Professionals push back against cosmetology licensing changes

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ANCHORAGE (KTUU) When you think of getting a haircut, danger isn't normally a concern.

Hairdresser Sarah St. John says that's because licensed professionals like her are trained to keep you safe.

“Blood pathogens, blood-spill procedures, regular sanitary procedures, being able to apply chemicals without cutting or burning or causing any permanent damage to people," St. John said, listing off different health risks she’s trained to handle.

All things she learned, and then was tested on, to get her license, but now, the path to earning a license is about to be cut short.

“They voted to get rid of the practical exam for licenses for hairdressers, for barbers, for estheticians, and for instructors, leaving only a written exam," St. John said.

The State Board of Barbers and Hairdressers voted to eliminate the exam at their February meeting saying it was outdated and unnecessary.

“Since schools, which are approved by the board, are already offering the education, and they already have to pass that education... and we're also offering a written exam on those things, they're sort of already being tested twice," said Sara Chambers, Director of the Division of Corporations, Business, and Professional Licensing, which oversees the board.

Chambers said the old practical exam was style-based and didn't cover safety.

“It's a worthwhile cost if there's a public safety aspect,” she said.

Safety is on the written exam, but St. John thinks that's something that should be tested in person.

“It's really easy to take a multiple-choice test and get the right answers, but when you're in the middle of a service and something happens, to be able to remember what it is you need to do is a completely different story," she said.

St. John and several other members of the industry are pushing back against the change and have started a petition to reinstate the practical exam.

Chambers said the board is currently in the process of constructing a new regulation that will involve public comment. Meanwhile, according to the board’s website the practical exam is no longer required as of March 1.

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