Washington Hairbraiding

Diaw v. Washington State Cosmetology, Barbering, Esthetics, and Manicuring Advisory Board
Untangling African Hairbraiders from Washington's Cosmetology Regime

Institute for Justice Washington Chapter client Benta Diaw

The State of Washington is demanding that African hairbraider Benta Diaw obtain a cosmetology license to practice the art she learned in Africa from her grandmother—an art the cosmetology schools are not required to teach and one the licensing examination does not test.

Benta, who was born and raised in Senegal, simply wants to continue earning an honest living by running the successful natural hair salon she founded shortly after immigrating to this country.  However, the State now says Benta is not qualified to practice the art of African hairbraiding—a technique that women in her family have shared for beauty and empowerment for more than 100 years—unless she obtains a government-issued license.  The license the State is now requiring Benta to obtain requires up to 1,600 hours of needless “training” that will teach her how to perform pedicures and trim nose hair, but does not require even one single hour teaching the type of services Benta actually provides—hairbraiding.  This makes as much sense as requiring a construction worker to become a licensed tap dancer in order to practice his trade.

A group of State bureaucrats is prepared to leave practitioners like Benta with two choices:  get licensed (at a cost of thousands of dollars, plus a year's worth of forgone earnings) or quit braiding hair.

On August 5, 2004, the Institute for Justice Washington Chapter (IJ-WA) filed a lawsuit in King County Superior Court in Seattle, Wash., on behalf of practitioners of African hairbraiding and other forms of natural hairstyling challenging Washington’s cosmetology licensing laws.  The cosmetology laws needlessly stifle job and entrepreneurial opportunities and suppress a vibrant means of cultural expression.  At a time when record levels of immigrants are entering the workforce and welfare reform laws encourage individuals to seek work rather than a welfare check, irrational government regulations such as these unnecessarily block the way towards a brighter future for people like Benta.

Essential Background


Backgrounder: Challenging Barriers To Economic Opportunity: Untangling African Hairbraiders from Washington's Cosmetology Regime

Client Photo

Client Video - none available

Release: Victory for African Hairbraiders Over Tangle of Cosmetology Laws (March 11, 2005)

Legal Briefs and Decisions

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Launch Release: Lawsuit Challenges Washington’s Cosmetology Licensing Laws (August 5, 2004)

Case Timeline

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Additional Releases

Maps, Charts and Facts

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Download: Entrepreneurship in The Emerald City-Study Spotlights Ridiculous Regulations That Hamper Seattle Entrepreneurs






Op-eds, News Articles and Links



Article: IJ Untangles Cosmetology Laws With Back-to-Back Hairbraiding Victories, Liberty & Law (June 2005)



Article: Hairbraiding Lawsuits Make A National Case For Economic Liberty (October 2004)

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