JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - A lawsuit was filed in federal court Tuesday against Attorney General Jim Hood and the Cosmetology Board, challenging Mississippi’s law requiring eyebrow threaders to obtain an esthetician’s license to practice.
In order to obtain the esthetician’s license, eyebrow threaders must complete 600 hours of instructions over a minimum of 15 weeks and pass two exams, but the classes do not cover eyebrow threading.
By comparison, emergency medical technicians are only required to complete 165 hours of training in Mississippi.
Eyebrow threading is a technique that uses a single strand of cotton thread to remove unwanted hair. It does not involve skin-to-skin contact between the threading artist and customer, does not reuse the same tools on different customers, and does not involve the use of sharp implements, harsh chemicals, or heat.
The lawsuit was filed by the Mississippi Justice Institute on behalf of Dipa Bhattarai, an eyebrow threader and Ole Miss graduate student.
Bhattarai grew up in Nepal and learned how to thread at a young age from her family. She came to Mississippi after receiving a scholarship to attend Mississippi University for Women. She and her brother opened and ran a successful threading business before she was fined and shut down by the state Board of Cosmetology.
”My friends loved it when I threaded their eyebrows for them, and kept telling me I should open a business,” said Bhattarai. “I knew it was a great opportunity to bring together my passion for threading and my dream of owning a business.”
The Mississippi Center for Public Policy is representing the 25-year-old Oxford resident in the federal lawsuit to stop the license requirement. The organization contends that the board requires an esthetician’s license that does not test threading.
”Our client is just trying to pursue the American Dream, by putting her own skills and work ethic to use in a safe and worthwhile trade,” said Aaron Rice, the Director of the Mississippi Justice Institute. “Unnecessary laws and regulations are preventing her from doing that. We want to help people like her fight back against this kind of job-killing red tape.”
Bhattarai hopes to re-open her business so she can continue to thread, while training and employing other threaders in Mississippi.
“Eyebrow threading is very safe. It does not require any chemical or blade or nothing,” she said. “It is a very safe technique, and I honestly do not believe that this kind of regulation should be put in place for as to stop threading."
The lawsuit argues that Mississippi’s licensing scheme violates the due process and equal protection rights of unlicensed eyebrow threaders.
“Mississippi’s ban on unlicensed eyebrow threading has nothing to do with public health and safety,” said Rice. “It is an unconstitutional giveaway to special interest groups who want to eliminate their competition. Laws like these hurt workers of modest means and young people like our client who are just trying to get their start in life.”
The public policy agency states that licenses required for professions like florists and interior decorators are unnecessary.
“In Mississippi we license 66 jobs that are considered low income or middle income jobs,” said Rice. “All of these regulations are killing jobs in Mississippi,and it’s making it much harder than it needs to be for entrepreneurs."
Licensed eyebrow threader Mandeep Rekhi owns the Beautiful Arch Salon in Jackson. The business owner disagrees with the lawsuit and said the state requirements help practitioners properly care for the client and keep their salon sanitary and up to code.
“I feel it’s not fair to us because I went to school for that, and I had to spend that 600 hours, of course money,” said Rekhi. “So it’s definitely not fair with us."
A similar Texas law was struck down by the Texas Supreme Court in 2015. Louisiana, Tennessee, and Arizona all repealed their licensing requirements for eyebrow threading after lawsuits were filed in those states.
Attorney General Jim Hood and the Board of Cosmetology will have 21 days from service of the lawsuit to respond.
Officials with the State Board of Cosmetology were not available for comment.