Unlikely alliance presses Legislature to ease regulations on natural hair care

SALEM — It’s not often that theUrban League of Portlandand the libertarian-mindedCascade Policy Institutefind themselves advocating for the same issue.

Unlikely alliance presses Legislature to ease regulations on natural hair careBut there they were Tuesday afternoon as representatives from both groups asked lawmakers to ease regulations on natural hair care, a critical aspect of black culture. Oregon law currently prohibits natural hair care practitioners from braiding, cornrowing, extending, lacing, twisting and performing similar functions outside their homes without undergoing extensive cosmetology coursework.

House Bill 3409, which received a public hearing Tuesday in the House Consumer Protection and Government Efficiency Committee, would exempt natural hair care from the state’s barbering requirements. It would establish an online certification process for natural hair practitioners, similar to those seeking food handler’s licenses.

Portland resident Amber Starks took her natural hair care business to Vancouver after learning she couldn’t establish it in Oregon without undergoing about 1,700 hours of cosmetology classes, she said. Starks was also upset that she couldn’t volunteer her hair services to black foster children without breaking the law.

“In our community, this is our culture, this is what we do,” Starks told lawmakers. “What I wanted to do was provide a sense of empowerment. I wanted to create choice and access. I ended up taking my business over to Washington state because it was the only choice I had at the time.”

That means Oregon loses out on capturing those potential tax dollars, advocates said. They argue that cosmetology coursework often does not include information on natural hair care anyway.

Natural hair care also shouldn’t be regulated the same as barbering because it does not entail the use of chemicals, such as ones used in perming or dying hair.

The bill is “a good step in the right direction,” said Steve Buckstein, senior policy analyst and founder of the Cascade Policy Institute. The group has long opposed what they see as government overregulation.

“In America, the right to earn an honest living should take precedent over the need of the state to regulate everything,” he said.

Lawmakers expressed support for easing the restrictions on natural hair care. “It should be as simple and inexpensive as it can be,” said Rep. Dennis Richardson, R-Central Point.

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