J. Justin Wilson
J. Justin Wilson · April 11, 2019

North Dakota became the latest state to untangle natural hair braiders and eyebrow threaders from a thicket of licensing red tape thanks to a bill signed late yesterday by Gov. Doug Burgum. Before the law was signed, threaders could only work in North Dakota if they became licensed estheticians, a credential that requires a minimum 600 hours of coursework. The requirements for braiders were even more burdensome: They needed a license in cosmetology, which takes at least 1,800 hours of classes, or around 420 days.

In contrast, pharmacy technicians need just three months of experience to become licensed, while emergency medical technicians—who literally hold the lives of others in their hands—have to finish at least 150 hours of coursework.

But under HB 1345, braiders and threaders are completely exempt from licensing and are now free to work without a government permission slip. Sponsored by Rep. Mike Nathe and backed by the Institute for Justice and Americans for Prosperity, HB 1345 passed both the state House and Senate unanimously.

“This is a great win for entrepreneurship, economic liberty and just plain common sense,” said Institute for Justice Legislative Counsel Meagan Forbes, who testified in favor of the bill in Bismarck. “The government has no business licensing something as safe and common as braiding or threading hair. By deregulating these practices, HB 1345 will expand economic opportunity, especially for female entrepreneurs and people of color, which in turn will help North Dakota diversify its economy.”

With a rich heritage spanning millennia, natural hair braiding is a beauty practice common in many African-American and African immigrant communities. Eyebrow threading is an ancient grooming technique that originated in South Asia and the Middle East, and uses a simple, single piece of cotton thread to remove unwanted facial hair. The two beauty practices have become increasingly popular, offering braiders and threader a shot at the American dream. And unlike cosmetologists, both braiders and threaders do not cut hair or use any harsh chemicals or dyes in their work.

“This bill means that I and many others like me can reopen our businesses in North Dakota and the public can get the services they deserve,” said Peace Suglo, who runs a braiding business in Moorhead, Minnesota, right across the Red River from Fargo. Because of North Dakota’s licensing law, Suglo had to close down her braiding shop in Fargo. She moved across state lines to Minnesota, which has a 30-hour braiding license on the books. “HB 1345 also shows that North Dakota welcomes diverse groups of people moving to the state and wants to increase business diversity and economic growth.”

With the governor’s signature, North Dakota is now the 26th state to end licensing for hair braiders. Among those states, 15 (including South Dakota) enacted their reforms in just the past five years. Bills to repeal licenses for braiders are currently pending in Florida, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island.