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Cosmetology licensing under scrutiny in Texas House

Three bills aimed at reducing what it takes to get licensed for certain cosmetology jobs were considered in a House committee hearing Monday evening.

Bri Liu, a client at Wink Threading Salon in Austin.

Beauty takes practice — but how much?

That's the question a House panel was wrestling with Monday evening as it heard testimony over three bills that dealt with cosmetology licensing requirements.

The House Licensing and Administrative Procedures Committee heard House Bill 2407 by state Rep. Craig Goldman, R-Fort Worth, which would reduce the licensing requirement to get a cosmetology license from 1,500 hours to 1,000 hours; House Bill 340, also by Goldman, which would repeal the requirement that an individual must hold a cosmetology or barber student permit to shampoo; and House Bill 3307, by state Rep. John Kuempel, R-Seguin, which would define eyebrow threading as neither a barbering nor a cosmetology service.

More than 30 people testified on HB 2407 during the hearing, with several hairstylists and advocates arguing against the proposal. For many involved in the industry, cutting back on the hours of education needed to get a cosmetology license means less confident, less qualified beauticians.

“I’ve trained over 500 cosmetology alumna, and there’s a huge difference in confidence and training with that extra 500 hours,” said Alejandro Bonilla, a Fort Worth-based stylist who said he has owned a salon for more than 15 years. “A lack in hours means less time behind a chair, which can lead to upset clients and a much higher turnover rate. We simply cannot afford less education.”

But the current law doesn't require everyone to get the full 1,500 hours. Today, students at more than 170 Texas high schools can enroll in a full cosmetology program through their school and complete all necessary requirements — including passing the industry exam and getting their license — in 1,000 hours.

If the student waits until after graduation to enroll in the same cosmetology course offered by the same professional institute, they will cover the same material and pass the same exam in 1,500 hours, Goldman said. He said requiring 1,000 hours instead would allow cosmetologists to join the workforce much faster, and argued that there’s no noticeable difference in skills or wages from cosmetologists who receive more hours of training.

“Not only would House Bill 2407 create equality and uniformity within the cosmetology licensing process, it will encourage quality training and comprehension,” Goldman said.

John Blair, president and CEO of Ogle Schools, a cosmetology and beauty school in Texas, disagreed. 

“Every eight weeks, my wife has a standing appointment for a several-hour service in a full-service salon,” he said.  “I don’t want a high school student or someone who has come out of these value salon training programs attempting to perform this kind of service on my wife. Do you?”

Stephanie Lindsey with the Community College Cosmetology Educators of Texas echoed that, calling on committee members to consider whom they would want doing their hair, “a cosmetologist who was properly trained or one that was rushed out of training?”

I don’t want to set our students up for failure right after school, and I think that bill would do that,” Lindsey said. “I’m afraid it’s going to make our students less marketable with less hours.”

Those in favor of the measure argued that there’s no difference between the 1,000-hour and 1,500-hour programs. Several people who testified in favor of the bill also said reducing the number of required hours would increase the number of students who enroll.

HB 2407 “will allow trained, confident graduates to enter the workforce sooner,” said Natalie Lockhart, vice president of JCPenney salons. “Graduation rates are not improved by longer training hours.”

All three bills were left pending in committee Monday evening.

Read related Tribune coverage: 

  • For nearly two decades, the state of Texas has been trying to shut down Isis Brantley's hair braiding business. Prodded by a federal court, state lawmakers are now considering exempting hair braiders from regulation and leaving Brantley alone.
  • The state Supreme Court heard arguments in a case challenging the state's regulations on eyebrow threading, which several businesses and threaders say have hurt their ability to operate in Texas. 

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