Hair braiding and cosmetology bill signed into law

Jun 5, 2013

A new state law changes the requirements for becoming a cosmetologist and loosens the rules on professional hair styling in Utah. UPR’s Matt Jensen reports.

“If you enroll in beauty school in Utah, there’s a lot to learn. Students at New Horizons Beauty College in Logan undergo 2,000 hours of training to learn how to cut, curl and color. Plus there’s manicures, pedicures, chemical treatments, facials, skin care and the list goes on. Overall it takes about a year for a full-time student to complete the curriculum.

Cosmetology student Keylee Parks cuts the hair of Brady Case at New Horizons Beauty College on Tuesday.
Credit Matt Jensen

Last week Governor Gary Herbert ceremonially signed new legislation into law that changes the requirements for professional cosmetologists. The new law reduces the number of hours required to get a license and allows people who charge for hair braiding services to operate without a license. House Bill 238 was signed into law on March 12.

Rep. Representative James Dunnigan of Taylorsville is the lawmaker behind the change, which lowers the hour requirements from 2,000 to 1,600. It also excludes from licensure anyone who offers hair-braiding work in exchange for payment.

Dunnigan says it doesn’t make to send someone to beauty school just to learn to braid hair.

“You can do hair braiding, and you can charge a fee as long as you’re not doing stuff that gets into the cosmetologist’s realm, such as cutting hair, or dyeing, or tinting, or things like that,” he said.

Prior to the new law, anyone charging money for hair braiding services was technically violating state occupational licensing laws. Dunnigan’s bill resolved that issue but it also raised a lot of new questions.

“My bill started out to exempt hair braiding from licensure requirements, and as I worked with the interested parties, it kind of morphed into a broader bill than that,” he said.

Additional questions about hour requirements came up along with the issue of transferring those hours for certification in other states.

“This has been a two-year project for me,” said Dunnigan. “It’s really easy to say, ‘oh you should only need this amount of hours or you shouldn’t need any hours at all.' But we actually looked to see what many other states are doing, and I spent the time to go through the curriculum. And in fairness to cosmetologists, I think they provide a valuable service. They’re working with different types of solutions which can be hazardous if not applied correctly. So you need to know what you’re doing.”

As the conversation evolved, Dunnigan learned the state of Utah requires more hours from its beauty school students than the federal government requires of newly-hired airline transport pilots. Regardless, cosmetology teachers say the time commitment is necessary to educate new professionals.

“Actually, I’d like it to be more to be perfectly honest.”

That’s Roz Wood, a 34-year beauty school veteran and owner of the New Horizons Beauty College. She says she’s keeping her 2,000-hour program in place even with the new lower requirements.

“We just didn’t feel comfortable with compressing our curriculum,” she said. “That extra 400 hours – and I think the girls will agree with me – gives them that extra confidence that they need to go out and be a self-employed contracter.”

Wood says her program works well and she doesn’t see a need to rewrite the textbook. Lowering the hours could also put students in a pinch if they move to a state with higher minimums, she said.

“Our success rate is wonderful; we have great students out there and we have good education,” she said. “It has been 2,000 hours for as long I know – for 50 years. Many of the surrounding states are staying at 2,000 hours and a lot of our girls move. They get married and move to Idaho or Wyoming or Montana. They’re still – as far as I know – 2,000 hours, and I don’t want them to have to go back to school.”

The New Horizons curriculum teaches students more than just cosmetology.

“We offer a lot of additional things that are not in the cosmetology book, per se,” said Wood, “like doing taxes and resumes and things like that. We do a lot of extra stuff.”

Even though the new law won’t help New Horizons students graduate any faster, Dunnigan says he thinks the new changes could help the economic impact of cosmetology services in Utah.

“I think what we’ll see is students getting done with schooling 400 hours earlier. They can go out and set up shop and start making money and then start spending money,” he said.

According to the Utah Division of Occupational and Professional Licensing, or DOPL, there were 27,044 active cosmetology licenses in the state in 2012.

For Utah Public Radio, I’m Matt Jensen.