March 19, 2019

Got an upcoming event that demands a great hairstyle? A blow-dry bar may be your answer. But in nearly every state—Arizona among them—blow-dry stylists are facing nonsensical overregulation.

At blow-dry bars, stylists wash, condition, and style a customer’s hair using simple tools—blow-dryers and curling irons. Blow-dry bars are growing in popularity, because they let customers avoid the time and expense of visiting a traditional salon. They’re great places to get a blowout for a prom, a party, or a formal event.

But as a new Goldwater Institute report out today explains, in every state except Virginia, blow-dry stylists are required to obtain cosmetology licenses in order to their jobs—even though their jobs don’t even touch many of the things they learn in cosmetology training. There’s no hair cutting involved, no dyeing, no perming. Getting a cosmetology license can be costly, in both money and time. Training regularly exceeds $15,000 across the country. And the number of mandatory training hours to obtain a full cosmetology license ranges from 1,000 hours in Massachusetts and New York to 2,300 hours in Oregon (Arizona requires at least 1,000 hours of training to work at a blow-dry bar).

However, the costs for not obtaining the needed license are also dislocating. Believe it or not, in Arizona, blow-drying someone’s hair without a cosmetology or barbering license is a crime punishable by up to 6 months in jail and a $2,000 fine. Does that sound fair?

In their new report, the Goldwater Institute’s Jenna Bentley and Christina Sandefur show how most states’ licensing requirements on blow-dry stylists create a “regulatory mismatch”—that is, they force stylists into investing a great deal of time and money taking classes on a variety of services they won’t even offer. Instead of requiring blow-dry stylists to have full cosmetology licenses, they recommend that states instead following Virginia’s footsteps: Remove the requirement that workers who only dry and style hair must get a full cosmetology license. “Entrepreneurs who pose no health or safety risk to the public should be free to focus on serving their clients rather than navigating a needless labyrinth of red tape,” they write.

Sixty years ago, only one in 20 American workers was required to get permission from the government to do their jobs. But today, that number’s down to one in four workers. While occupational licensing laws make sense when they’re needed to protect public health and safety, that’s not the issue when it comes to many licensed professions. In fact, in the case of Arizona blow-dry stylists, the licensing requirements are steeper than they are for licensed professions that actually do have to do with protecting the public. Bentley and Sandefur ask, “why do states like Arizona require more hours of training to use a curling iron than to become an emergency medical technician or police officer?”

Fortunately, Arizona is making efforts to do away with the mismatch Bentley and Sandefur are talking about. In late February, the Arizona Senate advanced SB 1401, which would exempt from those who “dry, style, arrange, dress, curl, hot iron or shampoo and condition hair” from cosmetology licensing requirements. And just yesterday, the bill passed the House Committee on Regulatory Affairs.

You can read Bentley and Sandefur’s full report here.

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