowing I’ll still be able to provide for my family like I did prior to COVID-19.”

Even though millions of Americans blow dry their own hair and put on their own makeup every day without trouble, many states impose burdensome restrictions that thwart entrepreneurs who want to earn an honest living offering those services. In nearly 40 states makeup artists must become licensed, which on average, requires completing over 130 days of classes. Meanwhile, only two states–Arizona and Virginia–have exempted blow dry bars from licensing.

“It has been my pleasure to work in a bipartisan way to help the makeup artists and hairstylists in Minnesota,” said Rep. Shelly Christensen, who sponsored the bill in the House. “As a result of their energetic self-advocacy and our willingness here in the legislature to work together, we have made a positive difference in the lives of these hard-working folks.”