I recently read the article “Hair braiding bill represents ‘new narrative’ at legislature” and Rep. Rena Moran’s move to eliminate hair braiding license requirements. I strongly disagree. She thinks she’s helping us, but she’s not. Removing the education piece will only place Black women at even higher health risks.
“Hair braiding” as defined in HF Chapter 155A includes more than just cornrows — it also includes “locking, sewing, twisting, weaving, or wrapping” hair and extensions by hand and by only using simple braiding devices. Those “simple hair devices” include needles under Minnesota Statute 116.76.
These needles are used for installing “scalp hair prostheses” as defined in Minnesota Statutes 62A.28, commonly known as “customized wigs” as included in the Hair Braiding definition, as well as for sew-in weaves.
This is scary as most Black women in braiding salons re-use weaving needles and do not use safety equipment in hair braiding salons and we are the highest rate of HIV, HCV and HPV contacting in Minnesota.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that about 385,000 sharps-related injuries occur annually among health care workers in hospitals. While there is no data for exposure to injuries by the Board of Cosmetology or the MN Health Department, the CDC reports that such simple device injuries pose a 24 percent increased risk with suture needles.
As a licensed cosmetologist and hair braider course provider, I helped form the EcoHair Braiders Association, LLC in 2014 along with five hair braider course providers to provide an online learning natural hair course and learning experience for hair braiders. Currently, there are 350 registered hair braiders 156 active, 17-course providers, 2 charter schools and four community colleges offering the hair braiding services and curriculum, “Natural Hair Braiding Safety for the Public and Practitioner.”
As hair braiders, individuals and entities, we authorized, reviewed, and approved the adoption of the rules by the Board of Cosmetology into Chapter 154 and 155A and are now asking Minnesota’s legislators to amend HF 140 to include informative safety oversight research and analysis that will create uniformity and allow reciprocation between 24 other states that currently regulate hair braiding and fiscal note for appropriations.
We also request the creation of a Needle-Stick Committee to help reduce exposure to bloodborne pathogens by establishing preventive rules for the safety of the citizens of the state.
We do not want the current hair braiding law repealed, we just want it transferred to another chapter in the Minnesota Statutes to address infection control. In addition to needles, “hair braiders” use glue, cigarette lighters and boiling hot water which could also create health risks.
We recommend this infection control training be regulated and include three parts: bloodborne pathogen compliance via OSHA and its Needlestick Safety and Prevention Act of 2000; first-aid training from Red Cross; and personal protective equipment training from the Department of Labor and industry to include the use of thimbles and containers. This training could be completed in as few as three hours, but needs to happen annually.
We understand Moran’s desire to remove cumbersome requirements as it relates to the economy, but ultimately see it posing a greater risk for the health of Black women which is our greatest form of wealth.
Denise Jarrett a licensed cosmetologist, manager, instructor, school manager, hair braider course providers, and expert witness.