Inside the Insane Battle Over Arizona's Blow-Dry Licensing Bill

Gov. Doug Ducey called the Arizona cosmetology board "a bunch of special interest bullies," and cosmetologists across the state are proving him right.


Mike Kemp Blend Images/Newscom

Brandy Wells never anticipated the amount of vitriolic abuse she would receive over—of all things—her public support of a proposal to let people blow-dry hair without a state-issued license.

"I've been called a cunt, a bitch, an ass, trashy, a puppet, a pawn, repugnant," Wells says. "And my favorite: 'your logic on deregulation of cosmetology is much like your hair, dull and flat.'"

Wells says she's received several attacks from cosmetologists on social media accusing her of being "uneducated" or "clueless" about cosmetology because she doesn't work in the industry. It's true that Wells isn't a licensed cosmetologist (though she does, in fact, know how to use a blow-dryer, she confirmed to Reason), but that's actually the precise reason why she's speaking up.

Wells serves as the lone "public member" of the Arizona State Board of Cosmetology. That means she is the only member of the seven-person board who does not work in some capacity as a cosmetologist or with a connection to a cosmetology school. Last month, she voiced her support for House Bill 2011, which would removing blow-drying from the state's cosmetology licensing requirements. Under current law, using a blow-dryer on 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.

In response, Wells says, members of the cosmetology profession have sent messages to her employer, the Arizona Chamber of Commerce, suggesting that she should be fired—fired because she thinks people can safely blow-dry hair without 1,000 hours of training!

The cosmetology board is "a group of special interest bullies," said Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey, a Republican, in his recent State of the State address. The board, Ducey said, "is going after people who simply want to make a living blow-drying hair. No scissors involved."

This week, the fight over the so-called "blow-dry bill" spilled into the state legislature. The state House Military, Veterans, and Regulatory Affairs Committee held its first hearing on the bill, and licensed cosmetologists packed the room to speak one-by-one about the potential dangers of letting unlicensed professionals blow-dry hair.

It was amazing.

Unlicensed blow-drying will "hurt society," said one salon-owner who spoke to the committee. "The possibility of a health crisis will rest on your shoulders, and your scalps," offered another. Other testifiers worried about the potential for burnt skin and damaged hair, and one went even further by reading the manufacturer's warning on a curling iron: "It could burn eyes!" It went on like that for well over an hour (watch the video here).

Donna Aune, executive director of the cosmetology board, warned the committee that delicensing blow-drying would allow untrained individuals to use dangerous chemicals on the scalps of unsuspecting consumers. She was either unfamiliar with the actual proposal or deliberately trying to mislead. The bill exempts only blow-drying, curling, shampooing, and other hair styling services from the state's cosmetology licensing requirements, as long as the service does not involve any chemicals—like those used for perms.

Diana Ellis, who said she had 34 years of experience as a hairstylist, put the cherry on top.

"If there are unlicensed stylists that work in these bars, they are going to take a lot of work from us," Ellis told the committee. "I think that's just really unfair."

Licensing requirements are artificial barriers to entry for workers, and limit competition for incumbent businesses. But there's no good reason for government to prevent competition between hair salons or to help current hairstylists and salon-owners keep their prices higher by eliminating would-be competitors.

"It limits job opportunities. It's a barrier to newcomers in the industry, and it increases the cost of the service. None of which helps the public," said state Rep. Michelle Ugenti-Rita (R-Scottsdale), who sponsored the one-page proposal. "This is what reducing the size of government looks like."

Nothing in the bill would prohibit customers from seeking out licensed cosmetologists if the extra 1,600 hours of training is important or essential. Eliminating the licensing requirement for blow-drying hair would mean only more options for consumers and more opportunities for workers.In fact, it might help current license-holders, something more of them might see if they weren't so fixated on maintaining their government-enforced protectionism.

Jennifer Ryback, a cosmetologist from Gilbert, Arizona, told the committee that she would love to hire an assistant to handle blow-drying responsibilities at her salon. Doing so would let Graves double the number of clients she can serve in a single day, and would provide a good-paying entry-level job for someone who is considering a career in cosmetology.

If existing business owners want to only hire people with a state license, nothing in the bill would force them to do otherwise.

"Those who want to only hire individuals who have a cosmetology license as free to do so," says Ugenti-Rita. "If that's something the business believes in, certainly by all means have that as your hiring standard."

If the heat from a blow-dryer constitutes a public safety danger, than all of Arizona should be on alert about the temperature of the rhetoric surrounding Ugenti-Rita's proposal. Wells says she hopes lawmakers stay focused.

"I care about this because people want to work," she told Reason. "Blow drying and styling are a form of art. Let the artists practice their art. If the client doesn't like how they blow dry, they don't have to go back."

NEXT: When the Constitution Was 'At War With Itself,' Frederick Douglass Fought on the Side of Freedom

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  1. Why would someone pay someone else just to blow-dry their hair?

    1. Because they are too lazy to get the 1000 hours of training?

      1. Close the thread. This guy just won it.

        1. I’m making over $7k a month working part time. I kept hearing other people tell me how much money they can make online so I decided to look into it. Well, it was all true and has totally changed my life.

          This is what I do…

    2. You can’t be that dense. It’s part of finishing the hair styling. LIke the one cosmetologist said she’d be happy to hire an inexperienced person to finish up the mundane tasks of shampooing and drying hair that don’t require knowledge of chemicals like perms, coloring, and the like. She could add an entry level job and it would give her more time to help other customers.

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  2. You don’t get that David Cassidy look you crave, all by yourself.

    1. Faberg? Organics. Use the shampoo and conditioner. And when your hair is damp ? it’s not wet, okay? it’s damp ? do four puffs of the Farrah Fawcett spray.

  3. I think that the mechanical techs at the garage should also get PhDs in mechanical engineering, before they change my oil or re-align my rear-view mirror…

    LIVES DEPEND on your properly functioning automobile, so it is justified!!!!

    1. Today you say it, like a joke; tomorrow you pay it, those engineers aren’t to be broke.

      1. Tru dat. My boy is woke.

  4. I have no hair so I don’t care

    1. That’s neither hair nor there! So there!

    2. Are you in any way related to Fuzzy Wuzzy?

      Fuzzy Wuzzy was a bear,
      Fuzzy Wuzzy had no hair.
      Fuzzy Wuzzy wasn’t very fuzzy,
      Was he?

      1. OMG! You made my day. My mother used to say that to me when I was a kid, a l o n g, l o n g t i m e a g o.

      2. Fuzzy Wuzzy was a bear,

        Fuzzy Wuzzy had no hair care,

        Fuzzy Wuzzy was Scuzzy,

        Was he?

        1. Kipling had a take on this:

          So here’s to you, Fuzzy Wuzzy,
          At your home in the Sudan.
          You’re a poor benighted heathen,
          But a first-class fighting man.

    3. Your lack of hair is costing a cosmetologist their job. I don’t know how you live with yourself.

      1. Scalp massages?

        1. That’s no scalp

    4. Bald persons should be required to pay a monthly barber fee to offset their good fortune of not needing haircuts.


  5. Yet no one seems to have a problem that cops only need half as many hours to get a license.

    1. That’s because the standards are lower.

      1. Those dogs aren’t going to shoot themselves

        1. Wouldn’t it be cheaper to find some monkeys to shoot the dogs. I mean, they do need to be shot … we can all agree on that.

    2. If cops dried hair, the standards would be far higher

  6. As someone who has almost gotten his ear cut off by multiple “cosmetologists” during a haircut, I want the government to stop making licenses some kind of good thing.

    1. multiple?

      Perhaps the problem is with your ear?

      1. Too big?
        Just sayin’.

  7. That there is even a state cosmetology board dedicated to this crap is bad enough.

    1. It’s just about time for a revolution, don’t you think? Off with their heads! How many hours of training to run the guillotine?

      I think I can figure without any training whatsoever.

  8. A friend of mine just completed her 1 year of paying for training here in California to become a Hairstylist.. and although she can cut men’s hair, she cannot use a straight razor ..or any razor to finish the look, or to give a shave… In California (like many states) this is reserved for those hwo have ‘Barbering Licenses’. ..Which you can also get by paying for the training.

    What is so absurd about the requirements for Hairstyling (or Barbering) here in California is that it only takes a total of 664 hours of training (About 17 weeks) to be a cop.. Someone who is expected to act in the best interest of our public, someone who is expected to recognize at a moment’s notice and react safely …requires 17 weeks of training, while a barber or hairdresser requires 50 weeks? Ahem…

    However, in response to ‘who needs training to blow dry hair’.. As I watched my friend compete training and study to pass tests, hairdressing and barbering aren’t just clipping hair. They are trained to spot scalp diseases, lice, (and even skin cancer) so as to not spread diseases. They are also trained to keep their equipment spotlessly clean for the same reason and to pass surprise inspections by the State..and they are trained to not destroy hair with excessive heat, or cause dyed hair to react and change color. In other words, in support of training, these hairdressers and barbers actually do considerably more than just blow-drying hair.

    1. The stylists would still cut the hair so would see the scalp then. Your comment is not relevant to someone at a shop just washing hair. GEEZE!!!! Not all states are this ignorant.

    2. Indeed. Of course, I don’t think I’m exaggerating when I say that people can very likely be trained recognize scalp diseases in a single day, maybe HALF a day of training.

  9. a mandate to be licensed to dry hair for someone else is the direct result of “Hi, we’re from the government and WE’re here to HELP you”…. by taking your money directly and by taking it indirectly by requireing you to spend lots of it to learn a bazillion things from those who have convinced government there is something to protect, and that WE are the ONLY ONES who know and thus the ONLY ONES that can “teach” someone else so THEY can pony up and pay THEIR fees, too.

    Anyone else remember the days when if a guy wanted to add on a new bedroom to his house, or even build a whole house, he could just DO IT? (in a few remaining states one still may…..

  10. My barber started bringing his dog to his shop, which I imagine is against some sort of rule. Luckily for him there’s probably never been a secret shopper-type regulator that cruises around old guy barber shops looking for violators.

  11. Results:
    Hair surfaces tended to become more damaged as the
    temperature increased. No cortex damage was ever noted,
    suggesting that the surface of hair might play a role as a
    barrier to prevent cortex damage. Cell membrane complex
    was damaged only in the naturally dried group without hair
    Conclusion: Although
    using a hair dryer causes more surface damage than natural
    drying, using a hair dryer at a distance of 15 cm with
    continuous motion causes less damage than drying hair
    naturally. (Ann Dermatol 23(4) 455?462, 2011)…..23-455.pdf

  12. I like to blow dry my pubic hair.

    1. Cuz it’s the only kind of blow job you get?

  13. This is the Land of the Free?

    1. “Free” to do what they tell you to do.

  14. This is really an insane world.

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  16. I’m making over $7k a month working part time. I kept hearing other people tell me how much money they can make online so I decided to look into it. Well, it was all true and has totally changed my life. This is what I do,

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  17. What legal exposure do all the hotels/motels have that provide “blow dryers” in their rooms?

  18. Sounds like a job for the Institute for Justice. They have been successfully fighting unnecessary licensing requirements nation wide. They won the right for monks to sell caskets without having to be trained funeral directors and licensed morticians. The right to braid hair without having to pay for 2000 hours of cosmetology training which does not teach hair braiding. The right of non-dentists to apply tooth whitening products obtainable at any drug store to customers.

  19. As with many issues beyond just occupational licensing, I suggest a phrase to define what that to which the government’s role should be limited. Any rule, regulation or law presumes that people cannot be trusted to freely choose the “correct” behavior. By contrast I would say that people should only be accountable for the results of their behavior, and government has a responsibility to assist them in making FREELY those choices, principally through providing information such that the choices are….well, informed.

    So let what are now licensing boards issue certifications of competency without any force of law requiring that consumers’ choices be limited.

    As I said, I have a slogan: “INFORM, NOT ENFORCE”

  20. If no one is getting injured or killed doing it, it shouldn’t require a license to do it.

  21. You want to know how utterly insane this is ? To become a licensed operator at a nuclear power plant, you will do a lot of classroom and simulator training, but you only have to work under the instruction of an existing licensed operator for 500 hours. HALF what Arizona thinks you need to safely BLOWDRY HAIR. Insane.

    1. But hair affects a woman’s looks. Nuclear power will only make you sick or kill you. You now understand which one is more important, correct?

  22. Change the license from a requirement to a Board Certification. Take and pay for the training if you want. Or not.

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  24. “Jennifer Ryback, a cosmetologist from Gilbert, Arizona, told the committee that she would love to hire an assistant to handle blow-drying responsibilities at her salon. Doing so would let Graves double the number of clients she can serve in a single day, and would provide a good-paying entry-level job for someone who is considering a career in cosmetology.”

    First thing I thought of when I read this! With orphans helping, they can cut twice as much hair. My dad dated a girl when I was a kid who was a high end hairstylist in California, their salon had a shampoo bitch. I THINK she was an actual licensed stylist, but because this place was so fancy they were making her pay her dues before she could get a chair there. But this was the 90s, so maybe it was legal to shampoo hair without a license back then!

    The kind of people who support stuff like this… They just make me want to kill them. Anyone who is so fucking stupid they think you need 1000 hours of training to shampoo or blowdry hair is literally insane. These people have ruined the entire country.

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