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Professional Wedding Hair-Styling Is Illegal In California. A New Permit Would Change This — Thanks To Tech Companies.



California regulators of hair salons and cosmetologists are changing a long-held, but little-followed rule about where these professionals can conduct their services — and they may have tech companies to thank.

Current law requires that all hair-styling, make-up application, nail-painting and other services take place in a salon. That means bridal parties who have hair styled in a hotel room before a wedding have had the service performed illegally.

T’Nique Bell is a Los Angeles-based cosmetologist who works on a freelance basis. She says she can’t work in a salon, because her mother has dementia and she cannot conform to the strict hours.

“I do weddings, proms, also I work with clients who just don’t have time to go to the salon,” Bell said. “So, they’ll ask me to go to their house to give them a blowout — very easy, simple, 30 minutes or whatever.”

The California Board of Barbering and Cosmetology is creating a new permit that will allow some styling outside of salons, at the direction of lawmakers. But the major push for the permit came not from freelance stylists, but tech companies.

Several organizations already offer on-demand styling, which consumers can order through smartphone apps, a model similar to that of Uber, Lyft or TaskRabbit. The companies have lobbied the state to legalize their businesses in California.

“We want to be legal. We want to be meeting all of the standards and all of the regulations,” Maile Pacheco, the founder of beGlammed, told the board on Monday.

But beauty schools and major salon chains like Supercuts have criticized the creation of permits. They have pushed for restrictions, including limiting permits only to employees of salons.

The board considered, but did not adopt, that provision in a vote on Monday. Instead, it directed staff to include other amendments for the permit.

One of those amendments would require that a stylist work in a salon for at least two years before becoming eligible for a travel permit.

“We understand that the world is changing and we’re in an on-demand society, and more and more people are looking at their phones and they want to be able to press a button and request a service,” said board president Kari Williams. “Our goal as a board is to make sure that when they’re requesting that service, that they’re safe.”

The board told staff it will vote on the permit and amendments next month.

Ben Bradford

Former State Government Reporter

As the State Government Reporter, Ben covered California politics, policy and the interaction between the two. He previously reported on local and state politics, business, energy, and environment for WFAE in Charlotte, North Carolina.  Read Full Bio 

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