Pa. lawmakers review controversial law requiring licenses for professional hair braiding

Justin Udo
December 13, 2018 - 4:00 am

Justin Udo/KYW Newsradio


PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Pennsylvania lawmakers look to the public for input, as they examine the state's controversial law requiring a license for professional hair braiding.

Lisa Hopkins is a retired hair braider, and cosmetology teacher is an advocate that people who braid — a style of hair that's popular among black women — professionally should have a license.

“I strongly feel that hair braiders should still be regulated in Pennsylvania mainly because of all the protocols of not following sanitation laws,” she says. “And then to protect the consumer, who is investing their money into having their hair serviced.”

Hopkins says the state's mandate that braiders must train for 300 hours, and pay a $67 bi-annual fee is a bit much, but the industry needs regulation.

“It kind of extends an opportunity for you to increase your salary, and also your education,” she said.

RELATED: 2 women sue state for denying them cosmetology licenses due to 'moral character'

On Wednesday, Lisa sat down with supporters and opponents of Pennsylvania's natural hair braiding regulations at a hearing where they debated its pro's and con's.

“Hair braiding is perfectly safe,” said Lee McGrath with the Institute for Justice. “There is no need for a license.  Braiders do not use chemicals, they do not use straighteners, they don't dye hair.  All that is needed is talented hands.”

McGrath is an advocate for braiders.

“This unnecessary formal education is very expensive,” he said. “It can cost 10's of thousands of dollars not only in terms of tuition, but also in terms of time. When braiders are working to get a license, they're not working to make a living.”

State senator's Anthony Williams, and Lisa Boscola took part in the hearing. 

They say they'll use their findings to make recommendations to Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf, who wants to know if current braiding license requirements are necessary.