J. Justin Wilson
J. Justin Wilson · April 20, 2017

Today, the New Hampshire Senate approved a bill to deregulate the practice of natural or African-style hair braiding. Under New Hampshire law, braiders can only work if they first obtain a cosmetology license, which takes at least 1,500 hours of training. Only six states have stricter requirements. But if enacted, HB 82 will exempt braiding from the state’s licensing laws.

“I wanted to start my own braiding business in Conway,” wrote Yvette McDonnell, a natural hair braider, in today’s Union Leader. “Unfortunately, New Hampshire has some of the most burdensome requirements for braiders.”

Unlike cosmetologists, braiders do not use any harsh chemicals or dyes. And many cosmetology schools do not teach natural braiding. Yet in New Hampshire and 14 other states, braiders must first become licensed cosmetologists or hairstylists, which forces them to waste thousands of dollars on tuition to learn skills that are completely irrelevant to their occupation.

“The government has no business licensing something as safe and common as braiding hair,” said Paige Halper, outreach coordinator at the Institute for Justice (IJ). “This bill would vindicate the right to economic liberty for natural hair braiders.”

With HB 82, New Hampshire may soon join a growing reform movement. In 21 states, braiders are free to work without having to procure a license from the government. In February, South Dakota became the latest state to exempt braiders from occupational licensing, while similar bills have been introduced in Indiana, LouisianaMissouriNew Jersey and Rhode Island.

Since its founding, the Institute for Justice has filed over a dozen lawsuits on behalf of natural hair braiders, leading to reforms in Arizona, Arkansas, California, the District of Columbia, Iowa, Minnesota, Mississippi, Ohio, Texas, Utah, and Washington State. IJ 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.