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McKnight & Speight Bill to Ease Licensing Requirements for Hair Braiders Now Law

Hoping to address the burdensome regulations that hair braiders say ignore the cultural origins of hair braiding and limits their ability to make a living, the Governor today signed legislation sponsored by Assemblywomen Angela McKnight and Shanique Speight to create a limited license for hair braiding businesses in New Jersey into law.

The measure (A-3754), which originally proposed exempting hair braiding from the state’s licensing requirements and creating a new regulatory entity to oversee these businesses, was conditionally vetoed by Gov. Murphy last month. It was since amended to concur with the governor’s recommendations.

“Hair braiders are predominantly African-American and African immigrant women. This is a skill that is often learned at an early age and passed down from one generation to the next,” said McKnight (D-Hudson). “We want to make sure that these women are able to use their skills to support themselves and their families, without excessive regulation. We want to support entrepreneurship. I also agree with Gov. Murphy that safeguarding consumer protections is important. This law addresses these concerns by reducing the requirements for hair braiders, and by including experienced hair braiders in the Board of Cosmetology and Hairstyling.”

“We want to encourage entrepreneurship, but the current regulatory system does the opposite for hair braiders,” said Speight (D-Essex). “We want to make sure these women are able to use their talent to make a living, but I also understand the need to protect the clients that seek these services. This law eases the licensing process so hair braiders who learned this skill at home are able to get their licenses quicker and at a lesser expense.”

The law creates a limited license for hair braiding. Under the bill, individuals with prior hair braiding experience would need a maximum of 40 hours of training at cosmetology school. The training includes courses in sanitation, decontamination and infection control. The bill would require 50 hours of training for those with no prior experience.

Previously, those interested in hair braiding were required to complete 1,200 hours of training.

The law also adds two members with experience owning and operating hair braiding establishments to the New Jersey Board of Cosmetology and Hairstyling. The board, which licenses and regulates these types of establishments, currently has 11 members.

The law defines “hair braiding” as the twisting, wrapping, weaving, extending, locking, or braiding of hair by hand or with mechanical devices. “Hair braiding” may include the use of: natural or synthetic hair extensions or fibers, decorative beads, and other hair accessories; minor trimming of natural hair or hair extensions incidental to twisting, wrapping, weaving, extending, locking, or braiding hair; making of wigs from natural hair, natural or synthetic fibers, and hair extensions; and the use of topical agents in conjunction with performing hair braiding, including conditioners, gels, moisturizers, oils, pomades, and shampoos.