A state lawmaker’s proposal to relax requirements for some people who style hair in Arizona does not gel well with some beauty industry professionals.
Republican Rep. Michelle Ugenti-Rita of Scottsdale wants to repeal a state law that requires stylists in Arizona to complete at least 1,100 hours of training at a state-licensed school.
Ugenti-Rita said she was approached by lobbyists for Drybar, a decade-old national firm with three locations in the state that specializes in quickie blowouts. That can include everything from a shampoo to simply putting someone’s hair up with pins.
Only thing is that to do that in Arizona requires a state license – which Ugenti-Rita said can cost close to $10,000.
“When they told me about the scope of their business, you could clearly see that it was an impediment to them hiring, and for someone to be hired, simply to hire them for blowing out hair – blowouts they’re called -- and style,’’ she said. Ugenti-Rita said what’s being done there is far different from occurs at beauty salons.
“You can’t even get hair cutting,’’ she said. “They don’t have scissors there.’’
Her bill, HB 2011, would create an exception from licensing for those who “dry, style, arrange, dress, curl, hot-iron or shampoo and condition hair’’ as long as there are no “reactive chemicals to permanently straighten, curl or alter the structure of the hair.’’
The proposal drew a sharp objection from Cathy Koluch, founder and president of the Studio Academy of Beauty in Chandler and a member of the American Association of Cosmetology Schools board.
“Students go to school to get a cosmetology license,” Koluch said. “They are learning more than just styling hair, cutting, coloring; they’re learning the health and anatomy side of it…sanitation, infection control. When you use a flat iron, you have to make sure that you are practicing sanitation and infection-control procedures.
“People come into your salon with illnesses,” she added. “They could have an open wound, they could have lice. How are these people going to be trained to handle these situations? That’s what they learn in school. It’s never just a blow dry. You need to understand the integrity of the part of the body that you’re working on.”
Students must complete 1,600 hours of class time and do a certain number of haircuts, styles, coloring and other services to earn their cosmetology license from the Studio Academy of Beauty, Koluch said.
A cosmetology license allows them to cut, color and style hair, including with permanents and relaxers, as well as to give manicures and pedicures and provide waxing.
Students at the school provide services to clients under the supervision of a licensed educator.
“They learn the respiratory system, the nervous system, the bone structure,” Koluch said. “There’s a lot of health sciences in cosmetology. When you have somebody that’s trained, they’re going to definitely do it better.”
Students learn how to protect clients’ scalps, including how to hold a blow dryer so they do not burn them, she added.
Koluch does not have a cosmetology license and does not work on clients. She opened her Chandler campus in 2006 and started working in the adult education industry in 1989.
Anthony Colello, owner and founder of TouchUps Salon on North Dobson Road in Chandler, also is opposed to cutting the hair-styling requirements. He has worked in the salon industry for 13 years.
“I think it’s a really interesting caveat for them to be pushing,” Colello said. “I know that I personally would not be for any exceptions that weaken the professional side of our industry.
“Even though it would be an exception strictly for styling, there is a lot of client protection taught in the schools as to how to best work with certain textures of hair. I was talking to my stylists and we are concerned that clients with fragile hair types or difficult hair textures could be left permanently damaged because of the lack of understanding that comes with minimal training.”
Ugenti-Rita said the staff members who work at blow-dry bars do not even do things like hair coloring or using chemicals to make a perm.
“They blow it out, style, arrange, they curl,’’ Ugenti-Rita said. “Maybe they use some bobby pins.’’
Bottom line, she said, is her belief that nothing being done there should require a state-issued license.
“I don’t see a public health or safety issue,’’ Ugenti-Rita said. “The worst that can happen is you don’t like the way your hair is styled,” she said.
Erin Romley, who owns Studio E Hair by Erin Romley in the Seville Golf & Country Club in Gilbert, disagreed. The Chandler resident is in her 18th year working in the beauty industry.
“Your skin can be burned; your hair can be burned,” Romley said. “I would just want to know things like, who is training these people? As a cosmetologist, we are trained to look for lice, help our clients decide if their scalp is healthy or not.”
She said she has noticed clients with hair loss and she has recommended they see a dermatologist. Cosmetologists also learn how to sanitize their tools.
“It’s not just blow-drying hair,” Romley of Chandler said. “I think clientele should be worried. They shouldn’t be paying the price of a non-licensed hair stylist doing their hair. You’re getting what you pay for. If you’re paying for a professional to do your hair and they’re not a professional, then what’s the point?”
Prior efforts to create exemptions also have been met with sometimes fierce opposition from people who already have the licenses and the board that regulates them. The board is dominated by those in the field and those who teach at schools that are now the precursors of licensing.
As far back as 1983, Douglas Norton, who was the state auditor general at the time, recommended to lawmakers that they scrap all laws requiring licenses of all cosmetologists or barbers.
“Licensing is not justified because of possible harm from the use of barber implements or chemical solutions because such items are readily available to and routinely used by the general public,’’ Norton said. But legislators ignored the report amid stiff opposition from the regulated community.
In 2004, over the objection of cosmetologists, lawmakers decided that people who only braid hair for a living no longer have to be licensed.
Seven years later, the board agreed to stop trying to regulate “threading,’’ the practice of using thread to pluck eyebrows. But that came only after the Institute for Justice filed suit.
And earlier this year, Gov. Doug Ducey personally interceded when the board sought to shut down the operation of Juan Carlos Montes de Oca for giving free haircuts to the homeless in a Tucson park.
Gubernatorial press aide Daniel Scarpinato said his boss has not yet seen the latest proposal on hair styling, but he suggested it would get his boss’ approval if it passes.
“The governor’s bias would be toward making it easier for people to do it, especially if we’re not talking about anything that would jeopardize public health or safety,’’ Scarpinato said.
“We’d want to know the details and talk to the people that are dealing firsthand with it,’’ he continued. “But if we can get more people who otherwise would not be able to get hired for a job in there without them having to spend a lot of money on fees or education, that’s something the governor would be very much in favor of.’’
Howard Fischer with Capitol Media Services contributed to this story.