Occupational Licensing

Arizona Is Close to Abolishing an Absurd Licensing Law Requiring 1,000 Hours of Training to Blow-Dry Hair

Another victory for licensing reform in the Grand Canyon State.



One of America's most insane occupational licensing laws is about to get blown away.

A bill passed by the state legislature this week would abolish a requirement that hair stylists—that is, people who use blow-dryers and curling irons but do not cut, color, or perm hair—have 1,000 hours of training before being licensed to work in the state. Under the soon-to-be-gone rule, simply blow-drying hair, for money, without a license could have been punished by up to six months in prison and with fines of up to $2,000.

That will change as soon as Gov. Doug Ducey applies his signature to SB 1401, which exempts hair stylists from the state's cosmetology licensing rules. The bill cleared the state Senate in February with a 21-9 vote and the state House gave its approval on Tuesday by a vote of 31-26.

On Twitter, Ducey called the bill's passage a "big win for freedom and Arizona workers," and said he was looking forward to signing it.

America is drowning in ridiculous licensing laws that mostly exist to reduce competition in licensed professions, usually propped up with vapid arguments about protecting the public's well-being. Even so, Arizona's blow-dry licensing law was an outlier. Simply operating a hand-held blow-dryer—something that children can do without burning off their own scalps—required time-consuming and expensive classes in a wide range of unrelated skills at a cosmetology school, where typical annual tuition costs around $15,000.

That would be a significant barrier for anyone, and removing that requirement means more Arizonans could earn a living by working in trendy blow-dry bars or as assistants in salons where licensed employees are handling the cutting and dyeing.

"The antidote to poverty is opportunity," wrote state Sen. Michelle Ugenti-Rita (R-Scottsdale), the bill's sponsor, on Twitter. Removing the licensing rules for blow-drying hair, she said, "increases the opportunity for people to earn a living so they can pursue the American dream."

The bill's passage comes just days after Arizona became the first state in the country to enact another important licensing reform: allowing licenses issued in other states to be valid in Arizona. Both efforts were championed by Ducey, who has made licensing reforms a key component of his economic policy agenda. In 2018, Ducey used his State of the State Address to call licensing boards "a group of special interest bullies," and specifically called out the Arizona State Board of Cosmetology—which had previously investigated students for giving free haircuts to the homeless—for "going after people who simply want to make a living blow-drying hair. No scissors involved."

Still, getting the so-called "blow-dry bill" to Ducey's desk is the culmination of a multi-year effort.

Last year's attempt to repeal the blow-dry licensing requirement was met with a full show of force by the state's cosmetology licensing board and many licensed cosmetologists. As Reason reported at the time, one of the hearings on the bill was a sideshow of logical fallacies, with salon owners claiming that unlicensed blow-drying will "hurt society" and predicting "a health crisis" if hair stylists were not regulated by the government. 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).

Probably the best testimony was offered by stylist Diana Ellis, who claimed that "if there are unlicensed stylists that work in these bars, they are going to take a lot of work from us" and adding that she thought "that's just really unfair."

And that's about as succinct an explanation for why licensing laws exist as you'll ever find.