There’s a debate across the country concerning how to regulate hair braiding salons. Specifically, it deals with whether or not those who braid hair should have to hold cosmetology licenses
Many hair braiding salon managers argue that their salons simply braid hair. They do not dye, heat or chemically treat it.
The debate has garnered great attention, largely due to an ongoing legal battle in Missouri, over whether or not hair braiding salons should be required to obtain cosmetology licenses. If the plaintiff loses, both she and her employees will have to pay for expensive cosmetology licenses or risk going out of business.
This battle isn’t isolated to Missouri, either. Hair braiding salon owners in over 21 states face similar restrictions.
Inconsistencies among “hair braiding regulations” in the Four-State region are hairier than one may think.
‘It’s not fair that I have to follow the rules and regulations. They [braid salons that do not possess licenses] should as well,” said Sallay Matu Bangura, Manager of Sisters with Style Beauty Gallery.
“Fairness” is what Matu Bangura said finally compelled her to get her cosmetology license after working in a braid salon for years without one
Matu Bangura lives in Maryland, which does not require a cosmetology license nor a braiding license.
Neither does Virginia, and according to the state’s Department of Professional and Occupational Regulation’s website, hair braiding has been an un-regulated profession since 2012. No state credentials are required, and literally anyone can braid hair.
Neighboring states, Pennsylvania and West Virginia, have adopted a different stance, requiring hair braiders to possess licenses.
Since 2009, new braiders in Pennsylvania have been required to take a 300-hour course and a pass a series of tests. Those who could prove they had braided hair professionally for three years were automatically given licenses and required to take 150 hours of classes at a later date, if they registered by a certain time.
Unfortunately, there was no way to notify individual hair braiders, and many were unaware of this requirement. Fines for practicing without a license in the state are hefty, and many have been subjected to them by mistake.
West Virginia law expressly states that it is “unlawful” for any person to braid hair without a “license or certification” issued under the Board of Barbers and Cosmetologists.
“That’s not fair because you don’t use a chemical, [or anything]” said Aicha Toure, Owner of Aicha Beauty Supply and Hair Braiding. 
Toure, who does not have a license, which is perfectly legal in Maryland, immigrated here from Mali. Toure said hair braiding is something women learned to do while chatting with their friends growing up, not in school.
Regardless, the self-proclaimed hardworking woman, who has worked as everything from a “bus driver” to “salon owner” since moving to the United States, stressed that she hopes to obtain a license.
That is a process that single mother and Award Beauty Academy student, Rachel Davis, is familiar with.
“You wanna make sure that everything is done by the book legally, in case there’s any accidents or mistakes,” said Davis.
Davis said although she has been braiding hair her entire life without a license, often out of her home, the license will provide peace of mind.
“I think there’s a need for it because of the infection control laws,” stated Angela Coner, Master Cosmetology Educator at Award Beauty School
“The license protects you and the client,” stressed Matu Bangura.