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.
In 2016, Glenda Martin wasn’t aware of any trouble brewing between La’ James and the federal government, or that the school had spent the previous two years in a legal dispute with the Iowa attorney general’s office.
All she knew was that cosmetology was in her blood, as she likes to say. Her mother was a cosmetologist, and started teaching her how to style hair when she was a preteen. There was never any doubt about what career Ms. Martin would pursue. The only question was where to enroll. The way she saw it, she had only for-profit options: PCI Academy, an hour away in Ames, or La’ James International College in Fort Dodge, where she lived. (One community college campus offers a cosmetology degree, but it’s in a sparsely populated corner of the state, three hours from Fort Dodge.) She had heard that PCI students were pressured to push a certain number of products before they could get their own kits.
“I would have enjoyed another choice here in town,” she said. “I would have definitely checked it out.” Unknown to Ms. Martin, there could have been another option, just a few miles down the road: Iowa Central Community College. In the fall of 2004, the college submitted an application to the state cosmetology board to open a program. But in early 2005, the Iowa Cosmetology School Association and La’ James sued Iowa Central and got a temporary injunction that prevented it from moving forward with the program.
The lawsuit argued that the state code prohibits public entities from competing with private ones. If Iowa Central opened a cheaper program, the suit contended, La’ James would be “irreparably harmed by the loss of employees, members, clients, students, potential employees, potential clients, potential students” and other factors. Mr. Becher said the company had sued to “protect the students” from a subpar education. Ms. Wood Becher added, “It’s kind of a quality control thing.” The two sides ultimately compromised; students could earn associate degrees by completing cosmetology certificates at La’ James and taking six business classes at Iowa Central. La’ James lost nothing in the deal, but students lost the option of paying significantly less.
The Iowa Cosmetology School Association said its members’ prices are “consistent with the cost of all postsecondary education today” — particularly considering that they do not receive state subsidies. The average annual in-state cost of attendance at Iowa’s community colleges is $4,697. The University of Iowa, the state’s most expensive public four-year institution, costs $9,492 per year for in-state students. This year, Iowa Lakes Community College, about three hours northwest of Des Moines, announced plans to offer a cosmetics degree. The college’s president, Valerie Newhouse, said one cosmetology school had already threatened litigation. In 2016, Ms. Martin went for a short tour of the La’ James campus in Fort Dodge. The school’s storefront was airy and glamorous. Hair products lined the walls under enlarged photographs of well-coiffed women. Makeup displays were fronted by placards advertising the services available in the student-staffed salon. Students dressed in black shirts and pants. Before her visit was over, Ms. Martin filled out her enrollment and financial aid paperwork. She took out $23,000 in loans. Ms. Martin liked La’ James at first, she said, but quickly discovered problems. She found the classes boring and repetitive. Some instructors had students read aloud from textbooks and watch instructional videos. Ms. Martin said that she supported Iowa’s 2,100-hour requirement in theory — as did several of the women we spoke with — but that in practice, many of those hours were wasted, particularly once she got to the salon floor. Although Fridays and Saturdays would be busy, the rest of the week generally dragged. She’d be itching to practice what she had been learning in class. But some days there were so few customers that she’d sit and wait for hours.
One day, she braved a snowstorm to get to the salon. The school had stayed open, requiring students to come in. Ms. Martin was the only one who did. She left at the end of the day without having seen a single customer — but those hours still counted toward the 2,100. She would shake her head when she saw other students, sick of the boredom, go home early. “That only works against you,” she said. “You have to stay here and do absolutely nothing or you go home and lose the hours.” The Iowa Cosmetology School Association said the state’s system “provides the right amount of training time to practice on actual people.” It also said that if some students waste hours sitting around, “it is unfortunate for both the student and the school.” In interviews, more than 20 former students at schools represented by the association described experiences like Ms. Martin’s. One former La’ James student, Michelle Wipperman, said foot traffic in the salon at the Cedar Rapids school was so low, some students asked administrators if they could advertise more. She recalls being told that it would be too expensive.
“I would say probably 60 percent of our time was sitting around waiting for people,” Ms. Wipperman said. “There were times where I personally had met all my goals that I needed to meet. I was literally just waiting. I had to finish my clock hours.” Despite these experiences, when Ms. Martin finished her cosmetology certificate, she re-enrolled for further training in esthetics. She thought the extra skills would help her someday in her own salon. Ms. Martin passed both her exams. But the school will not release her transcripts, so she can get her licenses, until she pays the several hundred dollars it says she owes. She disputes the debt and says she can’t afford to pay.
In the last five years, legislators in at least 11 states have introduced bills to lower the number of hours required for a cosmetology certificate. These efforts are driven by a mix of anti-regulatory libertarians, national salon chains that are having trouble hiring enough qualified stylists and the national association for cosmetologists, which wants its members to be able to carry their licenses across state lines. While aggressive lobbying by schools has managed to stall or defeat legislation in several states, at least eight have reduced the number of hours in their regulations. In recent years, required hours were lowered to 1,500 in South Dakota and Montana. And Nebraska legislators, after a long battle with the schools, trimmed their mandate to 1,800 hours. Administrators from schools in those states disagreed with the reductions, but said they were still able to cover the same material as before. Iowa, with its 2,100-hour standard, remains “an embarrassment,” said Dawn Pettengill, a Republican state representative who will retire next month. Hoping to lower the profession’s barrier to entry, Ms. Pettengill this year introduced legislation that would drop the hours to 1,500. Republicans in the Senate proposed a similar bill. Schools and their lobbyists mounted a fierce push-back. The schools “were livid,” said State Senator Jason Schultz, a Republican subcommittee chairman. “I didn’t expect the amount of opposition.” The school association’s political action committee had given more than $20,000 to Iowa candidates since 2014. It also had three lobbyists registered with the state; for the last session, the organization paid the lobbyists’ company $12,500.
While the dollar amounts weren’t huge, a little goes a long way in Des Moines. Hearings weren’t publicized, or even required, giving an advantage to the well-organized group. The schools argued that maintaining 2,100 hours was crucial to ensuring that students were able to learn everything needed to run salons in rural parts of the state, including nails, esthetics, business and state law, not just hair-styling. Their courses, they said, provide more depth than those in other states. A review of cosmetology curriculum’s nationally, however, shows that most states teach subjects beyond hair-styling. More than half explicitly mandate instruction in law or business topics. The Iowa school association also maintained that important differences in regulations complicated comparisons of schools across state lines. In Massachusetts, for example, a recent graduate must work under supervision for two years.
“We do not feel it is necessary to lower the standards of Iowa’s education just because other states have done so,” the association said. “It doesn’t make sense to us to produce graduates that come out of our programs with less skills, less confidence and who are less likely to succeed.” At a subcommittee hearing on the Senate bill, only one person testified in favor of fewer hours. Senator Schultz said that he had wanted the bill to move forward, but that since “only one side showed up,” he couldn’t justify it. Both bills died in committee. It’s not clear how much money the schools would lose if they no longer had students working on salon floors for so many hours. In Nebraska, schools argued at hearings that they would have to raise their tuition to make up for lost revenue if the state reduced the hours. La’ James supported, but did not testify in favor of, Iowa’s legislation, and the Empire Education Group, which owns the nation’s largest chain of cosmetology schools, has backed legislation in Ohio to drop the hour requirement to 1,000.
The increased scrutiny on cosmetology regulations at the state level follows a federal Department of Education effort, starting in 2009, to crack down on for-profit schools that charge high tuitions for credentials that do not lead to well-paying jobs. For each program, the department compiled so-called gainful employment information, which compared student debt with earnings after graduation and issued ratings. The figure for all programs nationally was 24 percent. Cosmetology programs fared particularly poorly: Nearly 40 percent of them, including 12 in Iowa, either failed or were in a warning “zone,” indicating that their students were not making enough to comfortably pay back their debts.
Cosmetology schools say the numbers do not accurately capture what their graduates earn in an industry with so many tips. And it is true that cosmetologists have the potential to make a good living. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage for a cosmetologist is $24,850. Those in the top 10 percent earn more than $50,000, or nearly $25 an hour. The problem is that most of these professionals flounder for years before getting to that point, if they reach it at all. After more than seven years on the job, Ms. Lozano finally got a raise. But that meant the loan payments she had been able to defer came due. The money she’ll use to finish paying them most likely won’t come from haircuts. Ms. Lozano plans to go back to school to become a registered nurse. If she’s able to find a position in that line of work, she could more than double her current salary. And it will give her and her daughter, who wants to be a doctor, another thing to bond over. “I told her she wasn’t allowed to go to school for hair,” Ms. Lozano said. “I don’t want her going through the same thing that I did — the debt, and everything after the fact. I won’t let her do it.”
Frédéric Fekkai, in partnership with Cornell Capital LLC, has taken back the brand he started by acquiring Frédéric Fekkai Brands.
Fekkai Brands creates hair and body care products, including shampoos, conditioners, treatments, hair fragrances and styling products. Additionally, the company owns and operates a number of salons across the US.
Fekkai, who founded his namesake brand in 1996, sold it in 2008 to Procter & Gamble. P&G then sold the brand in 2015 to a joint venture formed between the CEOs of Designer Parfums and Luxe Brands. The ownership group selling off the company includes Dilesh Mehta, Tony Bajaj, Joel Ronkin and Amy Sachs
Blue Mistral LLC, a holding company founded by Fekkai and Cornell Capital, will own and operate Fekkai Brands together with Bastide, a fast-growing Provence-based provider of luxury fragrances and hand and body care products that Fekkai has led since 2017. As CEO of Blue Mistral, Fekkai will further accelerate the growth of the Fekkai Brands and salons by placing a heightened emphasis on education, innovation and the customer’s overall experience while leveraging opportunities for collaboration with Bastide.
“I am thrilled to rejoin Fekkai Brands and eager to reconnect with the salons, teams and consumers,” said Fekkai. “This acquisition will provide me the opportunity to reinfuse my passion for innovation into the brand, while reigniting its growth and guiding Fekkai Brands through its next chapter in a modern and exciting way.”
“The opportunity to partner with Frédéric, a proven entrepreneur in the beauty sector, as he returns to the helm of his iconic brand is truly compelling,” said Henry Cornell, senior partner of Cornell Capital. “Leveraging Cornell Capital’s cross-border network and operational expertise, and Frédéric’s deep relationships and reputation within the industry, Fekkai Brands is well-positioned to succeed in the growing global cosmetics and personal care industry.”
Ronkin, exiting CEO of Fekkai Brands added, “Frédéric is an accomplished entrepreneur with a proven track record of building highly desirable brands. We are confident that his return to the Company will be instrumental in fueling its growth and driving innovation.”
A bill to overhaul training standards for cosmetologists was lying dormant until it suddenly gained momentum this month, passing out of a House committee. Now opponents are scrambling to rally against the bill, saying it waters down the license. But supporters argue that this bill is needed to help the state’s salon industry thrive. “So if I don’t want the bleach to touch this part of the hair I’m gonna use the foil to block it.” Katie Groezinger is meticulous, as she lays one narrow strip of foil after another onto her client’s hair. She’s standing next to her salon chair at The Spa School in Worthington. Groezinger, a cosmetology student, then grabs a small brush and begins to add another layer of color to a different strip of hair. “We’re making her regrowth a little darker,” said Groezinger. She’s doing what’s known as a balayage. It’s a new, trendy technique that darkens a person’s hair starting at the roots and gradually works its way down, transitioning to a different color, in this case a lighter blonde. “Brightening it back up for spring.”
Groezinger is 300 hours away from earning an advanced cosmetology license, a license that would be eliminated if a bill that’s sitting in the Ohio House were to pass. “I will put our 1,500 and 1,800 hour education up against anybody in the United States, we teach complete cosmetology,” said Sue Carter Moore, president emeritus of the Salon Schools Group, which provides training for cosmetologists. “And to reduce that for self-serving salon owners and national chains who wish to have fast graduates is absolutely wrong,” she said. The proposed change to cosmetology standards in Ohio is comprehensive. Along with reducing instruction hours and getting rid of the advanced cosmetology license, it eliminates the natural hairstyling license and other advanced licenses dealing with nail and skin care. Because the bill deals with so much, there are several voices sounding off for and against the measure. But perhaps the most heated debate is between two groups; Carter Moore and her association of private cosmetology schools versus salons. Elizabeth Murch represents the Ohio Salon Association, which firmly supports the bill. She says these changes are crucial to keep up with a growing need for cosmetologists. “The main crisis isn’t moving to 1,000 hours the main crisis is that schools are closing; the Dayton area has been hit significantly with school closures which then provides difficulty for any salon to find qualified individuals to work,” Murch said.
She says this is the standard that’s already in place for anyone getting a cosmetology license from a public vocational and career tech schools. Murch argues that 1,000 hours is an adequate amount of time to teach students about safety and sanitation measures, which she says are the only thing the state should be regulating. “The standard cannot be unfair and we should be legislating safety and sanitary practices entering this profession. We cannot legislate a good haircut,” said Murch. “I’m personally offended,” Carter Moore replied. Carter Moore with the Salon Schools Group says that’s dramatically underselling the value of cosmetology education. “This business is constantly evolving with different products new techniques and new chemicals that we’re working with,” Carter Moore added. As Murch points out, EMTs, police officers, nurses, and tattoo artists are all required to participate in significantly less instruction.
She adds that people can get extra education on the salon floor as employees rather than students at expensive private school that can take a long time to pay off. “Most of that 500 hours is made up on the clinic floor where the students are providing services not being paid but they are providing services and the school is making money,” said Murch. Carter Moore says students get real first-hand experience at a school rather than being relegated to assistants in salons. She adds that the advanced licenses give students the confidence to go straight to starting their own business without signing contracts with salons. So, as Carter Moore puts it, this bill can help salons reduce competition. “When you have people go into a salon loft as an independent contractor it certainly does dry up the pool of available employees for the chain salons and I’m going ‘gee’ maybe that’s what’s behind this legislation,” Carter Moore said.
Murch says there’s nothing stopping the cosmetology schools from still teaching a 1,500-hour course. Carter Moore says they can do that but students will still only walk away with a state license that says they completed 1,000 hours of instruction. Back at The Spa School, Groezinger doesn’t regret the 1500 hours of instruction she’s received, saying it’s a craft that needs to be honed. “I don’t think 1,000 hours is enough for anyone to be professional at what they’re doing I don’t think a doctor would be like ‘hey you got 1,000 hours of anatomy you can go cut someone open.”
The bill also allows the state to recognize a cosmetology license from any state that requires 1,000 instruction hours or more. But, as Carter Moore points out, if lawmakers approve the changes then an Ohio license won’t qualify in other states with higher standards, including every state that borders Ohio. The bill has passed a House committee and now awaits a vote in the full House chamber before moving to the Senate.
A new class action lawsuit alleges that Monat Global Corp. promotes its hair-care products as being able to help growth, but consumers say they actually lost hair and experienced irritation after using the products.
Lead plaintiffs, Trisha Whitmire and Emily Yanes de Flores, allege in their class action lawsuit that they and others purchased Monat hair care products because they were promised aid in hair growth and health; however, say the plaintiffs, the chemicals in the products actually lead to increased hair loss. They say the misrepresentations are part of a scam by Monat to get consumers to purchase even more expensive products from them. Both plaintiffs allege that they experienced significant hair loss after investing substantial sums in Monat products. They say they brought their concerns to the company, but were told they were going through a “detox” process and would see healthier hair if they continued to use the Monat products. They say the company also pointed the finger at suppliers when they continued to complain.
“Shamefully, hair loss claims are met with unsubstantiated claims of a ‘detox’ period that will cause increased hair loss before the purported benefits of Monat hair care products accrue or worse yet, suggestions to spend more money on still more expensive Monat haircare products,” the Monat class action lawsuit states. Frustratingly, allege the plaintiffs, the hair loss does not stop, even after consumers stop using the Monat products. According to the Monat class action lawsuit, Monat advertises its products as “naturally-based” and “safe.” The plaintiffs say they were drawn in by claims that the hair care products were “suitable for all skin and hair types.”
Further, allege the plaintiffs, Monat claims that their products stop hair loss and aid in regrowth. The website, according to the complaint, touts chemicals used in Monat products as clinically proven to provide a “significant decrease in hair loss effect and increase in hair regrowth.”
“In fact, MONAT Hair Care Products use numerous harsh chemicals and known human allergens. As a result of the defective nature of the MONAT Hair Care Products, they were and are unfit for their intended use and purpose,” the Monat class action lawsuit claims. According to the class action lawsuit, many other consumers experienced the same problems and misleading responses from the hair care company; however, Monat, a multilevel marketing scheme, has scrubbed customer complaints from the internet. The Monat class action alleges that the wealthy family running the business has even sued a woman who set up a Facebook page for those who suffered hair loss after using Monat.The plaintiffs seek to represent Monat hair care users who purchased the products since Jan. 1, 2014. The plaintiffs are seeking damages as well as a court order stopping Monat from allegedly misrepresenting their product to the public.
The consumers are represented by Brian W. Warwick and Janet R. Varnell of Varnell & Warwick PA, Charles J. LaDuca and William H. Anderson of Cuneo Gilbert & LaDuca LLP, John A. Yanchunis of Morgan & Morgan PA, and Joel R. Rhine and Dara Damery of Rhine Law Firm PC.
The Monat Haircare Products Class Action Lawsuit is Trisha Whitmire, et al. v. Monat Global Corp., Case No. 1:18-cv-20636, in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida.