Why Does Blow-Drying Hair in Arizona Require 1,000 Hours of Training?

State lawmaker says that makes no sense, plans to introduce bill repealing requirement.


Barbara Haddock Taylor/MCT/Newscom

Using a blow-dryer is not particularly difficult or dangerous. Millions of Americans dry their own hair every morning without widespread reports of singed scalps or accidental electrocutions. Children use them without incident.

But picking up a hair dryer in the state of Arizona and using it to dry someone else's hair, for money, requires more than 1,000 hours of training and an expensive state-issued license. Blow-drying hair without a license could—incredibly—land you in jail for up to six months.

America is saturated with ridiculous licensing rules that do little to protect public health or safety. They exist mostly as a way to drive-up prices and restrict employment. Cosmetology licensing laws are some of the worst offenders of common sense, and Arizona's cosmetology licensing laws truly boggle the mind. Doing something as simple as shampooing, drying, and styling hair requires a full-fledged cosmetology license, which includes years of training in hair and skin care, makeup application, and other un-related skills.

Before applying for that license, an applicant would have to graduate from a beauty school, which can cost as much as $15,000 in tuition.

State Rep. Michelle Ugenti-Rita (R-Scottsdale) says the licensing requirement is particularly troublesome for so-called blow-dry bars—salons that offer nothing more than shampooing and styling of hair, without cutting, coloring, or other more advanced hair care.

She plans to introduce a bill to exempt workers who "dry, style, arrange, curl, hot-iron, or shampoo and condition hair" from the state's cosmetology licensing law, as long as they do not use chemicals to permanently straighten or curl hair and do not cut hair either.

"When they told me about the scope of their business, you could clearly see that it was an impediment to them hiring, and for someone to be hired, simply to hire them for blowing out hair," Ugenti-Rita told the East Valley Tribune this week.

That makes a lot of sense, so naturally cosmetology schools are opposed to it.

"Students go to school to get a cosmetology license," Cathy Koluch, a member of the American Association of Cosmetology Schools and the owner of a salon in Chandler, Ariz., told the East Valley Tribune. "They are learning more than just styling hair, cutting, coloring; they're learning the health and anatomy side of it."

That's exactly the problem. There's no reason to require all those classes if a prospective salon worker wants to do nothing more than dry and style hair—something he or she would be free to do, legally, for free, at home. Charging for those skills and practicing them in a salon should not trigger onerous training and licensing requirements.

Of course a story about cosmetology licensing would not be complete without hyperbolic statements of the potential harms that could befall customers serviced by unlicensed workers.

"People come into your salon with illnesses," Koluch says. "They could have an open wound, they could have lice. How are these people going to be trained to handle these situations?"

Anyone with an open wound on their head should probably seek professional care from someone with a different sort of license—the kind that you get after attending medical, rather than beauty, school. An unlicensed professional working in a dry bar is probably going to do the same thing that a licensed cosmetologist with 1,000 hours of training would do: tell you to go to a hospital and have your injury treated.

This sort of hyperbole is par for the course in Arizona. Unlicensed barbers are "a real risk," Donna Aune, executive director of the Arizona State Board of Cosmetology, told a local television station in Tucson earlier this year when defending the board's decision to investigate a student who gave free haircuts to homeless people.

Aune also shows up several times in a 2009 investigation by about the "dangers" of receiving a manicure or pedicure from an unlicensed professional. And she pops up in this absurd story about a terrible eyebrow waxing accident—in a fully licensed salon, by the way—trying to pin the blame on unlicensed cosmetologists and calling for more state agents to conduct inspections.

When she's not fear-mongering about the consequences of a bad haircut or investigating acts of goodwill, Aune is ringing up huge travel bills and dining out at the taxpayers' expense, as the state comptroller reported in a September audit.

Cosmetology boards and lobbyists for beauty schools can justify absurd licensing laws any way they want, but they are, at last, on the defensive. Gov. Greg Ducey has indicated support for licensing reform in Arizona and Ugenti-Rita's bill would make it easier for entrepreneurs to work in the state by undoing a pointless, punitive licensing measure.

"Requiring blow dry bar stylists to get cosmetology licenses does not protect the public health and safety—after all, people shampoo, blow dry, and style hair in their homes all the time, without any special training," say Christina Sandefur and Jenna Bentley, of the Arizona-based Goldwater Institute, a free market think tank that supports the bill.

"Arizona's stifling regulations leave blow dry stylists without work," they wrote in an op-ed this week. "and customers with fewer options at higher prices."

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  1. Sounds like you guys are just jealous that us Arizonans have extra bounce and volume.

    1. But enough about your pubic hair, BUCS.

      1. Hmm, why is it the last time I asked an Arizonan to condition, style, and blow-dry mine, she specifically said, “Uh-uh, they didn’t train me for this shit,” and walked away indignantly? You’re getting taken for a ride, Copper Staters!

    2. Start earning $90/hourly for working online from your home for few hours each day… Get regular payment on a weekly basis… All you need is a computer, internet connection and a litte free time…
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  2. NY, infamously, not only has one of the most onerous training requirements but bans transfers. Yep, if you’d been cutting hair for 50 years in New Jersey you still have to go to a New York beauty school and start at day one if you want to work on this side of the Hudson.
    In our defense: Have you been to Long Island? It takes a lot more than 1,000 hours of training to learn to blow dry that shit. (Probably takes damn near that long to do the actual blow drying, matter of fact.)

  3. Reason, hire this bitch, she’d fit right in.

  4. Abraham Lincoln died of an unlicensed haircut.

    1. :O

  5. Everyone know that these licensing requirements are promoted by existing market participants to reduce new entrants into the marketplace and by schools that sell the training to meet the educational requirements. Do we even have to pretend this is about consumer safety? Barber, please.

    1. You won’t be so smug when you realize your uneducated, unlicensed barber has replaced his Barbasol with PowerAde.

  6. My barber told me that here in CA, in order to get a cosmetology license one has to also do a ridiculous number of hours of nails, even if one is planning a career in hair and never plans to touch a nail.

  7. You ever try running a hair dryer? I thought not.

  8. Actually, transmissible disease is a reasonable point. It’s not hard to imagine dumbasses at a drybar spreading lice all over the town.

    However, it seems obvious that a $15k certificate is necessary. I would think that a weekend course in how to sanitize your equipment would suffice. You could maintain the requirement that the facility be licensed and the liability fall on the manager/owner who holds the license. There is no reason that every person who pushes a broom or a hairbrush be independently licensed to perform every conceivable cosmetic procedure.

    1. Or people could just vote you down on Yelp for giving them lice.

  9. However, it seems obvious that a $15k certificate is NOT necessary.

  10. Say, why didn’t a Libertarian member of the AZ Legislature bring this issue up, and introduce legislation to repeal such an intrusive occupational licensing scheme?
    Oh, that’s right, there are no Libertarian Party members elected to the AZ Legislature, so it is left to a Republican to advance the concept of Freedom & Liberty there.
    Perhaps they are deserving of some support?

  11. It’s Arizona. Can’t you just step outside and let the hot desert wind blow dry your hair? Or does too much sand get in your teeth?

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  13. Should keep this around. Separates the professionals from ametures.

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