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NH Senate embraces deregulation of hair braiding


CONCORD — The State Senate took a giant step Thursday toward New Hampshire ending a mandate that those who braid hair must receive a state license to do so.

Without debate, senators made a minor change before they endorsed a bipartisan, House-passed bill (HB 82) to carve out natural or so-called, “African-style hair braiding” as an exemption from licensing by the state Board of Barbering, Cosmetology and Esthetics.

Martha Anthony, the owner of Jane’s Beauty Supply in downtown Manchester, said this deregulation makes sense.

“Braiding is not chemical. It uses nothing that would affect the client,” Anthony said.

A refugee from South Sudan who moved to Manchester in 1999, Anthony said friends in other states operate braid-only salons without a license. She said she would consider braiding in her store if the state would eliminate the licensing requirement.

A comb, she said, is the only tool that braiders use on hair.

Currently, New Hampshire has some of the most restrictive requirements for braiders, making them either complete 1,500 hours of cosmetology training or serve as an apprentice under a licensed cosmetologist for 3,000 hours.

Yvette McDonnell, a hair braider who lives in Maine, wanted to set up shop in North Conway but said these requirements would cost her at least $20,000.

“In other words, even though I’ve been braiding for years, none of my experience mattered to the state,” she said.

Sen. Donna Soucy, D-Manchester, said licensing is appropriate for many professions but these hair braiders do not use scissors or apply dyes that should subject them to some oversight.

“I question whether the regulation was ever even intended to cover these folks so carving them out like this is absolutely the right thing to do,” Soucy said.

This repeal legislation became a rallying cry for the Institute for Justice, a conservative think tank dedicated to reducing licensing regulation across the country.

At a seminar last month, their leaders said excessive licensing can prevent low and moderate-income citizens from starting their own small businesses.

Anthony understands why New Hampshire has required a license for braiding.

Few blacks lived in the state until recently, and braiding was just an afterthought in the mostly white state, she said.

“They didn’t know about a braid. I don’t blame them (for the licensing requirement). It’s new to them,” she said.

Most blacks don’t have their hair braided in a salon, they have friends or relatives braid their hair at home, Anthony added.

She suspected if this bill becomes law, more opportunities would arise for whites to have their hair braided.

klandrigan@unionleader.com; mhayward@unionleader.com

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