Eyebrow threaders fighting against government regulations

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CHANDLER, Ariz. – Eyebrow threading dates back centuries but it has become more and more popular in the Valley.

In fact, the service is offered at kiosks in most malls.

Kerrie Fender says she’s had her eyebrows shaped by threaders a few times. “I can't do waxing. I've tried it a couple of times but my eyes would actually swell shut. I seem to react to the wax or heat or something, so this is a great alternative for me."

The business is now in jeopardy. The Arizona Board of Cosmetology recently put threaders on notice explaining how being unlicensed and untrained puts the public at risk for infections and injuries. The letter goes on to tell them to cease the practice immediately.

Juana Gutierrez has been threading for years. "This is the only job I've ever had. This is all I know. This is how I support my family." 

Gutierrez manages six threading kiosks. She doesn’t understand why a license is necessary. "It's more sanitary than waxing. It's just a piece of thread. We don't use any chemicals, it's just thread. It’s all natural.”

Tim Keller is the executive director of the Institute for Justice in Arizona. "Because threading is such a simple, safe and sanitary practice there is no need for the state to get involved."

Keller filed a lawsuit Wednesday on behalf of Gutierrez and four other Valley threaders fighting against what they call ‘unreasonable government regulation.’

The lawsuit contends, ‘The Board exceeded its power because it’s uninformed about the practice.’

Keller argues it’s ridiculous for the board to demand threaders get licensed, especially since the licensing classes don’t include hands-on training.

"The notion that an individual should have to obtain 600 hours of classroom instruction when not one hour actually teaches what that person does is outrageous and unconstitutional." 

Gutierrez points out, "This is something that you need to practice. You have to do it in order to learn how to do it. It has to be hands-on training."

The Board of Cosmetology sees it differently. Donna Aune says, "We have jurisdiction over unwanted hair removal and they have to be licensed."

Aune says the Board must protect consumers. "Some of the inspectors and investigators have actually seen and watched the procedure and have seen them actually draw blood by the string like a paper cut or something and they have blood procedures that they have to follow."

Keller’s goal is to make threaders exempt from the Board’s jurisdiction. "Our goal in this litigation is to restore the right to earn an honest living to its proper role as a fundamental right in Arizona.”

The only complaints about threading have come from other cosmetologists. Keller is familiar with this kind of fight. A few years ago, he was able to get African hair braiders exempt from the Board of Cosmetology’s jurisdiction.