Local cosmetologists alarmed by legislation that would eliminate licensing requirement

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Andy Knight, The Herald Bulletin, Anderson, Ind.
·3 min read
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Mar. 19—ANDERSON — A bill introduced in the Indiana Legislature in January that would eliminate the state licensing requirement for cosmetologists, barbers, hair stylists, nail technicians and others in the personal care industry is raising concerns among local beauticians.

House Bill 1364, authored by state Rep. Timothy Wesco, R-District 21, is not expected to emerge from committee discussions during the current legislative session. But salon owners in Madison County say that the legislation in its current form would deal a fatal blow to many small businesses already struggling to bounce back from the pandemic.

"We couldn't even open up for fear of losing our license," said Stacie Leons-Parnell, owner of Medusa Hair Design in Anderson. "Now we open up, we're doing all this extra stuff, and we have no guidance from our state board. I feel like they should be putting funding into the state board and having more regulations for our profession than to deregulate our profession."

Leons-Parnell, who has spent more than 30 years as a cosmetologist, stressed that the training she and others go through entails rigorous study of chemicals, sanitation procedures and other potential liabilities. A thorough knowledge of those issues is required to pass a state licensing exam and be certified as a professional cosmetologist.

Indiana currently requires 1,500 hours of schooling to obtain a license.

Wesco's bill would require only that unlicensed stylists provide customers with written notification that they are not licensed. But allowing unlicensed workers to charge for services, according to Leons-Parnell, would devalue a significant investment.

"This is a profession," she said. "It's not a hobby. They want to let people treat it as a hobby."

Added M.J. Bowers, who owns Just Teasing Hair and Nails in Alexandria: "People have actually lost their nails because of unsanitary places and them not doing what they're supposed to. I can't see letting someone who ... doesn't know the ins and outs of this business — I can't see letting them touch someone. It's a danger."

Leons-Parnell added that unintended liability issues could also arise if the legislation passes.

"Say you get your hair done by a nonprofessional," she said. "Say they're getting a highlight, a standard highlight. We don't know what they've used on it, and the hair is breaking off because they don't know what they're doing. They come to us, they want it fixed. We don't know what's on there. We do it the best we can, and all their hair breaks off. That's a liability."

Salon owners around the state also made their opposition known through a Change.org petition that generated more than 50,000 signatures. In acknowledging the lack of support for the bill, Wesco maintained that the issue remains an important one.

"Over these last few weeks, many within the industry have offered good, constructive feedback about possible changes to the law," Wesco said. "I look forward to working with them over the summer toward enacting meaningful reforms."

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