Tell Indiana We Need Licensing

I am alarmed by a bill in Indiana’s state legislature that would eliminate government licensing and regulation of nail techs. House Bill 1006, authored by David Wolkins, proposes that licensing be completely eliminated for everyone in the barbering and cosmetology fields in the state of Indiana.

As per the Regulated Occupations Recommendations Report, released Dec. 16, 2011, by the Regulated Occupations Evaluation Committee (ROEC), the state of Indiana states why it thinks the field of cosmetology can go unregulated. However, all of the state’s justifications are short-sighted.

One of the ROEC’s arguments is “informed consumer choice/trial and error,” which states in summary that consumers should ask friends for recommendations to find a competent salon and, even if they take a few attempts to find a competent salon, it’s “without any significant risk of irreversible harm.” This doesn’t hold true for nail salons, which are generally friendly to walk-in clients, in which case clients may well choose a salon not based on friends’ recommendations but due to convenience (i.e., it’s the closest salon that’s open to walk-ins). And unfortunately, there IS a risk of irreversible harm, including lingering infections that may be harbored in a dirty pedicure tub. I can only imagine that if any inexperienced and untrained person in Indiana is allowed to perform a pedicure, then this risk will grow exponentially.

Another ROEC argument is that the beauty industry, with so many members (over 63,000 licensees in Indiana), can self-regulate, perhaps by forming a voluntary organization that nail techs can pay to join that upholds certain standards for its members. (This reminds me of an organization such as the Better Business Bureau.) While a voluntary organization is in theory a good idea, there are several major problems with this idea. First, is the beauty industry mobilized enough to get a self-regulating organization together, especially with so many different licensees under this umbrella, and would it be in time (before a huge infection outbreak in Indiana)? And, perhaps more importantly, will consumers spend that extra time to visit that self-regulatory organization’s website prior to walking in to a mani-pedi appointment to confirm that a particular nail tech belongs to the organization? It’s a bad move for the government to simply abandon the beauty industry, where there is a real risk to consumers, by saying “just regulate yourselves.”

The ROEC also argues that injured clients still have legal recourse: claims filed in civil court and with the Office of the Attorney General under consumer protection statutes. Yes, this is a recourse, but it’s an after-the-fact recourse. I don’t think consumers should have to FIRST suffer, and then have to spend money hiring a lawyer for a civil lawsuit against a salon. Let’s keep our preventative measures in place.

One other argument from the ROEC is risks “are not completely eradicated by the presence of a licensing process. In fact, all of the examples of harm provided to ROEC were from other states that also license these professions.” There will probably always be some bad apples in the beauty industry; I’m not sure we’re ever going to eradicate that problem (though we at NAILS Magazine work hard to do our part!), so yes, people who have legitimate licenses sometimes do cut clients’ skin or skip a full cleaning of the pedicure tub. But at least if they have a license, they presumably were taught the correct way to perform the beauty service — so at least they have a fighting chance. If they weren’t even taught — via beauty school and showing that knowledge on a state board exam — then we have no hope.

Indiana nail techs and beauty professionals: please write to your legislators today. Feel free to use excerpts from this blog post word-for-word. You can reach the bill’s sponsor at [email protected] Here’s a complete list of all Indiana House members and state Senators:


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