A Major Bad Hair Day

Bleached scalps. Chipped nails. Rotten perms. If state officials deregulate the beauty industry, things could get ugly.

All complaints concerning professions regulated by the DBPR are investigated by the department. Then a case can either be settled between the department and the alleged violator or brought for a trial before the state's administrative court system. Whatever the case's disposition, it must be approved by the barbers' and cosmetologists' respective governing boards, quasijudicial bodies appointed by the governor. Like other professional boards, they are supported by license fees and fines and thus don't drain the state's taxpayers. "But it isn't about money as much as efficiency," Towey argues. "There are a lot of hidden costs." Among them, he says, are higher prices passed on to consumers to cover the $80 initial licensing fee and $25 renewal fee every two years, plus the cost of maintaining the administrative court bureaucracy.

The DBPR study also recommended abolishment of all continuing education requirements for barbers and cosmetologists, with the exception of HIV/health education. That doesn't placate Kilmer, who worries that if the regulatory process is weakened, no one will know if a hairdresser really has gotten the necessary schooling. Currently licensees must take an approved HIV training course every two years, plus they must pass written and practical exams to be licensed in the first place. "They must graduate from an accredited school, take a course in HIV -- that's fine. But do you need a practical exam in which one of the parts is performing a tapered cut?" Towey asks derisively.

As a matter of fact, yes, Kilmer retorts. "It's a hands-on business and there should be hands-on testing. You may know you're supposed to put the bleach a quarter inch from the scalp because the body heat causes it to melt, but that doesn't mean you can really do it. And if you don't, you're going to have a person with real serious sores on their scalp.

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