Mississippi Justice Institute frees niche beauty providers from government licensing scheme

Published 1:18 pm Monday, April 12, 2021


Jackson, Miss. – Several types of niche beauty service providers are now free to offer their services in Mississippi without being forced to pay for expensive classes that don’t teach them how to perform their trade. Under a newly enacted state law, eyebrow threaders, eyelash technicians, and makeup artists can open for business without obtaining esthetician licenses.

The new law was prompted by a series of lawsuits against the Mississippi State Board of Cosmetology, including one filed in 2019 by the Mississippi Justice Institute (MJI) and eyebrow threader Dipa Bhattarai, a letter that was sent by MJI and eyelash technician Amy Burks threatening litigation in 2020, and a lawsuit filed by Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP and makeup artist Karrece Stewart in 2020.

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“Our clients took legal action to defend one of their most important constitutional rights, the right to earn an honest living in our state without being subjected to pointless and burdensome government regulation,” said Aaron Rice, director of MJI.  “Threaders, lash technicians, and makeup artists do not need full-blown esthetician training. They provide safe and simple services.  Now these niche beauty providers won’t have to pay thousands of dollars to attend hundreds of hours of classes which are unrelated to their practice.”

Eyebrow Threading

Threading is a very safe and simple technique that allows threading artists to use nothing but twisted cotton thread, acting like a mini-lasso, to remove stray hair, most commonly around the eyebrows.  Threading originated in South Asian countries centuries ago, but is growing in popularity in the U.S. because it is an elegant, simple and relatively painless form of hair removal.

In 2013, Mississippi law was amended to require threaders to obtain an esthetician license. But before taking the licensing exam, which does not test the applicant’s knowledge of threading, a would-be threader would have to take 600 hours of classroom instruction at a cost of up to $12,000.  And worse, not a single hour of that instruction teaches threading.

Dipa Bhattarai is an international student who has been threading for most of her life.  She saw an opportunity to use her skills to pursue the American Dream, and opened a threading studio with locations in Columbus and Starkville and hired four employees.  But the cosmetology board shut her down because she did not have an esthetician license.

“I am so grateful that I can get back in business without having to get a completely unnecessary license,” said Bhattarai. “I can focus on my business and my education now without worrying that the government will shut me down.”

Eyelash Extensions

Eyelash extensions are available for purchase in self-adhesive strips at most retail outlets. However, in recent years many customers have started paying lash technicians to apply individual false eyelashes, which results in a more natural look. This is a time-consuming and tedious process, but it is safe and easy to learn.

Mississippi law does not specifically require lash technicians to obtain an esthetician’s license.  However, in 2019, the cosmetology board determined that applying eyelash extensions fell within its jurisdiction because it involved beautifying the face. That determination meant that lash technicians would also have to obtain esthetician licenses, despite the fact that the required classroom instruction also did not teach or test on eyelash extension application.

Amy Burks opened an eyelash extension lounge in Madison in 2013 and hired four employees.  In 2019, the cosmetology board issued her a citation for operating an unlicensed salon, and said her and all of her employees would have to quit work and attend training.

“I am so thrilled to see this law passed,” said Burks. “My team and I have poured everything we have into this business for the past eight years. To think that it was all going to be taken away was so heartbreaking.”

Makeup Artists

Applying makeup also requires an esthetician license, despite the fact that hundreds of millions of people apply makeup every day without formal training and the fact that makeup instruction is only a very small component of the required classwork, which is mostly focused on skincare and hair removal.

Karrece Stewart started a makeup business in Fulton. She teaches makeup techniques and wants to be able to apply makeup for clients as well. But that would require a license.

“I started my own makeup business, Get Glam Beauty, to pursue my dreams and help give women the confidence they need to see themselves in a different way,” said Stewart. “Mississippi’s unconstitutional licensing requirements for cosmetologists were an obstacle to achieving that dream, but with this change, I will now be able to grow my business, better provide for my family, and use my skills to enhance women’s beauty.”

House Bill 1312

The new law, House Bill 1312, was negotiated by MJI attorneys and Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP with the Mississippi Attorney General’s Office, before being passed by the Mississippi legislature and signed into law by Governor Tate Reeves on Friday, April 9, 2021. The new law took effect immediately.

The new law prohibits the Mississippi State Board of Cosmetology from requiring any type of cosmetology license for persons whose practice is limited to threading, applying eyelash extensions, or makeup artistry.  It also prevents the board from imposing fines, civil or criminal penalties on unlicensed threaders, lash technicians, or makeup artists, or regulating the practice of those services.

Everett White, an attorney with the law firm Sones & White, PLLC, served as an MJI volunteer attorney for Ms. Bhattarai.

Andy Taggart, a founding partner of the Taggart, Rimes & Graham law firm, served as an MJI volunteer attorney for Ms. Burks.

The Mississippi Justice Institute is a nonprofit, constitutional litigation center and the legal arm of the Mississippi Center for Public Policy.