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Polis Report

Hair Raising

By Will Harper

Imagine the horror: an incompetent stylist who, after numerous chemical applications, decides to use a heated blow-dryer. Oops. Damaged hair falls to the salon floor. The scalp burns. "It's OK," the Christophe wannabe rationalizes, "the post-chemotherapy look is all the rage now."

There is recourse. The state's Barbering and Cosmetology Board, which licenses--and sometimes investigates and disciplines--hair stylists, cosmetologists, manicurists and electrologists.

The board boasts a $4 million enforcement budget (paid for by licensing fees) and reports taking 128 disciplinary or probationary actions this year--and not just for bad haircuts. In one instance, a Redondo Beach cosmetologist had his license revoked for stripping down to his waist and, in the words of the board's ruling, coming "to ejaculation in the presence of a patron, thus failing to comply with the 'generally accepted standards' for the practice of cosmetology."

Although board members are trying to win a legislative reprieve, the Barbering and Cosmetology Board is scheduled to expire in July. As part of a cost-cutting maneuver by Gov. Pete Wilson and the Legislature, cosmetic licensing and enforcement responsibilities will be swallowed up by the Department of Consumer Affairs, the umbrella agency under which the Barbering and Cosmetology Board previously operated.

Good riddance, says Donna Matias, a Washington, D.C., lawyer representing hair-braiders suing the barbering board for unfair licensing requirements. Matias would like to see the hair-styling industry deregulated and replaced with private certification. If unlicensed hair stylists do a lousy job (or drop their drawers), Matias says, the market--not the government--will weed them out. If someone wants a get a haircut or a braid job from an unlicensed barber, they should be able to. "That's a decision consumers should make," Matias reasons, "not the government."

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From the April 17-23, 1997 issue of Metro

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