New rule allows hair braiders limited license after 40 – 50 hours of training

Gabrielle Saulsbery//December 27, 2019

New rule allows hair braiders limited license after 40 – 50 hours of training

Gabrielle Saulsbery//December 27, 2019

Braided hair
Brigitte Nzali, owner of African & American Braiding in Blackwood. – BRIGITTE NZALI

Hair braiders will no longer be subject to 1,200 hours of required training for New Jersey’s full cosmetology license, effective immediately and temporarily.

The State Board of Cosmetology and Hairstyling issued a special rule adoption Friday creating the limited license and also increasing the number of members on the board to 13, requiring that two members own and operate a hair braiding shop in New Jersey.

The new limited license requires 40 or 50 hours of training, dependent on whether the braider has three years of experience at the time of application. According to the Office of the Attorney general, this rule aims to “remove certain barriers to economic opportunity for individuals who might pursue work as hair braiders, while maintaining consumer protections for their patrons.”

A coalition of hair braiders, primarily African-American or of African and Caribbean descent, fought for years to change a law that required them to get a cosmetology license to practice hair braiding, according to Institute for Justice Associate Director of Activism Brooke Fallon.

One of those women, Brigitte Nzali, who owns African & American Braiding in Blackwood, told NJBIZ last October that hair braiding isn’t even taught in beauty schools, and that the only tool braiders use is a comb. The original bill they were working on, which would have just required braiders to register with the state, fell through with a conditional veto by Gov. Phil Murphy. The Legislature landed on the requirement of 40 to 50 hours of training before Murphy signed it.

“We’re concerned that 40 to 50-hour requirement is an additional burden for the braiders,” Fallon said. “Where is this training going to be offered? Will it be offered in languages other than English? A lot of the braiders speak French or Arabic. Also, how much will the training be? That can affect how accessible it is to these braiders. Many of these women have been doing this work since they were little girls, so now to have to sign up for classes and possibly travel across the state for them is definitely a concern.”

Institute for Justice, which put together the coalition of braiders, is curious about how braiders will be permitted to show their three years’ experience to qualify for 40 hours of training rather than 50, Fallon said.

“We just really hope that Gov. Murphy and the department make sure that these new rules and the way they’re enforced do not put more burden on these women of color who are just trying to earn a living for their family. We hope these braiders can be a part of the creation of these rules and that their input is taking very seriously,” Fallon said.

Public comment will be open on the rule until Jan. 31.