'Eyebrow threaders' deserve freedom too

Published on Monday, 10 March 2014 22:04 - Written by

Apparently, “eyebrow threading” is a thing. Who knew? The state of Texas knew — and wants to crack down on illicit and unlicensed eyebrow threaders. It’s another example of irrational and arbitrary government regulation standing in the way of entrepreneurship.

“For those who’ve never heard of eyebrow threading, the practice involves gliding a string of cotton thread across someone’s face to trap and remove unwanted hair,” writes Kathleen Hunker of the Texas Public Policy Foundation. “The procedure is safe, involves no chemicals, and, as this policy analyst can personally attest, leaves the customer with a fine looking brow for date nights.”

It’s more and more popular, because it’s easy and effective.

“Because it’s relatively inexpensive, threading has become rather popular, and it’s rare to find a shopping mall without at least one kiosk offering the service,” Hunker notes. “Perhaps because of its popularity, the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation has demanded that threaders quit their jobs until they complete one-years’ worth of coursework at a private beauty school, costing about $20,000. The department backed up its new licensing rule by handing out staggering fines to individual threaders and businesses.”

Last month, the Texas Supreme Court will hear a case brought by eyebrow threaders, represented by the Institute for Justice.

“The government cannot force people to do useless things,” said lead attorney Wesley Hottot, of the Institute. “Many of Texas’s eyebrow threaders have decades of experience. They cannot be put out of a job and forced to pay for schooling in beauty techniques they do not use. That isn’t just wrong. It’s unconstitutional.”

One of the plaintiffs is Ash Patel of San Antonio.

“I am thrilled we will have our day in the state’s highest court,” Patel said. “Eyebrow threading is an ancient technique. It’s painless. It’s even safer than using tweezers. No chemicals, dyes or sharp objects are used in eyebrow threading. And that’s why I don’t understand why the state of Texas wants to regulate us.”

The TPPF’s Hunker said it’s not uncommon for regulatory agencies to go overboard like this.

“The controversy underscores a common problem with occupational licensing, which, in many cases, have become regulatory cesspits more worried about keeping competition out than protecting public health,” she said. “That type of protectionism doesn’t jive with Texas’ reputation as a beacon for free markets and entrepreneurship.”

The Institute for Justice has a pretty good track record of fighting silly occupational licensing programs. The Institute has defended hair braiders in Washington, booksellers in New Orleans and cab drivers throughout the country, who faced onerous licensing requirements,

Patel said all he wants is the opportunity to earn a living.

“I grew up in India and I found it difficult to land on a good opportunity to start my own business,” he said. “That’s why I came to Texas. I am only asking for a fair chance to pursue my American Dream free from needless government regulation.”

There’s no public health justification for forcing threaders to obtain expensive cosmetology diplomas. Let them thread eyebrows — whatever that is.