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Oklahoma Cosmetologists Upset Over Proposed Licensing Changes

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Green Country cosmetologists are sounding off over talk of changing license regulations.

Right now, 1,500 hours of training are required. But that could change in Oklahoma.

A national organization is pushing for deregulation, saying the rules are stopping people from getting jobs. But cosmetologists say without a license a lot of people will not only be unhappy; they could be hurt.

Leslie Ray has been styling hair for 25 years.

It took ten months of training to earn her license, something that could change in Oklahoma.

"Appalled, mad, ticked off,” said Ray. “I'll try to be nice with my language because it's just, it's frustrating."

The Institute for Justice says 1,500 hours is too much time. For perspective, EMTs only need 154 hours of training.

“What's not captured by the amount of hours is how much money it takes to get that license,” said Paul Avelar, a senior attorney at Institute for Justice. “You know, cosmetology school is several thousand dollars."

Avelar says licensing is out of control across the country.

But cosmetologists like Ray say it’s more than a piece of paper.

"You have to know what you're doing and you have to be taught the right way in order to get there,” she said.

She says hairstyling isn't just art, it's science.

Hairstylists use harsh chemicals, hot tools and sharp blades. They have to know anatomy, chemistry and physiology.

"A lot of people who are going to be hurt, sores, lose their hair completely,” said Ray.

Color combos gone wrong will likely be another issue, like the woman Ray’s correcting Tuesday.

"She let her friend do it and half her hair is broke off and half her hair is white and half of it is yellow,” said Ray. “She was in tears."

She says if lawmakers agree with the organization, they better prepare for a fight.

“You're going to get a lot of unhappy, mad women,” she said. “That, I would be scared of."

Instead of a license, options could be private certifications or regulations for specific things like sanitation.

There's a task force of Oklahoma leaders looking at licensing for all industries; their report is set to come out next month.

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