Up for vote as early as tomorrow, Wednesday, January 18, 2012 is Indiana House Bill 1006 - Deregulation of the cosmetology industry.
This bill seeks to completely negate the need for hairdressers and barbers to be licensed, will make attending cosmetology school an (expensive) choice for those wishing to join the industry, and will open the supply houses previously reserved for licensed personnel to the general public.
This bill is bad news for many reasons.
First of all, cosmetology is not only an art but also a science. In addition to the physical processes of cutting and heat styling the hair, there are clear chemical processes such as permanent waving and colouring. Even for the physical processes, textbooks serve ONLY as an outline for a teaching curriculum. In my own education, razor cutting was only theoretically taught. Even though I had studied the plain-language descriptions and the diagrams in my book for the technique called "razor rotation", it was not until I had gone to a razor-specific advanced class and saw it performed that I understood. The book doesn't give you the little tricks about on-scalp lightening that prevent severe chemical burns to the client. The book doesn't go in-depth on the pH factors at work with chemical processes. It tells you to put conditioning treatments under the dryer, but doesn't explain why - or why the new generation of conditioning treatments like Redken's Chemistry System do not require heat. Not only teaching you how to NOT hurt clients, cosmetology school teaches you the immediate first aid for when you do, inevitably, hurt someone. Cosmetology school is where we learn the "Universal Precautions" to prevent the spread of bloodborne illness and our license is the proof that we have been taught those basic skills.
Unlicensed practitioners hurt the financial abilities of licensed cosmetologists. Freelancers are, far and wide, more often unlicensed. In the case of "hair braiders" or extensionists, clients are subjecting themselves to someone without solid theoretical knowledge and often without the insurance backing that is expected from a salon. Because they have not taken the financial burden of schooling, insurance, or any overheads of the business, they are able to charge a lower price that usually goes 100% in their pocket.
As was told to me by a representative from Governor Mitch Daniels' office, I "chose" to go to school and thereby chose the expenses they are now making optional. Because I also am choosing to let a salon corporation pay my liabilities, I only take 20% of the price my clients pay. For braids and extensions, that means I'm not making as much money off a $400 service as the freelancers make off a $100 service.
If, as the Governor's Office argues, everything is equal why ever would a client pay for the overhead?
The Regulated Occupations Evaluation Committee (REOC) believes the average consumer of beauty services and products is informed enough to make a proper judgment on the competency of a practitioner. In an industry where "fake it 'til you make it" is a motto and recent graduates practice along side seasoned professionals, there is no way for a consumer to be sure they will get quality service. Unlike a plastic surgeon who faces censure for falsifying experience, an unregulated cosmetologist has little reason to truthfully admit they have not been properly trained. In moving from a state where continuing education was required for license renewal to Indiana, where no further education beyond the 1500 hour cosmetology school is needed, I have already seen how stylists in this state are far behind the curve. They are not only the often-joked 10 years behind style (though modern connectivity has brought that to only about 10 months behind). Indiana's stylists are also unaware of recent safety issues such as formaldehyde-based straighteners.
HB1006 will also deregulate cosmetology instructors and schools. In a state where promises of job creation won several elections, allowing unlicensed individuals to give instruction will essentially shut down schools. In a city where cosmetology schools are the anchors of shopping malls, this has far-reaching consequences. A school is more than just walls and teachers. A school needs teachers, administrators, recruiters, and managers. Some schools even employ cleaning crews, towel services, and uniform services. Shutting down even one school due to deregulation will cause many people to seek out unemployment benefits, taxing the budget of this state more than the expenditures of maintaining regulation.
Finally opening industry-direct pricing to the consumer will completely shut down our professional distributors. Turn your shampoo bottle around. If you bought a salon brand like Paul Mitchell, Redken, TiGi, or even "house" brands like Design Line or Solutions by Great Clips, it will say "Guaranteed only when purchased in a salon".
There is a great problem within the industry called "diversion". This is when professionally labelled products are sold in outlets that do not have agreements with the producer. Paul Mitchell isn't a great product because it is superior (though, it is). Paul Mitchell is a great product because it has the recommendation of a great stylist behind it. To protect the reputation of the product, Paul Mitchell has decided that it will only sell products in salons where stylists are available to support the education. For example, Shampoo Three is available (without the sanction of the company) at Wal-Mart to be taken off the shelf at random. Is Shampoo Three right for you? If Shampoo Three leaves your hair brittle and discoloured, will you blame Paul Mitchell or will you blame your own ignorance?
Furthermore, an independant study found that professional products sold in non-salon retail outlets can often be outdated (yes, shampoo has an expiry), contaminated, or outright fake.
If Indiana no longer has a way to define between an individual with training and one without, the professional-only supply houses will no longer to honour their agreements with the manufacturers and promise the products stay out of uninformed hands. These brands are very hard lined on this matter. They will pull distribution privliges from stores that divert products. One-by-one, brands will disappear from the shelves for any of us to buy. The scarcity will actually drive up the prices of the necessary products as has already happened when WellaAG pulled distribution of their professional lines. The industry precedent for what happens when diversion becomes a problem has already been set. In this case, it is true that the cosmetology industry is self regulating - it regulates by shutting down.
The Indiana Regulated Occupations Recommendations Report claims that the cosmetology industry is self-regulating. Most hairstylists do not believe this to be true. I put as an example the use of disinfectants in the salon. State law is explicit on the use of disinfectants such as Barbicide or Shear-X. All implements such as combs, brushes, and clips are to be cleaned of hair, rinsed, disinfected in an EPA-registered chemical, rinsed again, and stored in a closed container in which there is nothing non-disinfected before being re-used on a client. The only other legal option is disposal. My salon corporation, across the board in all their salons, does not provide EPA-registered disinfectants and tacitly discourages their stylists from obtaining any on their own. Such a blatant disregard from the established, though ill-enforced, law is one example of how self-regulation would lead to failure. I, myself, contracted a severe infection from improper sanitation in a nail-salon. If I cannot, as a consumer, trust a salon to conform to mandated regulations how can I trust one to regulate itself?
The REOC, in its report did make some very logical recommendations. In their desire to eliminate electrologist licenses, they cite that only 118 individuals hold this license and that 34 other states do not require separate licensing for electrologists. In Illinois, the only other state I'm familiar with, aestheticians are allowed to perform electrolysis. This is one service you do not want an untested technician to perform, but a complete separate license is unnecessary.
I also agree with the elimination of tanning licenses.
"Of even greater concern to the ROEC is the possibility that licensing these facilities with the State sends an unintentional message that this activity is safe. Consumers need to understand that they are responsible for their own safety during these activities. Therefore, the ROEC recommends that this license type be eliminated. A case can be made for a public health message to discourage excessive tanning but this activity belongs in a health department or physician’s office and is certainly not accomplished by governmental licensing of professionals."
Having worked in a salon where tanning beds were available, I found myself woefully unaware of tanning procedures beyond checking with the client for sun sensitivity, issuing protective eyewear, and ensuring the cleanliness of the bed. The ROEC also brings up the fact that tanning beds are available for home use. In most cases, these are the same beds available in the salon with budget being the only limiting factor - unlike salon chemical products being, currently, available only to licensed professionals.
The board's recommendation to streamline barbering and cosmetology licenses is agreeable. The streamlined regulation of of the types of licenses IS preferable to, as the ROEC says,
"Eliminate the Cosmetology and Barber Board in its entirety including each of the 25 license types (including 5 temporary license types) associated with the Cosmetology and Barber Board."
In the case of Cosmetologists and Barbers, historical tradition and semantics separates them. A cosmetologist can do everything a barber can do except for shaving with a non-guarded razor. A barber can do everything a cosmetologist can do except for certain chemical procedures. In the past, there were great differences in the field. Before unisex salons became the thing in the mid-70s, some municipalities prevented females from becoming barbers and servicing men. Because this distinction no longer exists, it makes very little sense to delineate barbers and cosmetologists.
Many salons are going more toward a one-stop-shop concept. Issuing separate Cosmetology Salon, Barber Shop, Mobile Salon, Manicure Salon and Esthetic Salon licenses makes no sense. A singular "Facility" license will not only streamline the process, but also will maintain the system of checks and accountability.
Elimination of the instructor licenses is problematic. Yes, cosmetology schools are private institutions. Many cosmetology schools do provide instruction to high school students. Not just high school aged, but students that are enrolled in Indiana's high schools. Other trades educations provided by high schools have the oversight of licensed or certified educators. Perhaps the question of cosmetology/barber instructor licenses should be further explored by the Indiana Office of Educator Licensing and Development rather than Board of Cosmetology.
Elimination of these licenses in their entirety is dangerous. It drastically changes the protections in place for the consumer and could possibly lead to lost jobs and lost revenues for those who are lucky to keep their careers. Any state monies saved through eliminating the Cosmetology Board are highly likely to end up spent on assistance programs to keep Hoosier families in safe homes with full bellies.