In a new law that took effect on July 1 of this year, braiding hair without a cosmetology license is no longer illegal in the state of Iowa.

In October 2015, the Institute for Justice, a public interest law firm, filed a lawsuit on behalf of Aicheria Bell and Achan Agit, two Iowa braiders seeking to start their own braiding business and earn an honest living. Prior to this new law, it was illegal to braid hair in Iowa with a cosmetology license. The state forced braiders to meet certain requirements to legally braid hair, which meant spending as much as $22,000 to complete 2,100 hours of cosmetology training and passing a cosmetology licensing exam. This training was irrelevant since hair braiding is typically not taught in cosmetology schools or tested on the licensing exam.

The law placed an unreasonable financial and time consuming burden on individuals and families to obtain an unnecessary license and criminalized those people for practicing their craft even though they couldn’t afford to become licensed.

Braiding hair without a cosmetology license was considered to be a serious misdemeanor under Iowa law.

Photo: Institute for Justice
Photo: Institute for Justice

Now that the law has been reversed, people can pursue their passions and their craft without being penalized for not having the unnecessary formal training.

“This is a major victory for African-style hair braiders in Iowa,” said IJ attorney Meagan Forbes. “The government has no business licensing something as safe and common as hair braiding. These reforms have now put the American dream within reach for braiders across the state.”

“I am grateful I can now pursue my passion and support my family without feeling like a criminal,” Aicheria Bell said in a statement. “This new law opens the door for so many braiders to start and grow their own businesses.”

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