[Government Watch] What’s in a License?

I’m continuing to brush up on my Milady’s, and have also set about reviewing the thick packet of Appearance Enhancement License Laws (that link is a pdf, yo) put together by New York’s Division of Licensing Services, who, when not certifying people like me to give facials and cut hair, also issue licenses for real estate agents, coin processors, armored car guards, and pet cemeteries.

And it occurs to me, in reading over that list, that maybe we want to back up a second here. It would be pretty impossible for the department in charge of giving out all those licenses to be fully expert in every industry they are licensing. I mean, just assuming that these fine folks aren’t some strange breed of  pet-burying, coin-processing, hair-cutting, super-power-having whiz kids who make Martha Stewart look one note. So, understanding all that, just what purpose does licensing actually serve?

Here’s what the Division of Licensing Services has to say for itself:

The New York State Department of State’s Division of Licensing Services plays an important role for consumers, occupational licensees, applicants and the business community in New York State. The Division is responsible for the licensure, registration and/or regulation of the following: real estate brokers and salespersons; barber shops and practitioners; appearance enhancement businesses and practitioners (cosmetology, esthetics, natural hair styling, nail specialty, waxing); private investigators; watch guard or patrol agencies; security guards; security and fire alarm installers; hearing aid dispensers; apartment information vendors; apartment sharing agents; real estate appraisers; notaries public; bedding manufacturers and used bedding sellers; armored car carriers and guards; coin processors; home inspectors; telemarketers; athlete agents and central dispatch facilities. The mission of the Division is to protect the health, safety and welfare of consumers; to provide efficient processing and examination services to license applicants; and to provide accurate information and qualified licensees to the business community.

So, issuing licenses are the government’s way of ensuring a standard of public health and safety within industries where public health and safety might be at stake. Fair enough. But it’s such a curious list — why do “bedding manufacturers and used bedding sellers” require this oversight, but not say, the manufacturers of bath towels or retailers of used clothing? — that feels like a bit of a catch-all for industries that just don’t fall under any other jurisdiction. And since the criteria for these licenses (and even the need for the licenses themselves) vary state by state, I’m wondering how uniform and how rigorous that standard of public health and safety might be.

Then there’s the question of enforcement. My packet notes that practicing esthetics, cosmetology, or nail technology without a license “is a violation and is subject to a civil penalty of up to $500 for the first violation; $1,000 for a second such violation; and $2,500 for a third violation and any subsequent violation.” Again, those fines vary state by state, and the likelihood that you would actually get caught and fined for working without a license is going to be entirely dependent on how many license inspectors the state can afford to employ and how many businesses they have to inspect.

I agree with the concept of licenses — they seem like a fine way for the government to keep tabs on industries that do indeed have an impact on health and safety. But I’m not convinced the system is working at the height of efficiency. So, very interested to throw this one open for discussion…

Beauty industry folk: Do you think having a license helps professionalize you or provides any other concrete benefits for you or your business?

Consumer folk: Do you look for licenses when you pick a salon or spa? Does seeing or not seeing the license displayed impact your feelings about the business?

Those aren’t meant to be super leading questions, so feel free to sound off on anything license- or industry regulation-related matters that interest you.

[Image via New York’s Division of Licensing Services.]

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6 Comments

Filed under Beauty Labor, Government Watch, Muddling Through Milady's

6 responses to “[Government Watch] What’s in a License?

  1. I’m a makeup artist in Toronto. We don’t need to be certified. I tell people I went to school, but they don’t care.

    As for esthetics, (i’ve spent many many days working in spas) the rules in Ontario are so relaxed. Compared to many states in the US, Ontario is a bit of a joke in the licensing department. Way fewer training hours required and way fewer safety regulations.

    I’m pretty grossed out by spas to be honest. So license or not, I’m looking at the actual spa to see if I want to dunk my tootsies in the pedi sink.

    The spa I worked at had an inspector come in; the first one in the three years it had been open. They said they must had missed it on their list. They made no changes. It was a bit of a joke.

    So… I guess I don’t really look for a license because I don’t think it means all that much.

  2. Denise

    There are some inspectors in California that check for sanitary laws. The fact that nail techs who are not licensed to perform waxing services provide this everywhere is outrageous, it’s a very widespread situation and they butcher peoples eyebrows. State board does not address this situation.

  3. Stephanie

    In KY at cosmetology school, we can be fined $100 for not wearing our name tag. The school also gets hit with the same fine. That I find to truly be ridiculous.

    Our state board is mostly comprised of licensed cosmetologists and it is a running joke that we have some of the toughest regulations in the country and some of the worst hair.

  4. danielle

    I feel that graduating from a great school is most important for my clients, like “I graduated from Yale”, so I got the best education…speaks for itself.
    I agree in a license however, after learning what it takes to pass the state board, I feel that I work so hard to do my best, yet the board only asks me to be mediocre at best. My school is teaching me great ways to work with clients, be safe, work smart and be successful.

  5. I just realized that I usually think displayed licenses are sort of gimmicky (which is the same as I feel when I’m in a fancy person’s office and they have their diploma on the wall). Though in this case, that’s probably not very fair of me.

  6. Megan

    I find the question of what’s required for a license quite interesting. What makes one state decide that, say, an esthetician needs to complete a 750 hour training program, while a massage therapist needs only 500 hours? Is there any difference in the esthteticians of another state that requires only 650 hours of training? Or, for that matter, 1000 hours for massage therapy? How do these magic numbers get tallied in the first place?

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