Getting braids has long been a rite of passage for little girls and sometimes boys. Historically, it was an informal affair conducted in living rooms, kitchens, and improvised parlors.
However, to braid hair professionally today, you might need a license. Like cosmetology and related fields, the licensing process for hair braiders varies from state to state, and it can be frustrating and confusing to figure out what is required. This page is designed to clear things up.
Do You Need a License to Braid Hair?
You might need a license depending on where you want to work. Some states require specific licenses for hair braiders, while a more informal registration process is all that's needed in others. In some states you'll have to earn a cosmetology license. Others don't require a license at all.
Braiding was a heavily-regulated industry until fairly recently, but restrictions are loosening—in part because of political and cultural concerns. Although braiding is certainly not exclusive to any one race or ethnicity, African-Americans have long dominated the trade, with the art of braiding being passed down from mother to daughter.
Many business groups, community organizations, and civil rights advocates argued that licensing and other regulations were costly, prohibitive, and punitive to minority communities. In addition, they felt that having such regulations did not contribute to public health and safety. In response, many states are relaxing their requirements or dropping them altogether.
Here's a look at the requirements in all 50 states as of 2016, the last year for which data was available.
|Alabama||Hair braiding license||210|
|Arizona||Not required||Not required|
|Arkansas||Not required||Not required|
|California||Not required||Not required|
|Colorado||Not required||Not required|
|Connecticut||Not required||Not required|
|Delaware||Not required||Not required|
|District of Columbia||Hair braiding license||100|
|Florida||Hair braiding license||16|
|Georgia||Not required||Not required|
|Illinois||Hair braiding license||300|
|Kansas||Not required||Not required|
|Kentucky||Not required||Not required|
|Louisiana||Hair braiding license||500|
|Maine||Not required||Not required|
|Maryland||Not required||Not required|
|Michigan||Not required||Not required|
|Minnesota*||Hair braiding license||30|
|Nebraska||Not required||Not required|
|Nevada||Hair braiding license||250|
|New Hampshire||Cosmetology license||1,500|
|New Jersey||Cosmetology license||1,200|
|New Mexico||Cosmetology license||1,600|
|New York||Hair braiding license||300|
|North Carolina||Hair braiding license||300|
|North Dakota||Cosmetology license||1,800|
|Ohio||Hair braiding license||450|
|Oklahoma||Hair braiding license||600|
|Oregon||Hair braiding license||Complete online module and exam|
|Pennsylvania||Hair braiding license||300|
|Rhode Island||Cosmetology license||1,500|
|South Carolina||Hair braiding license||6|
|South Dakota||Cosmetology license||2,100|
|Tennessee||Hair braiding license||300|
|Texas||Not required||Not required|
|Utah||Not required||Not required|
|Virginia||Not required||Not required|
|Washington||Not required||Not required|
|West Virginia||Not required||Not required|
|*Minnesota Cosmetology Board claims to have no enforcement authority over this braiding license|
These are the basic requirements for each:
- Cosmetology license: To earn a cosmetology license you need to complete a training program that satisfies your state's licensing requirements. These requirements generally stipulate the number of training hours—typically between 1,400 and 1,600 hours—and the required testing.
- Hair braiding license: A hair-braiding license requires far fewer training hours. Texas, for example, requires 35 hours.
- Registration: Some states simply require braiding professionals to register with their state board, which often requires a fee.
Because requirements are changing, it is important that you check with your state board so you know what you have to do to work in your state legally.
Some states require continuing education as a term of license renewal. Whether it's required to maintain your license, however, you should always keep learning. No matter how talented you are, you have to stay up to date on emerging trends, styles, and techniques to succeed.
A simple internet search of “hair braiding events” reveals countless opportunities to attend classes, workshops, contests, and seminars, both in-person and online—many of which are free. You might also consider expanding your skills and knowledge into other areas of cosmetology to add new services to your list of offerings.