PHILADELPHIA, December 12, 2018 – At the request of state Senator Anthony H. Williams (D-Phila./Delaware), the Senate Democratic Policy Committee today held a hearing in Philadelphia on the senator’s proposal to do away with the cosmetology school licensing requirement for natural hair braiders.

“It is completely unnecessary to require natural hair braiders to complete hundreds of hours of cosmetology school instruction,” Williams said. “My legislative proposal would eliminate this costly and senseless requirement that discourages interest in the profession.”

Sen. Lisa Boscola (D-Northampton/Lehigh), who chairs the committee, added, “This is a perfect example of government being more of the problem than the solution. It’s time to do away with these onerous and needless training requirements that aren’t even pertinent to the hair braiding craft.”

In Pennsylvania, hair braiders are required to undergo 300 hours of cosmetology instruction to obtain a state license. Williams’ proposal would remove the cosmetology school requirement while maintaining other licensing dictates such as customer health and safety requirements.

According to the Pennsylvania Department of State, Pennsylvania currently has 34 licensed natural hair braiders. It is widely assumed that most hair braiders operate without the required license.

Astou Diop learned natural hair braiding in her native Senegal, “Braiding has grown in me as an expression of identity, culture, art, invention and reinvention.” However, when Diop went to a school to try to get her cosmetology license, she was seriously concerned that the school she visited, “taught techniques that are irrelevant and inconsistent with natural hair braiding.”

Williams also contends that natural hair braiding differs from cosmetology practices. Yet braiders in Pennsylvania must spend thousands of dollars and endure hundreds of hours in cosmetology training — even though the training has nothing to do with African-style hair braiding. Williams noted that “senseless occupational and salon licensing regulations have discouraged many people from taking up the profession.”

Meanwhile, consumer complaints about hair braiders are extremely rare. An Institute for Justice study revealed that the probability of a consumer complaint against a hair braider is a miniscule 0.0035 percent. Twenty-five other states currently exempt hair braiders from licensing.

Ian Harlow, Acting Deputy Secretary for Regulatory Programs and Commissioner of Professional and Occupational Affairs at the Pennsylvania Department of State discussed the department’s views of the regulatory requirements in place. “The Administration and Department of fully support legislative efforts to remove unnecessary burdens,” he Harlow.

Williams said Pennsylvania’s licensing regulations have little consumer benefit while discouraging business and entrepreneurial activity. He said the licensing requirement “does far more harm than good.”

Sen. Shariff Street (D- Philadelphia), who spoke about his own experience wearing his hair in box breads, thanked both Sen. Boscola and Sen. Williams for providing the platform to discuss the topic of natural hair braiding.

Hearing participants included the following:

  • Ian J. Harlow, Acting Deputy Secretary for Regulatory Programs, Commissioner, Bureau of Professional and Occupational Affairs;
  • Nadia Hewka, Staff Attorney, Community Legal Services of Philadelphia;
  • Eric Edi, PhD., Chief Operating Officer, Coalition of African and Caribbean Immigrant Communities;
  • Astu Balde, Maimouna Thiam “, Aissatou Diop, Asttan Sacko, and Adidatou Macauley, hair braiders;
  • Lisa Hopkins, Former Cosmetology Instructor, School District of Philadelphia & Mercy Vocational High School;
  • Kimberly Nesmith, Salon Owner, Cosmetologist;
  • Pearl Baily-Anderson, Salon Owner, Board Certified Trichologist; and
  • Lee McGrath, Senior Legislative Counsel, Institute for Justice


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