Deregulation Causing Debate Among Some Virginia Hair Stylists

Posted: Updated:
Image courtesy Luxie Hair Services Image courtesy Luxie Hair Services
Destinee Wright Destinee Wright
Karen Brown Karen Brown

Hair stylists in central Virginia are taking sides in a debate over whether hair braiding should require a license.

A new law that goes into effect at July 1st clarifies hair braiding is not cosmetology, and therefore does not require a license.

Virginia deregulated hair braiding licenses in 2012 saying it was limiting job opportunities in an already struggling market. The results have been positive - increasing salon growth by 7 percent - but, teaching professionals don't necessarily agree with the law.

Virginia Department of Professional and Occupational Regulation found in 2012 that hair braiding showed "no evidence of public harm." So the state got rid of the nearly 200 hours of training and licensing fees. That deregulation is seen as a victory in the African-American community.

“This is a cultural thing, this is passed down. This is something that we need for our hair so, it's totally unfair to be charging people to do something like this,” said Destinee Wright with Luxie Hair Services LLC.

But CATEC Cosmetology Instructor Karen Brown says this was the wrong move: “Yes, it is a custom, but most importantly, it truly is a craft.”

She says braiders need formal training

“Without question. I mean, it's a specialized field. I mean, some of the things that are misunderstood is the fact that if you are braiding and doing it incorrectly, you can cause traction alopecia, balding, breakage of the hair,” Brown said.

A bill passed by the General Assembly this year puts the department's deregulation into Virginia law.

Those in the industry - like Wright - say the change in the law likely won't affect business.

“People are going to continue to braid regardless of what's happening, because a lot of the braid culture, especially in Charlottesville, people are braiding out of their homes. They're doing it for friends and family and it's something that's hard to come by because mostly salons don't offer braiding services,” said Wright.

Wright charges between $120 to $600 services. Styles can take up to 12 hours.

“I know some people who would drive all the way to Richmond or DC to get their hair done in a salon space, which isn't always the best setting for braiding because it takes so long. So, honestly, the home is the best place to get your hair done because you can hang out, eat, watch Netflix, you know,” Wright said.

Brown says that's hurting licensed stylists in salons: “It's not something that is done in salons because it's very hard for people to charge for those services when there's someone in someone's kitchen doing it at a discounted price”

Virginia has some of the strictest occupational licensing requirements in the country for low-income jobs.

Another new law passed this year will reduce these requirements by 25 percent over the next 3 years.