Behind the bureaucracies of the state boards are your peers — working cosmetologists and nail technicians charged with protecting your — and their — customers' health and safety.
Shelia Ferguson, a Tennessee State Board member, agrees. "It prevents the board from having to go through the legislative process for every little thing because as a board appointed by the governor, we can settle so many issues," she says. "And you have nine people knowledgeable about the industry looking at every issue, instead of one or two people in administration who have never themselves faced these problems. Of the nine of us, at least a few of us have come across just about everything that comes up. And we have two public members who give us their input s customers."
The issues they tackle range from MMA to drill usage, hair braiding to chemical services, body piercing to skin peels, sanitation to unlicensed activity. For example, the Oregon State Board is wrestling with the question of whether to regulate electric files. "We saw a news show where women had lost the ends of their fingers, so we asked our compliance officers to note if they saw schools teaching the proper use of drills," Hoxsey says. "They said they weren't, so we turned it over to our product safety committee, and they've been studying it ever since."
Many state boards form committees for large projects or specialty areas. For instance, several years ago the Oregon State Board formed a committee of 22 industry members who met monthly to develop minimum curriculum standards for the Oregon Department of Education, which regulates beauty schools. "Then the board put in their examination things that test those minimum requirements, so for the first time in years we have consistency," Hoxsey says.
In Georgia, the state board was integral to saving licensing for nail technicians and estheticians in 1997 when legislators proposed abolishing it. "We gathered as much information as we could to demonstrate how important licensing was because of the risk to the public," says Georgia State Board member Debra Adams-Harden. "We gathered information from magazines and dermatologists, and we had consumers in who gave reports. We used whatever publicity vehicles like newspapers and distributors that we could to make people aware of the issue. We were fortunate that some state senators held public hearings on the issue to find out what the people thought." In reality, however, the downfall of the legislation probably had much more to do with the board's efforts to publicize the proposal and the resulting potential harm than it did with simple good fortune.
While the nail technicians who serve on state boards assert that they bring great value in their depth of knowledge of both the industry's techniques and its issues, their importance isn't necessarily generally accepted. "When issues come up, we create committees and make sure those areas are covered," says Stramecky. "When skin care comes up, for example, we write to skin care professionals and invite them to attend committee meetings so that they are represented."
Lakaye Reddick, chairperson of the Florida State Board, on the other hand, perceives a need for representation of each aspect of the beauty industry on the state board. "It's hard to speak for nail technicians when you don't do nails," she says. "Just like it's hard to speak for hair braiders when I don't know how to braid hair."
Zesiger, herself a nail technician, views it this way. "I have been a manicurist for 20 years and 1 better understand the problems we [nail technicians] come across, but I don't know that my contribution toward nails is any greater than a cosmetologist's because a rule is a rule and a law is a law," she says. She cites as an example a disciplinary action against a not-yet-licensed nail technician who performed a pedicure as part of a job interview. "An inspector happened to walk in, and the nail technician and the owner were fined. The owner just paid the fine and went on, but here's this poor manicurist who has to appear to find out if she'll get a license. I could see her side a little better than others, but she broke the law. What do you do?"
What, indeed? Dealing with disciplinary actions is often hardest for board members regardless of the services they perform in the salon. "It's very hard when you're up there acting as a judge, and you can't let your feelings guide you," Coito notes. "It's hard, but you do what you have to when the evidence is there. We're here to make sure everyone is protected."
A New Outlook
While state board members give of their time and energy, they say the payback is generous in terms of increased knowledge, a heightened awareness of industry issues, and a sense of giving back to the industry where they've made their profession.
"I have learned so much from being on the board and I have a new awareness of issues," Ferguson says. "For example, 1 never realized sanitation was not being taken as seriously as it should be. I've always taken my job very seriously, but I take it even more seriously now."
"I understand both sides now," Coito adds. "At one point a salon owner told me the state board was picking on her because they come too often. I can understand that frustration, but my frustration is that everybody thinks inspections are just to hassle salons, when they're really about protecting consumers and the licensees."
Hoxsey says, "I would encourage everyone to be more knowledgeable about the issues and what their state board is doing. People get busy with their work and their family, but there's a handful of people making rules that affect their jobs. They don't know the process behind the laws and rules, yet they're following ones developed by less than 10 people. For example, I would guess most nail technicians in Oregon don't know that there are people discussing if they should be allowed to use drills, and all of the sudden there will be a rule they will have to live by."
While state board members themselves are often not individually accessible to licensees, they urge practitioners to attend the board meetings, which are open to the public. Individuals also can address the state boards directly at these meetings simply by calling the state board office and requesting to be added to the meeting's agenda. "We are always looking to the industry for support and information," Reddick notes. "It's very easy to reach the board; all you have to do is write a letter or just call the office. But the first time I ever heard from nail technicians was when MMA came up this spring."
"Everyone thinks the state board is like the Gestapo," Coito adds with a laugh. "We're here to make sure everyone is protected, to help people."
Alabama Struggles With State Board’s Role and Power
In early 1997 The Alabama State Board of Cosmetology was sunsetted in a deliberate move by the legislature to replace the board member and at the same time I educe then power I guess you would call it a power struggle and the board was sunsettted says Lola Hill former state board member and now executive director of the board The bill said all board members would cease to serve and the governor would appoint new members
However, it took more than six months for the state legislature to confirm those new appointments.
In the meantime the state board administration was in chaos and almost went bankrupt. "Because the board does all the testing, we went seven months without any tests, and the former executive director was just left on her own," notes Hill, herself a licensed cosmetologist.
"No state should ever sunset the entire board," she continues. "You always need some experience, and no office should ever be left to run without someone in charge. Where I have a problem is with the political aspect. I would like to see every state go with the national written and practical exams and all boards become advisory boards to the profession and the office. It would take out some of the political play
"When our board was sunsetted, the legislation took away all their power. Now all they can do is examine students and discipline licensees," observes Hill. "Before, the board had complete control. There needs to be a balance between the two extremes. By going with the national exams, I think that would free the board to focus on what's really important for consumers and the profession.