Free style: lower barriers to cosmetology jobs

Tom Lampman Oct 21, 2015

Excessive licensure laws all but ban underprivileged Ohioans from certain job opportunities. For example, getting an Ohio cosmetology license requires 1,500 hours of training that can cost between $6,500 and $10,000. It is illegal to work braiding hair or painting nails without this license. With Ohio’s slower than needed job growth, it makes no sense to place such high barriers to entering simple jobs. HB 227 and SB 213 would moderately improve access to hair styling jobs, but would leave the highest barriers in place.

Both bills propose limiting the scope of cosmetology regulations, exempting the simplest beauty services from licensure. Complex services like cutting and dyeing hair would still require a license, but simple services like braiding hair or applying eyelash extensions would only require registration with the State. This makes sense, as braiding hair safely does not require 1,500 hours of training. Removing this licensure requirement removes a substantial and irrational burden on talented hair-braiders seeking employment.

Although these bills make limited progress in lowering barriers, they are far from sufficient. It is unfortunate that neither one lowers the amount of training required. If fewer services require a cosmetology license, shouldn’t fewer hours of training be needed to get such a license?

Regardless of whether the pending bills become law, the 1,500-hour requirement should still be lowered. High license requirements drive up prices to consumers, but it is not clear that they improve safety or quality of service. New York and Massachusetts license cosmetologists with 500 fewer hours of training than Ohio, and neither state seems to be suffering from many hair-dye-related injuries.

HB 227 and SB 213 can be applauded for freeing some cosmetology services from unneeded regulation. Many licensed professions, such as auctioneering and athletic training, could likely benefit from similar common-sense reforms. With this success in mind, policymakers should set their sights on loosening more licensure requirements that limit Ohioans’ opportunities.