Bill would relax regulations on service of hair braiding

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Plenty of Rhode Island women may choose to have their hair braided by a professional “natural hair braider,” but even though the business may be providing a service different from a hairdresser or cosmetician, a braider must go through the same licensing process as them.

According to Rep. Anastasia P. Williams, it’s hurting braiders who work with hair without chemicals and don’t make significant cuts, and the Providence Democrat has introduced a bill that would exempt natural hair braiders from the complex licensing requirement.

Williams’s proposed law says the purview of a natural hair braider would include twisting, wrapping, and weaving hair, as well as the use of natural or synthetic hair extensions. Minor trimming of natural hair would be allowed, as would the use of “topical agents” including conditioners, moisturizers, or shampoos.

The distinction from hairdressing or cosmetology, besides haircutting, is that dyes or chemicals are not used to alter the color or structure of the hair, or straighten or curl it.

“For centuries, natural hair braiding has been a common practice for African and African-American women. Hair braiding skills and techniques come naturally. Natural hair braiding is an art form, limited only by the braider’s creativity and does not require any kind of formal training. Forcing natural hair braiders to meet the same licensing requirements as cosmetologists is a clear injustice,” Rep. Williams said in a statement this week.

According to the Rhode Island General Assembly’s website, the bill, 2017-H 5436, was introduced February 9, and has been referred to the the House Corporations committee.