It would be harder for a nail stylist to work in Mississippi than in almost any other state in the country if the Board of Cosmetology gets their way. 

Nail technicians in Mississippi are currently required to complete 350 hours of training before they can practice in the state. Licensing is required in 49 states, with Connecticut being the lone holdout that does not require licensing or certifications for nail technicians, according to the National Association of Complementary and Alternative Medicines.

Mississippi’s 350-hour requirement is in line with the national average of 368. But a bump to 600 hours would be the second highest burden, which is shared by eight states. Only Alabama’s 750 hours would be greater. 

But Sharon Clark, the executive director of the Board, made her push for expanded licensure in a meeting of the House Appropriations Committee on Tuesday, arguing that it was a sanitary issue and this will help protect the public. Because teachers don’t have time to teach cleanliness in the first 350 hours. 

If you’ve heard one licensing pitch, you’ve heard them all

The Board has admitted that the current licensing regime is not working well. We agree. But instead of increasing the regulations as the Board wants, the state should move to do away with the license for nail technicians and allow voluntary or non-regulatory options that help entrepreneurs start and run businesses while providing the maximum options for consumers.

What would that look like?

This begins with market competition, the least restrictive option. Without government imposed restrictions, consumers have the widest assortment of choices, thereby giving businesses the strongest incentives to maintain a reputation for high-quality services. When service providers are free to compete, consumers can decide who provides the best services, thereby weeding out those that do not. 

Quality service self-disclosure is a fancy term for customer satisfaction. Think about all the common sites people can leave reviews such as Yelp, Google, Facebook, specific industry sites, etc. Finding out which location is providing a good customer experience is easier than ever, providing users with more complete options. 

Voluntary, third-party certification allows the provider to voluntarily receive and maintain certification from a non-government organization. One of the most common examples is the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) designation for auto mechanics. No mechanic is required to receive this certification, just like you may or may not care if a mechanic has it hanging on their wall. But it sends a signal to the consumer that the location with that designation is committed to quality service. Again, if that matters.

If you would like the government to still be involved, you can continue with inspections or you may choose to require registration, as they do with hair braiders. Hair braiders previously needed to take hundreds of hours of irrelevant cosmetology classes. Now they register with the state and pay a small fee. This discourages “fly-by-night” providers, while still only creating a small barrier for providers.

Licensing makes sense in certain – and limited – fields. But if we want to encourage economic growth, we need to start trusting the free market.