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Bruce Poinsette of The Skanner News
Published: 23 April 2013

Amber Starks
Photo by Adrian Adel


The Oregon House of Representatives has just passed HB 3409, which defines "natural hair care" and exempts providers from certain cosmetology licensing requirements that don't pertain to the field.

With the passing of the bill, natural hair care will be subject to the regulatory authority of the Board of Cosmetology and Oregon Health Licensing Agency. It will specifically exempt natural hair care providers from educational requirements that take a couple of years, cost thousands of dollars and involve learning about hairstyling chemicals, heat equipment and other things that aren't part of natural hair care.

The bill came about when Amber Starks wanted to braid the hair of African-American and Native American children in foster care and wasn't allowed to under Oregon law. Under the previous law, Oregon required anyone doing hairdressing to attend the state cosmetology program, which is 1,700 hours.

Advocates for HB 3409 have said that these requirements create a barrier for African-Americans who want to build a career around natural hair. In addition, they have said the requirements stifle the natural hair movement, which promotes healthier living by steering people away from chemicals and hot irons.

In a previous Skanner News article, titled "Race, Braids and the Oregon Cosmetology Board: Changing Racist Laws that Keep Women Out of Business," by Lisa Loving, Starks say that she did some research and found out that some random requirements for hair braiding are more costly and time consuming than those for food handlers, gun owners, emergency medical technicians and firefighters.

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