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Here's Why Hair Braiders In Tennessee Are At War

Unlicensed hair braiders in Tennessee are facing hefty fines, but some stylists say licensing is a safety necessity. 

By Sharon Lynn Pruitt
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Is braiding hair a crime? Not specifically, but in the state of Tennessee, doing so without a license can cost you — big time.

The Institute for Justice, after examining meeting minutes and disciplinary actions for the Tennessee Board of Cosmetology and Barber Examiners, found that numerous individual braiders and more than 30 different natural hair shops and salons have been issued nearly $100,000 in fines since 2009. All violations were issued for unlicensed braiding, each instance of which is typically met with a $1,000 "civil penalty."

While braiders are allowed to work without a license in 23 other states, Tennessee has no such freedoms; one must earn, and pay for, a "natural hair stylist" license, which involves completing at least 300 hours of coursework at one of the few schools to offer the required courses, with tuition often costing thousands.

Fatou Diouf, a licensed natural hair stylist and salon owner in Tennessee, told Forbes that she's been fined $16,000 over recent years because she employed workers who did not have the required license to braid hair.

"We don't need 300 hours to know how to wash a clip or a comb," Diouf said.

Fatou and others who have found themselves in similar positions have banded together in support of House Bill 1809, which would eradicate licensing requirements for natural hair.

The bill has the support of Governor Bill Haslam, Representative David Hawk, and Senator Mark Norris, the latter of whom is sponsoring the bill in the Senate. A bevy of other states are in the process of taking similar action.

Not all stylists are in support of the bill, however. A number of barbers and hair stylists have banded together to fight House Bill 1809, with some calling it dangerous not to require those who work with natural hair to follow sanitation or safety rules created by the State Cosmetology Board.

"I see people who are operating out of their home, or unlicensed, or uneducated, and I see the result of [traction alopecia], the result of all types of damage," Tamika Turner, owner of the Institute of Beauty, Tennessee's first natural hair school, told LocalMemphis.com. "Even walking through the middle schools, our little children's hair is being damaged."

Those opposing the bill have the support of celebrity hairstylist Kendall Dorsey, who commented, "Deregulating natural hair is really saying that natural hair isn't important."

"The regulation is there to protect us as the professionals," she continued. "We need to work on the proper education or the appropriate license for hair braiding, which is not included in cosmetology classes."

According to LocalMemphis.com, the bill would go into effect January 1, 2019, if passed.

[Photo: Pexels.com]