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Missouri Bill To Lessen Regulations On Hair Braiders Heads To Governor's Desk

Andrea Tudhope
KCUR 89.3
Sharmelle Winsett braids a client's hair at her salon in Lee's Summit, Missouri.

Regulations on professional hair braiding in Missouri may soon be loosened under a bill passed by the legislature this session. 

In Missouri, a person currently needs a cosmetology license, which requires 1,500 hours of training and costs tens of thousands of dollars, to braid hair. 

"That's more than are required to be a police officer, an EMT and a realtor, combined," says Rep. Shamed Dogan, R-St. Louis.

Dogan sponsored House Bill 1500 to remove the cosmetology licensing requirement. Under the new provisions, hair braiders will be required to register with the Board of Cosmetology and pay a fee no more than $20. They will also be required to watch a 4-6 hour instructional video.

This an issue Dogan has been working on since he was elected in 2014, and one that's gained a lot of national attention in the past few years. These regulations have been loosening across the country.

"I think one of the reasons there's a lack of job opportunities for African-Americans because of really restrictive occupational licensing requirements like this one," Dogan said.

He says Missouri stands to see thousands of jobs created from this new law. He points as an example to Mississippi, where nearly 1,500 braiders registered with the state after a 2005 change in regulations.

Dogan points out that the Missouri Board of Cosmetology is majority white and most cosmetology schools don't teach traditional African hair-braiding. 

"The Board of Cosmetology has done the industry a disservice by making rules and regulations and not allowing people of African descent to have a seat at the table," says stylist Sharmelle Winsett.

She owns Nature's Design Hair and Skin Care in Lee's Summit, Missouri, and traditional hair braiding is one of the services offered there. As a licensed cosmetologist, she says she believes sanitation rules and regulations are important to ensure healthy practices.

"However, I am a woman of African descent, and I believe that people should be able to carry on their tradition, and they should be given a pathway to do that, that will allow them to have the education they need at a reasonable price," Winsett says.

The bill now heads to Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens. 

Andrea Tudhope is a reporter for KCUR 89.3. Email her at andreat@kcur.org, and follow her on Twitter @_tudhope.

Andrea Tudhope is an award-winning multimedia journalist based in Kansas City, Missouri. She is currently coordinating producer for America Amplified, a national public media community engagement initiative funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. 
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