PHOENIX -- Arizonans are free to try to make a living by plucking eyebrows without first getting approval by the state.
The Arizona Board of Cosmetology has agreed that those who are practitioners of what is known as "threading' do not need a state license. That is an about face from the board's position less than six months ago when efforts were being made to shut the operators down.
All that's needed now is the signature of a judge on the agreement to end the lawsuit over the issue.
Tim Keller, an attorney with the Institute for Justice which sued on behalf of several threaders, said the decision by the board to back down is a significant victory for the rights of businesses to operate without excessive government oversight.
He said there is a legitimate role for the state to protect public health and safety. Keller said, though, nothing the threaders were doing fit that definition.
Donna Aune, the board's executive director, did not return calls seeking comment about the move.
Central to the fight is an Arizona law that gives the board the power to regulate who can perform certain treatments. That includes "arching eyebrows' and "removing superfluous hair by means other than electrolysis.'
That, in essence, includes what threaders do: They loop a piece of cotton thread around individual eyebrow hairs and pull them out, one by one.
But Keller said that the board was requiring that the threaders be licensed as cosmetologists. That requires 1,600 hours of training at a state-approved private school.
"That's ridiculous,' he said. "We also believe it's unconstitutional.'
In agreeing to back off of trying to regulate threaders, the board and its attorney do not admit that its efforts have been illegal. Instead, they have said the board will not enforce the law against the threaders.
But that is not absolute: Only threaders who follow certain procedures will be immunized.
One is that they have to wash or sanitize their hands before and after each customer and to use a new piece of thread.
They will be allowed to apply witch hazel or any other over-the-counter astringent or powder to soothe a customer's hair follicles. But they will not be permitted to use any other kind of products, including chemical hair removers or wax.
Keller already is looking at waging future fights over what he believes are excessive government regulations. One is likely to be whether someone needs special state-mandated training to be a barber.
"There is no reason for the government to determine who is and is not a qualified barber,' he said. "Consumers can decide for themselves who they want to cut their hair.
He agreed, though, that there is some role for state oversight, such as requiring a clean pair of scissors for each client and that other items be sterilized.
This is not the first fight the Institute for Justice has fought with the state for business owners
He sued the same board nearly a decade ago over whether people who braid hair for a living have to be licensed as cosmetologists. In that case, Essence Farmer argued she was entitled to have people pay her for braiding, locking, twisting, weaving and putting corn rows in the hair of customers without getting a license.
That case, however, ended up not getting a final court resolution: Lawmakers approved a measure in 2004 creating a special exemption for braiders.
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