Legislators Blink Over Backlash to Costly Eyelash Extension Regs

Legislators didn’t bat an eye two years ago, passing licensing regulations for eyelash extension technicians. Despite warnings licensing would ultimately drive up costs and drive out businesses, most lawmakers voted for it anyway. But the Republican legislator overseeing a slew of occupational licensing regulations that session charged ahead anyway, citing public safety issues in the hearings covered by Session Daily.

Rep. Nick Zerwas (R-Elk River), who chairs the House Subcommittee on Licensing, recognizes the broader criticism and prefers free-market solutions. But he said this session’s bills deal with health care components, which puts them into a different category due to the risk of severe physical and financial harm posed by bad actors.

“If you’re going to be having a relationship where you are touching my body or you are doing therapeutic type procedures, we at least need to do the bare minimum,” Zerwas said. “If there is a bad actor, I can’t take away their education or their degree. If you have a bad actor in an unregulated health care field, there’s no way to flag them because no system exists.”

Among other requirements, the new regulations forced the 175  eyelash extension workers in Minnesota to take 38 hours of training and even dictated the number of sinks. But the heavy-handed decision to empower the Minnesota Board of Cosmetology to police eyelash extension workers has thoroughly backfired. As a result, a DFL lawmaker leading the charge for deregulation of occupational licensing for eyelash extension techs in an unusual reversal of roles.

A new proposal would eliminate those requirements, exempting eyelash extension technicians and managers from being licensed by the Board of Cosmetology. The House State Government Finance Committee didn’t bat an eye Thursday in laying HF3850 over for possible inclusion in an omnibus bill.

Rep. Peggy Flanagan (DFL-St. Louis Park), the bill’s sponsor, said the cosmetology board’s requirements are creating “astronomical costs” and “unnecessary regulatory barriers” to women of color.

“Unfortunately, the board has chosen a one-size-fits-all approach to salon licensing,” Flanagan said. “I believe it has over-zealously applied requirements for a full-service salon for eyelash technicians who are only providing one service.”

Naturally the Cosmetology Board enforcers insist deregulation carries big risks.

Gina Fast, the Board of Cosmetology’s executive director, sees it differently.

“Eyelash extensions are a high-risk cosmetic service. They take a significant amount of precision and time to apply, and are one of the more costly and time-consuming services the board regulates with a very high-maintenance schedule,” she said. “My concern is… the public deserves the same protections when receiving this service in a regulated salon that might offer more than one service versus just a facility that only offers eyelash extensions.”

With any luck, state enforcement of eyelash extension regulations will soon be a thing of the past. Now how about the other licensing requirements passed two years ago?