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Ohio continues to try to untangle laws over hair braiding (2418 hits)

Even after Ohio passed a 2016 law that allowed braiders to acquire a specialized registration with less onerous training requirements, licensing braiders has been and continues to be a thorny issue among the central Ohio cosmetology community and state legislature.

Naba Ba’s fingers worked quickly, almost rhythmically, as she interwove the long strands of hair into the shape and style she wanted.

The Senegal native learned the specialized skill of African braiding from family members and friends as a child and now braids at Queen Bee’s Royal Hair Gallery on the North Side.
Ba, 45, is one of 625 Ohioans who now have a specialized registration to perform and train in African braiding under a licensed cosmetologist.

The registration, called a boutique services registration, was made possible by a 2016 law and allows braiders — who often learn the skill from a young age — to avoid paying thousands of dollars for hundreds of hours of training to get a cosmetology license of their own.

Naba Ba, originally from Senegal, braids corn rows in Ashauna Mathews’ hair, at Queen Bee’s Royal Hair Gallery, Wednesday, February 20, 2019. (Dispatch photo by Courtney Hergesheimer)

“In Africa, you just have the culture of braiding; you’re braiding your friend’s hair,” said Ba, who is being trained by Dominique Shannon, the owner of Queen Bee’s. “I’ve been doing it for a lot of years.”

There are currently 46 licensed natural hair stylists in the state, the classification for braiders who complete 450 hours of training and take an exam, according to Charley Yaniko, administrative compliance manager at the Ohio State Cosmetology and Barber Board.

Requiring a license for hair braiding has been somewhat of a contentious issue across the country, with several practitioners having sued state licensing boards for the right to practice hair braiding without a cosmetology license.

Laws vary across the country. Twenty-eight states don’t require a license, and seven require braiders to be licensed as cosmetologists or hairstylists, as Ohio did until 2016, according to the Institute for Justice, a Virginia-based public-interest law firm, which has litigated some of the cases and describes licenses for braiders as “unnecessary coursework.”

Fourteen states have registrations, or specialty licenses, like Ohio’s boutique services registration.

Licensing braiders has been and continues to be a thorny issue among the central Ohio cosmetology community and state legislature.

Last year, identical bills were introduced in the Ohio House and Senate that proposed trimming the licensing requirements for training and cosmetology classes, from 1,500 to 1,000 hours, as well as eliminating the need for natural hair stylists to get a license at all.

The state licensing board didn’t take a stance on the bills, Yaniko said, and they both failed.

Former state Sen. Charleta Tavares was a sponsor for last year’s Senate version of the bill as well as the 2016 bill. She said her goal was to reduce the cost and time commitment necessary to offer cosmetology services in the state.

“It was to put the state of Ohio in line with what is usual and customary across the country,” Tavares said. “Most people who go through the training are single moms. The training is more hours than it is to get EMS training, and it’s more money than women are ever going to make as beauticians.”

It also allows people who have grown up braiding to stay true to their roots, she said. “African hair braiding goes back centuries.”

Kia Buckingham, manager at New Directions Beauty Institute on Columbus’ Northeast Side, says she runs the only school in Ohio with a natural hair program.

“People think braiding is easy, but you do need to learn about it,” Buckingham said. “We definitely have been fighting for there to be a license when it comes to natural programs.”

She said the school’s 600-hour advanced natural hair styling program teaches more than just braiding, including sanitation and safety.

Queen Bee’s owner Shannon said it was difficult to find a good African braider who could legally braid before the boutique registration law passed, and braiding is a popular service at the salon. Shannon has worked hard to teach Ba about helping clients maintain healthy hair once it’s braided.

“Her work is great,” she said, adding that she was excited the 2016 bill passed, though she knows others that could help cosmetologists weren’t.

Ashauna Mathews, 23, of Westerville, started going to Ba about five years ago and has monthly appointments with her.

“Braids are convenient,” said Mathews, who recently graduated from Ohio State University. “While you’re in school, you don’t have to do your hair every day.”
Posted By: Elynor Moss
Wednesday, July 17th 2019 at 3:11AM
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