A Peek inside the Board of Barbers and Cosmetology

One might imagine that a meeting of the Virginia Board for Barbers and Cosmetology would be a pretty dull proceeding. But The Virginia Mercury found the board discussing some issues that, to my mind, point out the absurdity of a system that allows established practitioners of a profession to regulate themselves — and others who might compete with them.

The article in the Virginia Mercury is the first in an occasional series exploring some of Virginia’s “more obscure” state boards and commissions. It sounds like a promising endeavor, and I hope future articles are as illuminating as this one.

One issue discussed at the most recent board meeting entailed the low pass rate on the state’s “barbering theory” test — 39%. The rate had declined noticeably and was “substantially lower” that that of other states.

Stephen Kirschner, a state regulatory administrator, theorized that test takers were tripping up over questions about wigs. Wigs aren’t part of Virginia’s barber curriculum but the board voted in 2016 to start using a generic test used by other states, which include the topic. Another possibility, he suggested, is that Virginia barbering schools are just doing a lousy job.

Another hot topic was newly enacted legislation that deregulates blow-dry bars in Virginia. There are services, apparently, where people can go to get their hair washed, styled and dried — not cut — before a big event. Formerly, people doing the blow drying had to be fully licensed cosmetologists. No longer. This news “literally prompted gasps from the audience.” Reports Virginia Mercury:

Jay Deboer, the director of the Department of Professional and Occupational Regulation, tells the board that the Koch Brothers and their push for deregulation in statehouses around the country is at least partially to blame. He says a group they fund advocated for the legislation during session this year and notes that other legislation proposed would have eliminated the board, its regulations and its licenses entirely.

“I don’t need to tell you that there’s a deregulatory fervor sweeping the General Assembly,” he says. “They say our rules and regulations are barriers to the profession, and there’s truth to that: they are barriers to enforce safety and professionalism.”

Bacon’s bottom line: Who can possibly doubt that the licensing of barbers in Virginia is run for the exclusive benefit of the current practitioners of that profession? Why on earth would a would-be barber need to study and answer questions about wigs? Why would someone need a state license to blow dry hair? Why do we need exams and licenses? Aren’t barbering and cosmetology bodies of practice that people can learn perfectly well through apprenticeships? If someone wants to boast about his “certification” — hey, I passed this rigorous training program — fine, let them earn that credential voluntarily to win business. Otherwise, I’m in total accord with the Koch brothers on this one.

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8 responses to “A Peek inside the Board of Barbers and Cosmetology

  1. re: ” Why do we need exams and licenses? ”

    I dunno about the wigs but you can pick up a good number of contagious diseases at a barber shop and other personal services…so I do want barbers trained in how to prevent the spread of disease – as well as inspections of the barber shops to insure they have the proper equipment and are using it.

    So , is this a “barrier” to someone becoming a barber or opening a barber shop?

    well, yeah it is… Is it something that Govt should require or just let the market take care of it?

    THATs the QUESTION – that should be addressed here ..not just WIGS!

    so what’s the verdict?

    Do we want that nasty old government to erect “barriers” to people who want to work?

    You can put me down as a YES – I don’t want to have a barber scraping some disgusting creepy crawlers off some guy in front of me and transferring to me… so .. I vote YES to licensing and exams and NO to Koch Brother “ideas”!

    • LarrytheG, I’m curious to know if you’ve ever started or run a business. Not going to personalize anything toward you, rather more of a metadata question. Citing disease transmission would be the first defense of the licensed folks. But I’ll bet you that there is something like requirement of drain in middle of floor, thereby eliminating most homes from being eligible venues for licensing, while they might actually be perdectly safe for blowing dry hair.

      You will see no more rapid shift of viewpoint than from a practitioner of some craft who is unlicensed (balking at the “ridiculous” barriers to entry) to a licensed practitioner (balking at the unlicensed practicioners who undercut pricing).

      • @Lift – I’ve never done a business but I’m well aware of the issues that do affect start-ups. But the problem is we ALL have property rights – and the right to not be damaged or harmed or hurt by the actions of others.

        This is why we also do restaurant inspections.

        I just don’t think the “free market” is transparent without govt … It’s a a nice theory – but the reality is that people who go into business for themselves will do things that harm others unless they are kept from doing so.

        You can’t sue and recover damages if you are harmed but you can’t go onto others property to see how they are doing “business”. Both parties are protected on the basis of privacy.. so how do you keep those in business from engaging in practices that harm others?

        If you want to talk about specifics – and how and why certain regulations should be or not – I’m with you – but if you want to use those hypotheticals as the basis to not have regulation at all… I’m not. I’m akin you.

        I don’t care about the drain but I DO care if they are not properly sanitizing their equipment… or operating an establishment where infectious disease is not properly prevented.

        I think the same way whether it’s doctor offices, restaurants, or barbers or tatoo shops.. .it’s all the same issue to me.

        I’m quite sure if you went to a grocery store and bought meat and found worms in it – you’d probably switch stores but if there were no regs – and other stores also had worms… what are you going to do – swear off meat because you trust no one? Our food and drug laws first came about in 1906 – hardly an era of overly zealous liberal regulation..

  2. Licensing is one thing, health regulations and inspections are another. You could do the second without the first, and I sure hope we are not depending entirely on the first (mandatory licensing) to protect us from unsanitary practices.

    • you can do the second without the first -but do you REALLY want a barber to choose to NOT use the mandated equipment safeguards?

      You can require sanitizing equipment.. but that’s don’t mean the barber has to use it, right?

      The point here is that the basic premise of many on the right is that such regulation is onerous and wrong – and it hurts business.. and so .. it’s bad .. and we need to let customers decide who is “good” and not…

      which is total 100% horse-feathers..

      I’d say a large majority of new bills in any given GA session is more regulations that someone decided needed to be added because they were overlooked prior.. no?

  3. I had not had a professional haircut in 18 years, since the turn of the century. It’s a racket. Testament to our vanity.

  4. but those who do go get haircuts – should there be regulations about protecting the customers from contagious disease or should there be no regulations and it’s up to the customer to decide?

    this is not just about barbers… it’s about any establishment that provides personal services to people or for that matter -restaurants, etc?

    As a general philosophy? Should we license people and the premises and subject them to inspection -or not?

    Because, that’s essentially the question that Jim has brought up… it’s not just about Barbers – it’s about any service provided that may have the risk of infectious disease… is that a proper role of govt or is it something the govt is doing that it should not be doing?

    come on guys – how about it? we always bring up these specific examples to promote the narrative that regulation is overboard and not warranted but the bigger picture is not about specific things that one may consider appropriate or not – it’s rather about the entire concept of whether a proper role of govt is to be involved in companies that provide services where there is an inherent risk of infectious disease.

    we CAN and SHOULD argue about the merits of individual rules – but we ought not be using a particular rule as a surrogate for the bigger issue of whether govt should regulate or not.

    It’s EASY to bring up specific egregious examples.. but to use those examples as justification for getting rid of regulation all together… well that seems to be in vogue these days with those of Conservative leanings…

  5. Why can’t I go to any barber I choose?

    Gov, keep your damn hands off my hair!

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