Free Minds & Free Markets

300 Hours Training Required to Shampoo Hair In Tennessee

Three-hundred hours of classes "on the theory and practice of shampooing?" And that's just the start....

ktpupp/Flickrktpupp/FlickrIf you're like most people, you probably shampoo your own hair several times per week—hell, maybe even every day—and have since you were a very young child. Shampooing hair is something that takes no particular skill and bring no particular safety concerns, save for getting a little suds in your eye. But in Tennessee, people who would like to shampoo hair in professional salons must receive hundreds of hours of training and fork out thousands of dollars before they're legally allowed to lather, rinse, repeat. 

The Beacon Center of Tennessee is trying to change this. The libertarian-leaning think tank is suing the state cosmetology board over its onerous occupational-licensing requirements for people who want to wash hair. At present, obtaining a government permission to shampoo hair requires taking two exams, at a cost of $140, plus a $50 annual fee. On top of that, someone must take 300 hours of training "on the theory and practice of shampooing," at a cost of upwards of $3,000 for the tuition. 

"Tennessee is one of only five states that require a license to wash hair, and this is just one of the many senseless licensing laws that the Volunteer State currently has on the books," Beacon Center states on its website.

But—surprise!—nowhere in the state even offers "shampoo tech" classes at present. So even someone prepared to put in the time and money to become a pro hair-washer right now can't. Their only options would be a) to go through the more rigorous and expensive process (1,500 hours and tens of thousands of dollars in tuition) of obtaining a cosmetology license, or b) to wash hair illegally.

Beacon Center of TennesseeBeacon Center of Tennessee

Beware the latter option, however. Those who wash hair without a license face up to six months in prison and a $500 criminal fine, or a $1,000 civil penalty.  

At the center of the Beach Center's case is Tammy Pritchard, a police officer who would like to wash hair in her friend's natural hair-care salon on weekends to pick up some extra money. Her niece Leanna, a high-school student, would also like opportunity to do so as an after-school job. Neither are interested in becoming full-time cosmetologists, so the cosmetology license option just doesn't make sense for them. Yet they have no other option if they would like to shampoo hair legally. 

This Catch-22 also puts salon owners such as Regina Washington, owner of Fabulous Fantasy Styles, in a bind. "Because no school offers the curriculum for the hair-washing license, there is a shortage of licensed shampoo technicians in the state," explains Beacon Center. Washington would have to hire a fully licensed cosmetologist at a higher hourly rate in order to have someone who can legally wash customers' hair. There are many salon owners like Washington who "just need someone to help them wash hair or fold towels during peak times," notes Beacon Center, "a position that could be easily filled by friends, family members, interns in cosmetology school, high school students, or retirees. That is, if the government didn’t stand in their way."

In Pritchard v. Board of Cosmetology, Beacon Center argues that Tennessee's hair-washing license scheme violates the state's prohibition against monopolies. "Because no school offers the shampooer curriculum, no one else may become a shampoo technician who is not already licensed as one, meaning that the state has created a monopoly for existing license holders," Beacon explains. 

Furthermore, the requirement violates Pritchard's right to economic liberty under Article I, Section 8 of the Tennessee Constitution, Beacon argues. "The right to engage in a chosen profession is a liberty and property interest protected by our state constitution," it notes. "By applying regulations that far exceed whatever legitimate public health and safety requirements are necessary to protect the public in the context of unregulated shampooing, and by prohibiting anyone from shampooing absent expensive training, the Board has violated [Pritchard's] constitutional rights."

Lastly, it claims the requirement violates the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution by "irrationally, arbitrarily, and excessively restrict[ing] the ability of our clients to engage in a legitimate vocation." 

Photo Credit: ktpupp/Flickr

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  • Rockabilly||

    It seems to me that if you are required to have a license to shampoo someone else's hair, you should also need a license to shampoo your own. This is for your own good.

  • Doctor Whom||

    I thought I could shampoo my own hair, but it started turning white. Lesson learned too late.

  • Long Woodchippers||

    I've been shampooing my own hair for 50 years, and now it's falling out! What am I doing wrong?

  • Johnimo||

    What about applying lipstick? I put my own sunblock on the exposed areas of my body before bicycling. Am I harming myself by acting so recklessly? Please, someone help me!

  • SQRLSY One||

    If'n ye git yerself a PRESCRIPTION fer all these that them that thar thangs, before ya do 'em... Including blowing yer nose or "coughing" or scratchin' yer butt... From a LICENSED PHYSICIAN... Then MAYBE, Government Almgihty be Willing, and the FDA don't git too much bigger a hard-on... Then MAYBE ye will be allowed to do such things!

    If'n ye donna believe me about gittin' prescriptions for "coughing" or "nose-blowing" then please see … And search for “lung flute” and “ear popper”.

  • gaoxiaen||

    "Shampoo technicians"

  • SQRLSY One||

    What about real-poo technicians? If I offered to help people take a shit, and accepted $1 for my services, would I be required to study "shitting: the theory and the practice of shit and stuff" for 300 hours, or more?

  • Peter Duncan||

    Thanks Progress!

  • rudehost||

    Thanking progress is a meaningless gesture. You should find a progressive and thank him. First they brought us the 40 hour work week now they have brought people in TN the zero hour work week.


  • UnCivilServant||

    Clearly it's 100 hours on 'lather', 100 on 'rinse' and 100 of course review.

  • Mr Lizard||

    You know who else declared a 100 for a lather?...

  • Citizen X||

    Someone whose masturbation euphemism game is on point?

  • Rich||


    Seriously, what could *possibly* be involved in 300 hours of training "on the theory and practice of shampooing"?

    "There is little evidence that Stone Age peoples used shampoo as we now know it. However, they probably observed animals rolling in the dust to alleviate the nuisance of stinging insects and the scourge of parasites. Pleae turn to page 37 of Volume III of your course materials. Figure 17B indicates the geological distribution of clay components which have some effectiveness against insects. However, these substances generally produce a severe drying action on the scalp. Certainly some ancient innovator attempted to counteract this by rubbing animal fat onto -- probably *her* -- head. Can anyone tell the class what we call modern version of this technique? …."

  • Citizen X||

    A lot of American Indians skipped the clay and just rubbed straight up rendered bear fat into their hair. Colonists reported that it smelled gross, but did protect them from insects.

  • UnCivilServant||

    What? They didn't go for the natural defense of going bald?

  • Rich||

    "Please be patient, Mr. X. We'll be covering that in Section 12 next week."

  • Joe Blowski||

    early europeans in america were freaked out by the density of mosquitoes. also, the cold (when it still got cold).

  • Jerryskids||

    There's probably some safety training involved for the shampoo prep, too, though. Like let's say the customer is a man wearing a tie - shouldn't the shampooer have some training on dealing with awkward strips of fabric in the shampoo process lest they strangle the guy with his own tie? Shouldn't the shampooer have some specific knowledge of how a piece of fabric looped around a neck can restrict the airway and the bloodflow to the brain in such a way that might cause harm, even death, to the tie wearer? And even if there's no tie involved, the bib they put on a customer prior to shampooing is effectively the same thing, I'm sure a shampooer might strangle somebody to death with a smock. Accidentally I mean. They should be trained not to strangle people to death, is what I'm saying. But to not do something you of course have to know what it is you're not supposed to be doing, so, you know, if a shampooer got confused between not strangling somebody to death with their own tie and strangling them to death with their own tie, well, I guess that's what the training's for, right? Maybe we should all take classes on strangling people to death. So we know what not to do, you know, just in case.

  • Rich||

    You have a great future!

  • Scarecrow & WoodChipper Repair||

    That's what I was thinking. I've been to too many traffic schools, and they always had the same problem -- how do you fill 8 hours of instruction on traffic laws? Even something as complex as that runs out of stuff in 8 hours. To study the theory of shampoo for 37.5 times as long? No wonder there are no teachers -- anyone who could think of stuff to teach would have to be batshit insane.

  • invisible finger||

    Do they get to part where Nazi Germany made shampoo out of Jews?

  • retiredfire||

    Ooh Ooh! I know the answer: a pearl necklace?

  • Hamster of Doom||

    It's almost like we spend our time slamming economic doors in people's faces and then blaming poor people for being too lazy to get a job because it's easier than recognizing we've created an economic farce out of a global powerhouse.

    Someone should do something! But not me, I mean like... the government should do something. I'm busy washing my hair.

  • Citizen X||

    Well if poor people weren't so lazy, then how come they didn't get cushy gubmint jobs where they protect their fellow citizens from the heartbreak of dry scalp, huh?

  • kbolino||

    While this is true, just as many poor people seem to be quite content to vote for the door slamming, or at least not vote against it.

    It is also hard to address individual issues at election time. You have to be willing to sacrifice other issues if you really want a certain issue addressed, because you are electing a politician and not a political stance.

  • Doctor Whom||

    According to my goodthinkful friends, poor Republicans consistently vote against their own interests, so that their lots never improve, whereas poor Democrats ...

    Um ....

    Shut up, racist.

  • Zeb||

    Do people realize how insulting and condescending that is? Poor people aren't allowed to have principles, or come to their own conclusions about what is in their own interest?

  • EscherEnigma||

    Sure it's insulting and condescending.

    But there are precious few people who don't think they know how other people *should* vote, so it's *routinely* insulting and condescending.

  • invisible finger||

    Poor people aren't allowed to have principles, or come to their own conclusions about what is in their own interest?

    Being poor is bad. And always a result of one's choices or capitalists, whichever is more convenient.

  • Scarecrow & WoodChipper Repair||

    You're making the same mistake way too many people make -- the irrational voter, or even the rational voter. People don't get to vote for anything useful, just a candidate who isn't going to keep any of his promises anyway. People know their votes are useless, even if they were the only one voting and got to choose the President or Congress Critter personally. They still only get to vote for a lying candidate who will change his mind at will. Even if that candidate was a single issue candidate, and will be a single issue incumbent, there's still no guarantee his position will stay the same in any degree.

    Voters aren't stupid. They know how useless their votes are. They vote to register in the opinion poll of vote results, nothing more.

  • Joe Blowski||

    i know, it's all these lefty states like tennessee, georgia, and south carolina that are making these oppressive laws. oh, wait....

  • Zeb||

    I think this sort of thing is one place where libertarians might be able to get some traction with the normals. Economic opportunity for the poor is severely limited by stupid crap like this.

  • Jerryskids||

  • Citizen X||

    And Tennessee is at or near the top of most of those state economic freedom rankings that Reason publishes from time to time. Fuck, yo.

  • bassjoe||

    I'm sure TN is "great" when it comes to the minimum wage, environmental regulations, and taxation...

  • Ceci n'est pas un woodchipper||

    Is that true? I'd heard something similar but on a recent road trip to Nashville my wife checked out some stuff on the general tax burden in TN and it turns out they have an extraordinarily high sales tax and a pretty stiff property tax.

  • sarcasmic||

    We've got government at every level doing its best to prevent economic activity, yet no one can figure out why the economy is in the shitter.

  • Tom Bombadil||

    In stories like this, there is always an evil protectionist trade group behind the legislation.

    In this case, the only group I can think of is the cosmetology clique (both salon owners and "educators").
    Next time you write a story about shampooing (I'm holding my breath), you should include that backstory.

  • Enjoy Every Sandwich||

    That was my thought. Somebody is fighting this on the other side; it would be useful (if infuriating) to hear their "reasoning".

  • Rhywun||

    Why would salon owners conspire to make operating a salon vastly more expensive for themselves? I get the rent-seeking part but not all of it makes sense.

  • Robert||

    That's what I thought about it yesterday when this story was 1st put up here. Shampoo technician is never going to be so lucrative a job as to benefit from carteliz'n. If it was to benefit cosmetologists or barbers by excluding their competition, why wouldn't they just have defined barbering or cosmetology to include shampooing, so that only they could provide that service, rather than creating the separate license for shampoo technician, which apparently now has the same effect?

    So I figure at some time in the past, a few beauty parlors wanted some relief from a law that already did just that. So, for them, they made this exemption by splitting off the separate practice of shampooing for a license of its own, because it was at that time possible for those businesses to hire cheaply a shampoo girl who qualified. And since then the situation has never come up again.

    The situation of the license you need but can't get isn't unique to that one. NJ requires a license for naturopaths, but the licensing board for it hasn't even been in operation for years. So a bad practitioner can't have hir license yanked, but no new licenses can be issued either.

  • Godsend Conspirator||

    My mother owns her own salon, and we always go round and round about this. The basic reasoning boils down to, "Fuck them. If I had to pay, so should they." And this all comes after she's admitted it doesn't affect her client base at all.

  • Johnimo||

    I think your mother has "hit the nail squarely on the head." Occupational licensing is protectionism 101. Case closed!

  • invisible finger||

    But WHY do they suddenly need this protectionism in 2016. Were there no shampooers in 1995?

    It can't be because the Chinese took their jobs. Maybe the Koreans?

  • straffinrun||

    That's some nice hair you got there. Be a shame if someone washed it.

  • Citizen X||

    -1 Robby Soave

  • Rich||

    At present, obtaining a government permission to shampoo hair requires taking two exams, at a cost of $140, plus a $50 annual fee. On top of that, someone must take 300 hours of training "on the theory and practice of shampooing," at a cost of upwards of $3,000 for the tuition.

    Sheesh, how much does it cost to obtain the license to be able to lgrant the shampooing license?

    Sheer follycle.

  • Night Elf Mohawk||

    Zod. I got reasonably proficient in Swift and Objective C in less than 300 hours. Maybe these people should abandon shampooing and go for something easier, like writing iDevice apps.

  • Pay up, Palin's Buttplug!||

    There's rumbling of licensing in the IT world. The IEEE Spectrum ran articles a few years back on setting up licenses for Real Time Programming.

  • Ship of Theseus||

    What none of you seem to understand is that if there weren't this training and permitting process, people would be shampooing hair wrong!. And that is just unacceptable. The government needs to make sure that customers are satisfied. Like, do you guys all believe in a magic fairy that forces businesses to behave? What will protect the customer?? Huh? No, government must intervene. Stupid libertarians.

  • B. Woodrow Chippenhaus||

    In Pritchard v. Board of Cosmetology, Beacon Center argues that Tennessee's hair-washing license scheme violates the state's prohibition against monopolies. "Because no school offers the shampooer curriculum, no one else may become a shampoo technician who is not already licensed as one, meaning that the state has created a monopoly for existing license holders," Beacon explains.

    That's only because nobody in the state has managed to accrue the 50,000 hours of training needed to teach someone else how to shampoo properly.

  • toolkien||

    I'm not in the profession, so I don't know. But we are all aware that there is typically two levels of products - consumer products and "institutional" products. There are chemicals etc. that are allowed into the institutional markets that aren't allowed into the common consumer markets. Are there shampoos and hair treatments that CAN BE dangerous if misapplied/used? Are there several of these types of products, each with different dangers?

    The point being is the article seems to imply that institutional level services is like tossing some Pert into your head at home. Seems too simple. My take on licensing and statism is that it makes things WORSE. There CAN BE issues arising from misuse, but that the free market, reputations, capabilities, and proper use will be BETTER than a bureaucratic level of nonsense that makes things worse as shortages will exist, price signals will be all out of whack, etc. The message should be the consumer is WORSE off in a highly regulated/gray market world than a free market world.

    THEN add to that the whole bureaucratic aspect (and the costs). The endless expansion of "education", it's subsidization via government, and "shine on" that Loquishia is "going to school" to better herself.

    It think so many people accept bureaucracy, even exhausting red tape, because "things are probably better". If one shows, over and over, that consumers are WORSE off with the interference and the bureaucracy is insult to injury.

  • DaveSs||

    Why do I get the sense that the safety information for most professional grade shampoos amounts to

    a) keep out of eyes/nose/mouth
    b) do not use in combination with XYZ
    c) if a little more than that, can still be printed on a single sheet of paper for each product

  • Night Elf Mohawk||

    The point being is the article seems to imply that institutional level services is like tossing some Pert into your head at home. Seems too simple.


    You know the shampoo they use in the salons is the same shampoo they'd love to sell you to use at home, right? And you'd be using it without 300 hours of instruction. You might even be using it on your kids!

  • Pay up, Palin's Buttplug!||

    You can buy "institutional" products at salons… or at grey market beauty supply stores.

  • Robert||

    Are there shampoos and hair treatments that CAN BE dangerous if misapplied/used?

    Hair treatments, yes. Institutional shampoos, however, are just like the ones for home use, only they come in gallon jugs & 5 gal. pails.

  • jjjjj||

    It's only a 150 hour course. But they have to repeat it.

  • GreenLantern||

    Oh, what I wouldn't give to see a copy of the licensing exam.

  • Rational Exuberance||

    But... think of the children! Without shampooing licensing, the US will be like Somalia! Do they have shampoo licensing in Somalia? See?

  • Johnimo||

    Why didn't we just consult you firstly? All this confusion could easily have been avoided. Thank you for bringing us back to our collective, state-oriented sanity

  • invisible finger||

    Does she or doesn't she?

    Only the state licensing board knows for sure.

  • geo1113||

    +1 Clairol

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  • JaimeRoberto||

    If the lawsuit is successful, it will be portrayed as evidence of the war on women by the Koch Brothers who want women to be maimed by unlicensed shampoo technicians. If the lawsuit fails it will be portrayed as evidence that red states like Tennessee are engaging in the the war on women by blocking them from gainful employment.

  • Johnimo||

    "In these United States, there shall be no occupational licensing, nor shall any fee be levied or required by any municipality, county, district, State, Federal or other governing body to practice any occupation."

    I think the above about sums up the ideal addition to the Bill of Rights in order to end this nonsense once and for all. Only took me about two minutes to compose this. I'm sure some readers may have a more eloquent phrasing. Please feel free to add on or critique.

  • gordo53||

    Blatant barriers to entry. Obviously, some scumbag politicians got paid for that one.

  • Dan S.||

    I presume that no one offers a 300-hour course on shampooing hair because there simply is not 300 hours worth of things that can possibly be said about the subject. So the requirement to take such a non-existent course is a deliberate way of saying that no one (except licensed cosmetologists) will be allowed to enter the business of shampooing hair, without actually coming out and saying it.

  • fche||

    Paging Justice Don WIllett, Paging Justice Don Willett.
    We need a serving of Patel v. Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation in aisle 5 (and the rest of the States).

  • tommhan||

    dumb dumb dumb


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