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Hair threaders win fight on not needing state license

By Howard Fischer

Phoenix, AZ – State law defines the practice of cosmetology to include a host of activities. Among those are eyebrow arching and removing unwanted hair by any means other than electrolysis. Based on that, the cosmetology board tried to shut down operations where people who were not licensed cosmetologists -- and did not have 16-hundred hours of state-approved training -- use strands of cotton thread to yank out individual eyebrow hairs. The Institute for Justice filed suit on behalf of several operators. And now the cosmetology board has agreed not to try to enforce the law against threaders -- if that's all they do. Attorney Tim Keller said there are places where state oversight is necessary. But he said this is not one of them.

(The line is, is there a demonstrated need for the government to step in and regulate an industry in order to protect public health or safety. Or is in the industry so innocuous there's simply no need for the government to get involved and to allow consumers to decide which services they want to purchase for themselves.)

The settlement to end the lawsuit does have some limits. To remain exempt, threaders would need to wash or sanitize their hands between customers. And they could not use any chemicals other than witch hazel or other astringents. This is not likely Keller's last battle over state regulations. He is now setting his sights on requirements for state-approved training to be a barber.

(Consumers can decide for themselves who they want to cut their hair. Can the government impose certain regulations on those individuals practicing barbering? Sure. New, clean pair of scissors for every client. Sterilized instruments. Those type of things.)

But Keller said that, even in the worst-case scenario of someone getting a bad haircut, it grows back. For Arizona Public Radio this is Howard Fischer.