Natural hair braiders bill becomes law
Legislation frees practitioners from inapplicable, burdensome hairdressing license standards
STATE HOUSE – Natural hair braiders are now exempt from having to become licensed hairdressers and cosmeticians under a new law passed by the General Assembly and signed by the governor this week.
The legislation (2019-H 5677A, 2019-S 0260A), sponsored by Rep. Anastasia P. Williams and Sen. Ana B. Quezada, is the result of a four-year effort to recognize natural hair braiding as a safe, natural, cultural practice, distinct from hairdressing and barbering, which requires licensing due to their use of chemicals and sharp instruments.
“For centuries, natural hair braiding has been a common practice for African and African American women and men. Hair braiding skills and techniques are passed down from generation to generation and do not require formal training. Forcing natural hair braiders to meet the same licensing requirements as cosmetologists is a clear injustice. This bill rights a wrong and allows entrepreneurs — including a lot of women from low-income neighborhoods — to make a living,” said Representative Williams (D-Dist. 9, Providence). “Natural hair braiding is an art form, limited only by the braider’s creativity. The state does not require licenses to produce art, yet, that is in effect what is occurring now with natural hair braiders. Finally lifting this senseless requirement is a triumph for our community, not only freeing braiders from onerous regulations but also bringing about a bit of sorely needed cultural sensitivity.”
The new law, which took effect immediately, defines natural hair braiding as “a service of twisting, wrapping, weaving, extending, locking, or braiding hair by hand or with mechanical devices.” The law allows braiders to use natural or synthetic hair extensions, decorative beads and other hair accessories; to perform minor trimming of natural hair or hair extensions incidental to twisting, wrapping, weaving, extending, locking or braiding hair; and to use topical agents such as conditioners, gels, moisturizers, oils, pomades, and shampoos in conjunction with hair braiding as well as clips, combs, crochet hooks, curlers, curling irons, hairpins, rollers, scissors, blunt-tipped needles, thread, and hair binders. They may also make wigs from natural hair, natural fibers, synthetic fibers and hair extensions.
Under the new law, natural hair braiders may not apply dyes, reactive chemicals, or other preparations to alter the color of the hair or to straighten, curl, or alter the structure of the hair; or use chemical hair joining agents such as synthetic tape, keratin bonds or fusion bonds.
Proponents for the legislation have argued that requiring natural hair braiders to meet the licensing requirements for hairdressers forces them to either pay thousands of dollars and undergo 1,200 hours of cosmetology training, or go into the “underground economy” to avoid being shut down.
“Passing this bill is vindication for braiders who have never claimed to be hairdressers and shouldn’t have been held to the same licensing standards. It also lets braiders practice their art much more freely, finally opening the door for a cottage industry to thrive in Rhode Island. In that way, it’s an economic development and jobs bill, too,” said Senator Quezada (D-Dist. 2, Providence).
Enactment of the law means Rhode Island joins 27 other states that do not require licensing of natural hair braiders, according to the Institute for Justice, which has advocated for the deregulation of natural hair braiders across the nation.
For more information, contact:
Meredyth R. Whitty, Publicist
State House Room 20
Providence, RI 02903