Prison Is the Price of Protectionism for Arizona Hairstylists

Arizona lawmakers and cosmetologists argue that an acceptable cost for a new-age hairstyle is imprisonment. And you can chalk that up to old-school protectionism.

But fortunately, state Rep. Michelle Ugenti-Rita is trying to cut costs for consumers.

Ask yourself, would you pay someone just to wash, dry, and style your hair for you? Many people do. So-called “blowout bars”—which offer a hair wash, blow dry, and styling, but not haircuts or chemical treatments—are growing in popularity and multiplying.

Next ask, would you imprison blowout stylists for not getting licenses designed for their scissor-and-chemical-wielding competitors? Many of Arizona’s licensed cosmetologists would, and, amazingly enough, the law is on their side. And those incumbents are fighting to keep those laws, and their customers, in place.

Arizona law currently requires people to pay for at least 1,000 training hours, an exam, and various fees to get a license to style someone’s hair. That includes blowout stylists, who gain nothing from the many hours of training on using sharp tools and dangerous chemicals. But they face the threat of six months in prison and fines if they work without the license.

As the late Justice Antonin Scalia would have said, “Stupid but constitutional.”

Fortunately, that law may get a long-overdue trim from a proposed bill, H.B. 2011. If enacted into law, this bill would exempt from those licensing burdens stylists who only “dry, style, arrange, dress, curl, hot-iron, or shampoo and condition hair”—so long as they do not use reactive chemicals, practice cosmetology, and they keep a sign in their business that says their “services are not regulated by the board” of cosmetology.

The blowout bar is big business. But those inapt licensing burdens, according to Ugenti-Rita, pose “an impediment to them hiring.”

So, would-be workers lose job opportunities. One Arizona cosmetologist, Jennifer Ryback, told state lawmakers at a February hearing that not only would she hire someone to handle blow-drying in her salon, she would also expect to see more customers as a result.

Moreover, Wofford College economics professor Timothy Terrell says that customers are also adversely affected by those licensing rules, in part because they “limit the number of practitioners in the occupation and thereby drive up the price.”

So, customers have fewer options and pay more.

Why? Incumbents argue that if people wash, dry, and style hair without a license, the public’s health and safety would be in jeopardy.

“What people don’t take into consideration,” said Cathy Koluch, who runs a cosmetology school business in Arizona, “is sanitation and infection control when you are touching people. You have to be taught procedures so you don’t transmit communicable diseases like lice and ringworm and MRSA and all these different bacteria out there.”

Read more of this The Daily Signal op-ed by John-Michael Seibler by clicking here.

Photo: Nastasic/Getty Images