African-style hair braiders lose appeal of Missouri licensing law

A federal appeals court in St. Louis ruled Thursday that African-style hair braiders in Missouri must be licensed like barbers and cosmetologists.

The 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a lower court ruling in St. Louis a case brought by two people who are paid to do hair braiding, challenging the Missouri law that requires the same license as barbers or cosmetologists.

Missouri law requires a training course of 1,000 hours for barbering and 1,500 hours for hairdressing, followed by a licensing exam.

The hair braiders who challenged the law argued that what they do is different than barbering and cosmetology, and that the training courses and exam do not cover the techniques they employ.

They contended that requiring them to follow the same licensing rule was not “rationally related” to any “legitimate government interest.”

Missouri officials argued that it does have an interest in protecting consumers and ensuring public health and safety.

The state presented evidence of potential health risks such as “hair loss, inflammation and scalp infection.”

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