New Jersey State Legislature:

We urge you to free hair braiders from New Jersey’s cosmetology licensing requirements and allow them to make an honest living.

Natural hair braiding is an important, and safe, form of cultural expression that traces its roots back more than 5,000 years to Africa. Today, thousands practice the intricate crafts of braiding, twisting, weaving, and locking natural styles as a way to share that tradition and earn a living. These techniques avoid serious damage that can occur when hair is treated with chemicals and other artificial products.

Residents across New Jersey depend on hair braiding. Braiders count on their businesses to support themselves and their families, in the U.S. and abroad. Customers seek out hair braiders for valuable, natural services. And the braiding industry’s positive reach extends even further, as hair braiders create jobs, train workers, pay taxes, and fill commercial storefronts.

But hair braiders in New Jersey are being regulated out of business. Despite being a safe and natural practice, New Jersey officials have made it illegal to earn a living braiding unless braiders first spend thousands of dollars to complete 1200 hours of state-mandated cosmetology training and take a two-part exam. In many cases, this expensive cosmetology training does not even teach braiding.

These regulatory barriers leave many hair braiders—especially those who are lower-income, immigrants, and single mothers—with the impossible choice between not being able to provide for their families or operating without a license. Those that operate without a license face fines, harassment, and the constant threat of having their shops—their families’ economic lifeline—shut down.

Burdensome and unnecessary licensing requirements on hair braiders have no place in our state. Hair braiders do not practice cosmetology, so they should not be required to have a cosmetology license. And the US Constitution protects their right to earn an honest living without unreasonable government interference.

The solution is simple. The New Jersey Hair Braiding Freedom Bill (A4421/S3136) would exempt hair braiders from cosmetology licensing, and free them to operate without fear. Hair braiders would still have to comply with local business licensing rules, and pay taxes, just like other businesses in the state.

Today, 23 states across the country allow braiders to practice their craft without a single hour of formal training. Don’t let New Jersey become the last in line to allow African-Americans a chance to thrive by practicing a safe skill that has been honed through decades of cultural tradition.

Owning and operating a small business should be an accessible way to provide for one’s family and pursue the American Dream, not a crime punishable by thousands in fines. That’s why we are asking for your support in passing the New Jersey Hair Braiding Freedom Bill to put more New Jerseyans to work. We are confident that with our growing support, we can pass the bill and allow hair braiders to claim their piece of the American Dream, serve customers, and create economic stimulus in the Garden State.

The New Jersey Hair Braiding Freedom Coalition