For years, Minnesotan beauticians have styled hair and applied makeup at weddings, proms, and other major social gatherings where people want to look their finest. But now a crackdown threatens to throw about 1,000 hair and makeup artists out of business.
Last December, the Minnesota Board of Cosmetologist Examiners declared that applying makeup at special events could only be done by licensed salon managers, a credential that can take over 4,000 hours of training. To enforce its rules, the Board has ordered makeup artists to cease and desist and slapped them with thousands of dollars in fines. Violating the law can even risk criminal penalties. Yet the law is filled with loopholes. The Board doesn’t require a license to offer hair or makeup services for fashion, film, media productions, photo-shoots, TV, or the theater. (Selling makeup at retail counters is also exempt.)
Minnesota’s regulations are not just ridiculous, they’re also unconstitutional. Last month, several hair and makeup artists, along with a Minneapolis-based makeup artistry school, filed a lawsuit against the Minnesota Board of Cosmetologist Examiners. (The Board has declined to publicly comment on the case.) Typically, advocates for occupational licensing claim it’s necessary to protect the public’s health and safety. But that’s hardly an issue with hair and makeup artists, since they use beauty tools found in almost any American’s home, like blow dryers, brushes, and combs. It doesn’t take thousands of hours to learn how to wash your hands and clean your tools. Moreover, as the artists’ lawsuit argues, “any legitimate government interest defendants may have in protecting public health and safety is wholly undermined by their broad exemptions for services. Doing hair and makeup for photo-shoots and media appearances is unregulated, while offering the exact same services at a wedding or other special event is illegal unless the artist has completed thousands of hours of useless training, a distinction that is “manifestly arbitrary and fanciful.”
Since “there is no natural and reasonable basis” to license makeup and hair services for brides, but not bridal photo-shoots, Minnesota’s wildly unequal treatment infringes on the Equal Protection Clauses of both the U.S. and Minnesota Constitutions. Make no mistake: The state’s licensing requirements are incredibly onerous. Before they can legally work at special events in Minnesota, makeup artists need at least 3,300 hours of classes and experience, while hairstylists must finish 4,250 hours of training. First, a makeup artist must become a licensed esthetician, which requires at least 600 hours of coursework. Artists who also want to style hair face an even steeper challenge and must complete 1,550 hours of training for a license in cosmetology, a program that can cost as much as $20,000. Worse, according to the lawsuit, the vast majority of those classes are “irrelevant,” since “at least two-thirds of the cosmetology and esthetics curricula do not relate to special event hair and makeup services.” After finishing the useless classes, both hair and makeup artists then have to pass three separate exams. License in hand, a hair or makeup artist then needs another license, this time as a salon manager, before they can obtain a special events permit to perform at weddings and other major social gatherings. Becoming a salon manager requires working 2,700 hours in a salon, even if that work has nothing to do with the types of services an artist would provide at a wedding. After all, special events, almost by definition, rarely happen in salons.
Requiring little capital, running a hair and makeup business has been especially popular for aspiring female entrepreneurs (in jurisdictions where it’s not illegal). Demand for their services at weddings isn’t going away any time soon.