Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow: Kansas Mom Battles State Over Sugaring Biz

The story of Bryn Green’s legal battle against Kansas’ Board of Cosmetology shows why people shouldn’t be so sweet on many of the licensing requirements that states impose on those entering the world of entrepreneurship.

Green’s case highlights a reality that often gets overlooked in conversations about politics and government. Yet, it is an issue that affects many Americans seeking ways to earn income that don’t involve punching a nine-to-five-time clock.

The trouble started when Green decided she wanted to start a “sugaring” business. Sugaring is a cosmetic hair removal practice. Then, she realized that she could find herself in hot water if she did not get the state’s permission through its onerous licensing requirements.

For the past few years, Green has received sugaring services—a noninvasive, nonhazardous hair removal procedure that involves applying a sugar, water, and lemon juice paste to a client’s skin. A sugaring business, she thought, could be “something that I could do part time” or on “a super flexible schedule that would allow me to stay home with my son and also provide some additional income for our family,” Green tells Reason.

But Green quickly learned that it’s illegal to remove a single hair from a client as a sugarer without a state-issued occupational license.

Green is now suing the Kansas Board of Cosmetology for the right to sugar without a license, represented by the Kansas Justice Institute, a public-interest litigation center. “The state of Kansas has unreasonable occupational licensing requirements,” says Samuel G. MacRoberts, general counsel and litigation director for the Kansas Justice Institute. “They are burdensome, oppressive, they’re protectionist, and the Kansas Constitution prevents the government from imposing that type of licensing regime for sugaring and for Bryn Green.

In order to start a sugaring business, Green would have to jump through a series of hoops. She would need to either obtain an esthetician or cosmetology license, which requires 1,000 or 1,500 hours of instruction, respectively. As if that weren’t bad enough, she would also have to pay $18,200 in tuition just so she can place a concoction on someone’s skin to remove their hair.

As a mother looking for a flexible source of income so she can care for her son, these hurdles are more than excessive.

But wait, there’s more!

In yet another display showing how inefficient government is, most of the material Green would have to learn has nothing to do with the service she wishes to provide.

The vast majority of that curriculum is completely unrelated to sugaring. “If you look at the curriculum for specifically a cosmetology license,” only “a small percentage of it is temporary hair removal,” says Green. “If you divide the 1,500-hour requirement out, it ends up being less than 1 percent.” In order to be licensed, Green would also need to pass written exams that require no practical demonstration of skills.

Those requirements illustrate that occupational licensing regimes are often more concerned with protecting incumbents and limiting competition than with consumer safety. Sugaring is “extremely safe” and “extremely natural,” Green explains. “You can sugar on yourself at home. You can purchase sugaring paste over the counter.”

Beyond the fact that the state should never have this much of a say over the type of businesses people wish to start, there are several problems with this particular licensing requirement.

Laws like these tend to negatively affect those without oodles of cash lying around and tons of free time. It favors those who are already well-off, which makes it harder for those in the low-income bracket to move up to higher levels of income. Perhaps this is why the Kansas Justice Institute, which is representing Green, called these licensing requirements “burdensome, oppressive” and “protectionist.”

Moreover, the licensing requirements do not appear to be necessary to protect people’s safety. As stated earlier, it’s a natural and safe process. In fact, people can actually do it themselves using sugaring paste available over the counter.

This story is one of several showing that many, if not most, licensing requirements are not only unnecessary, but they make the market less free and impede would-be entrepreneurs from starting businesses. Hopefully, Green’s lawyers can argue against these obstacles successfully in court.