Opinion

Deregulating the hair business


Published: Wednesday, January 26, 2011 at 10:16 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 26, 2011 at 10:16 p.m.

West Palm Beach - Florida's hair care industry is wary of the state's new follically challenged governor.

Rick Scott has made it clear he intends to scrap or scale back government regulations imposed on Florida's businesses. And for Rick Wallace, the head of the Florida Association of Beauty Professionals, this sounds like a prelude to an unending string of bad hair days.

"Will this allow ‘garage cutting' to become a legal business in Florida?" Wallace wrote in a group e-mail to his organization's members.

Garage cutting is to hair professionals as back-alley abortions are to women's rights advocates. Florida has more than 180,000 licensed professionals in the beauty industry who operate spas, salons and barbershops. And there are also more than 100 beauty schools churning out licensed graduates.

The state's Department of Business Regulation and Consumer Services oversees the industry, as it enforces a host of regulations and conducts site inspects to make sure that hygiene and cleanliness standards are maintained.

"We deal each day with chemicals, blood-borne pathogens, and perform semi-invasive procedures that require training and oversight to ensure the Florida consumer is protected from those individuals who are doing it wrong or not trained at all," Wallace said. "This is not about setting curlers and blowing a hair style."

This is one industry that isn't looking for less government oversight.

In exchange for paying licensing fees and complying with education and operation standards, the state's cosmetologists, stylists and barbers have a profession that's protected from untrained, low-cost freelancers. As it stands now, working as a barber or cosmetologist without a license in Florida is punishable by a $500 fine.

Exactly what sort of deregulation Scott has in mind isn't clear. His office didn't respond to questions about it, and a spokesperson for the state regulatory agency said it's "premature" to speculate on the specifics of Scott's broad deregulation plans.

"We are committed to working with the governor to reduce regulation, make Florida business-friendly, and continue protecting the health, well-being and safety of Floridians," said Sandi Copes with the Florida Department of Business Regulation and Consumer Services.

But the state's hair-care industry is already on high alert and ready to push back, as it did more than 30 years ago when state legislators entertained deregulating their business.

Dino Laudati, who owns a West Palm Beach salon that specializes in hair coloring, said it's the public that really benefits when hairdressers are regulated.

"Hairdressing is a touchy business," he said. "Now, it's almost like fine plastic surgery. And when you look at men and women today, the hair is one of the most important assets they have.

Frank Cerabino writes for The Palm Beach Post.

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