Eyebrow threaders sue Oklahoma State Board of Cosmetology over licensing rules

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OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – They’ve been perfecting their trade for years – but now some local cosmetologists are taking legal action after threats of their businesses being shut down over licensing regulations.

Attorneys for two Oklahoma City-based eyebrow threaders say the costly restrictions they’re facing from the state should be a warning sign to all Oklahomans.

Eyebrow threading is a technique that has grown in popularity in the United States over the last decade.

“It’s a technique that we learn from India, from Nepal, from Pakistan,” said threader Shazia Ittiq. “So this is not a technique that western countries know.”

It’s not easy to master, it takes years.

Ittiq has been perfecting her trade for 32 years, seven of them at her Brows & More salons in Penn Square and Quail Springs Mall.

Now she’s facing closure after years of threats and citations.

Currently, the state board of cosmetology requires all threaders to hold an esthetician license.

Ittiq has one – but not all of her employees do.

“Before 2013 I don’t think it was a rule but when threading salons and threading boutiques started opening up they started telling us that we need licenses, estheticians or cosmetologists to do the job,” Ittiq said. 

Ittiq says the licensing coursework does not include threading – so it would not benefit threaders.

It’s also costly.

“From $3,000 up to $14-15,000,” she said. 

In 2015, the Texas Supreme Court reaffirmed constitutional protections after a lawsuit from eight eyebrow threaders and the Institute for Justice – whom Ittiq is partnered with now.

“Both the Texas Constitution and Oklahoma’s Constitution protect the residents’ right to earn an honest living free from unreasonable government interference and so that same challenge is being brought here in Oklahoma – under the Oklahoma Constitution,” said Attorney Marie Miller. “Something that the public should know is that if the Board of Cosmetology is able to put these over-the-top burdensome requirements on threaders, then all Oklahomans right to earn an honest living is under threat of being limited by their government and that’s very concerning for all workers in Oklahoma.”

Arizona and Louisina have made the change as well after lawsuits.

Ittiq says she’s hopeful the same will happen in Oklahoma because she can’t close her businesses’ doors.

“It’s in our lease, so you know we can’t close our business,” said Ittiq. “So that means somebody will have to stay there without doing threading so that means we are still paying the rent and paying the employee who is not doing threading.”

Ittiq says she’s talked to the director of the State Board of Cosmetology and is optimistic that the rules will change.

Her attorney says licensing does nothing to promote health and safety as the salons already have to comply with health and safety measures. KFOR reached out to the state board for comment but they declined to comment on pending litigation.

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