State senators OK loosening up licensure standards for hair stylists

March 1, 2019

PHOENIX — State senators voted Thursday to allow people who are having a bad hair day get a quick fix without having to see a trained cosmetologist.

But not just anyone will be able to hang out a shingle.

SB 1401, approved on a 21-9 vote, would create an exception to existing laws that regulate who can work in a beauty salon. Those laws now require 1,600 hours of training for a full-blown cosmetology license and 1,000 hours just to style hair.

All that, argued Sen. Michelle Ugenti-Rita, is unnecessary for those who aren’t interested in doing things like tinting and cutting hair and doing perms. So she proposed an exception for those who desire only to “dry, style, arrange, dress, curl, hot iron or shampoo and condition hair.’’

That, however, provoked howls of opposition from both those who already are licensed cosmetologist as well as those who own the private schools that provide the state-mandated training.

They argued that unregulated stylists present a public health risk, with the chance of those without training potentially spreading disease from customer to customer. That was enough to provoke opposition from some lawmakers when Ugenti-Rita pushed the bill through the Senate Commerce Committee last month.

So proponents of deregulation offered a carrot: Only those who take a court on sanitation, infection protection and the law can become hair stylists without getting certified as a cosmetologist. And in a further concession, SB 1401 would allow the Board of Cosmetology to design that course.

“They’re in control’’ said Ugenti-Rita.

The key, according to Sen. Tyler Pace, who offered up the compromise, is protecting public health.

“This will help protect consumers from infections spreading and also help those who are doing the blow drying identify any of the skin issues or potential infections or sanitation issues that they would face in this industry,’’ he said.

Ugenti-Rita conceded after the vote that this still gives power to the Board of Cosmetology to throw up potential roadblocks to those who want to style hair without getting licensed. For example, there is nothing in the law to spell out how many hours the class can take or what grade would-be stylists need to get to be able to practice.

But she said she is presuming the board to do the right thing -- knowing that lawmakers are watching.

“Let’s give them an opportunity to mess up, so to speak,’’ she said. “I’m going to trust that they’re going to be reasonable, that they are going to develop a class that is designed to educate those who want to blow dry and style hair about infectious disease and sanitation but that doesn’t go overboard and now becomes a barrier to entry.’’

The measure now goes to the House.