Hendricks County Flyer, Avon, IN

March 1, 2013

Hair-raising proposition

Cosmetologists worry about certification future

Bart Doan

— Back when she was a single mother, Tiphanie Crawford said her cosmetology license was the only thing keeping her and her son afloat.

If Senate Bill 520 is passed, she said others won’t have the same opportunity.

“It would be a disaster,” says Crawford, who works as a stylist at Hair Central in Brownsburg.

SB 520 would create what is called the ERASER committee, which stands for eliminate, reduce, and streamline employee regulation. The bill has already passed the Indiana Senate, and could have grave consequences for licensed cosmetologists.

They are one of the 13 professions where the bill seeks to explore licensure with the deadline of July 2016 to recommend changes or determine whether licensing is necessary for the profession.

“This bill is bad for the industry as a whole,” said Lynn Smith, who is a campus director for PJ’s College of Cosmetology in Brownsburg. “The biggest thing is infection control. Students are taught how to keep their tools sanitary and clean so they don’t spread infection. As a school, we’re checked to make sure we’re following those guidelines. These students learn chemistry, electricity, anatomy. It’s not just doing hair. The fact is, they can mix two chemicals together and burn somebody.”

Section 13 of the bill would apply to all licensed aspects of beauty culture, something that scares Smith, especially when it comes to estheticians.

“They’re using light therapy, electro therapy, and they could kill someone potentially,” she said. “You have to know how much electricity to use, and this bill is talking about licensure across the board.”

Crawford added, “It makes us mad. We spend upwards of $12,000 ti $15,000 to go to school for 10 months. That’s a lot of money, especially for single families. That was me at one point, struggling doing hair just to make enough money to pay my way and my son’s way. If you bring in people who aren’t licensed and shove out the people that are, where are they going to go? This is like a stab in the back.”

While places like Hair Central have said they will continue to only hire licensed cosmetologists, Smith says the effects will be felt hard for cosmetology colleges and high schools. She said she doesn’t think law makers necessarily took that into consideration.

“It’s going to take Title I funds away from us,” Smith said. “Students that come here are not going to be eligible for financial aid. As an industry, we are accredited like IU and Purdue. So these students are not going to be able to go to school because of that. I really don’t know what (legislators’) reasoning is.”

Smith said that through PJ’s, Ben Davis High School has a vocational program where students can learn the trade and be ready for the work force by the time they graduate, if they so choose. She said more than 300 applicants a year try to get into the program.

“We have all of these young, talented students that want to do this, and this is keeping them occupied and teaching them to work for it,” she said. “Some of these kids, this is their shot, and they have the drive to do it. It gives them a good work ethic. We have a placement program and it’s a lifetime placement. A lot of these students still go onto college, but now they’re able to go as a licensed cosmetologist so they can do hair and not work their way through with minimum wage.”

Karen Beaman, an instructor at the Ben Davis High School Area 31 cosmetology program, says the ramifications of making licensing in the industry obsolete are immense. She said the program does more than just teach students how to beautify clients.

“These students dedicate a lot of time in their lives to come to the career center and they could be using it otherwise toward a different diploma,” she said. “It’s a sense of pride also, because they learn how to take care of their hair and skin and themselves too. People don’t realize, they have to study the circulatory system. They need to know the muscles and bones in the body, different medications and how products could affect your skin.”

Beaman said the legislation will harm salons, spas, and barbershops alike.

“They do a lot of shaving,” she said of barbershops. “And you need to learn things like a bald fade. So (barbers) are certainly worried too.”

Beaman says potential legislation could not only be hazardous to health, but also to the program.

“I’m not exactly sure how, but it’d be impacted,” she predicted. “Students will ask ‘why spend the money and time?’ Some people would still want to learn how to do it, but then they’re thinking about how someone right next to them didn’t pay the money to learn. I’m not really sure how it’d come out, but it wouldn’t be fair to the students.”

Taylor Gill, a student in the Ben Davis program, agreed that the licensing is important.

“I’m learning something in high school that I can use the rest of my life,” she said. “(The certification) is very important. If you don’t go through the schooling, you don’t know the proper ways to do something and you can damage other people’s hair and skin.”

Crawford and Smith both go back to the health aspects of the industry.

“It’s as simple as wearing the cape,” Smith explained. “The cape should not touch the client’s skin. You put a towel or a sheet under it because you don’t want the cape on people without a barrier. You don’t know where that cape has been. Scabies, for instance, can spread very quickly.”

Crawford added, “There are a select few people who can cut hair. Dandruff is a fungus you can transfer. I’ve seen people that have used the same comb on every person. What’s going to happen when someone needs a perm or a color treatment? They burn your hair off. Or you rinse it out and it falls out. Taking the license away would be an absolutely horrendous mistake.

“If somebody has high blood pressure or heart disease and they come in for a facial, you can’t massage them like you would a normal client. Those issues are very concerning for public safety.”

The bill now moves onto the House. If it is adopted, it would mean that the general assembly would need to evaluate and find reasoning to retain the licenses. If they are terminated, funds or accounts related to them would revert to the state general fund.

Regardless of the bill, Smith said PJ’s College of Cosmetology will continue to teach safe practices.

“The schools will never go away,” Smith said. “I don’t think there are many salons that are going to hire unlicensed professionals. It’s a liability issue. I feel like I’ve been defending this profession my entire life. We are a technical college. Yet people just think we come here and play with hair all day. I’ve always had a passion for this since I was a young child.

“There’s also a mobility issue. If students graduate here, they’ll want to move to another state that is licensed or face going back to school.”

Crawford said she too had always wanted to be a cosmetologist.

“This is the only thing I ever wanted to do really,” she said. “You go to school for 1,500 hours. We have to pass the state board the same place doctors have to go to get licensed. We get them renewed every four years. Having someone that doesn’t have a license going into this is scary.”