News Story

State Licensure Mandate Ensnarls Another Hair Braider

Washing hair without a license could land Kalamazoo woman in jail for a year

The state of Michigan issued a cease-and-desist order to a hair braider in a Kalamazoo salon last year for washing a customer’s hair without a license.

A state investigator discovered an unlicensed hair braider had rinsed out the hair of a customer who had arrived with her hair already shampooed.

Michigan law requires establishments that provide various haircare services such as hair cleansing to have a state-issued cosmetology license. To obtain a license, students must pay an institution for 1,500 hours of training (in the case of one Kalamazoo-area beauty school, $13,800) and then complete a state exam. Hair braiding licenses are optional but getting a cosmetology license to legally shampoo hair for pay requires 25 times as much mandated training as a residential builder, who builds homes for a living.

Kimberly Buddin-Crawford, policy counsel with the ACLU of Michigan, said this state has more occupational licenses than almost any other state. She also said these licensing rules often disproportionately affect minority communities and residents with a criminal record.

“We really need to look at how we’re regulating employment and the disproportionately impact that may be having on certain communities,” Buddin-Crawford said. “There’s a bipartisan push right now to reform occupational licensing.”

According to the ACLU staffer, 21 percent of workers in Michigan are legally required to obtain a license in order to work. And in Michigan, "good moral character" provisions in licensing laws mean the state can deny licenses based on having a criminal record.

Haircare-related licensing laws don’t always remain laws forever. Earlier this year the Tennessee Legislature repealed the state’s shampoo licensing requirement. The repeal came after the Beacon Center, a free-market think tank in Nashville, filed a lawsuit against the state licensing board on behalf of a woman looking to earn extra income at her friend’s salon.

In January 2016 Karen Oram-Proudfoot, who lives near Kalamazoo, filed a complaint with the state’s licensing department when she learned that Singleton-Moore worked in a salon without a cosmetology license. She had seen Singleton-Moore’s hair braiding services advertised on a Facebook page of the unlicensed woman’s mother, Stephanie Moore, a Kalamazoo County commissioner.

Singleton-Moore was working a hair braider at Stephanie Renee’s Salon. The salon employs both licensed cosmetologists and hair braiders without licenses.

In March, an investigator from the state regulatory agency learned from talking to clients in the salon that Singleton-Moore and one of her colleagues were washing clients’ hair.

According to the salon’s owner, Stephanie Brown, customers coming to the salon to get their hair braided are asked to arrive with their hair already shampooed and washed.

The day the state investigator learned Singleton-Moore had rinsed out a customer’s hair, Brown said the person warned her that customers could be burned if they were having their hair washed by unlicensed staff. Brown told the investigator that her shampoo bowls will only heat the water to a preset temperature and can’t burn people.

In August, the state issued a cease-and-desist order to Singleton-Moore, telling her that she had committed a misdemeanor by shampooing without a license and could be punished with a fine of $500 and up to 90 days’ imprisonment. Further violations are punishable by a $1,000 fine and one year of imprisonment.

According to Brown, Singleton-Moore stopped working at her salon in June 2016. Brown added that she is still facing litigation from the state even though Singleton-Moore is no longer working there.

When asked why she filed the complaint with the state regulatory agency, Oram-Proudfoot said Singleton-Moore was practicing cosmetology without cosmetology education or a license. She said that was unfair.

Stephanie Renee’s Salon has a 4.8-star rating on Facebook with 60 reviews.

“All it takes is someone who doesn’t like you and then there goes your business,” Brown said.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median hourly wage for hairdressers, hair stylists and cosmetologists was $11.66, with a median annual salary of $24,260.

Michigan Capitol Confidential is the news source produced by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Michigan Capitol Confidential reports with a free-market news perspective.