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Indian Americans' salons face legal hurdle

Lawmakers will decide whether threading should be exempted from state cosmetology regulations.

india Updated: Mar 19, 2007 11:51 IST

California regulators and lawmakers will soon have to decide whether threading, a hair removal technique mostly practised by immigrant Indian American women, should be exempted from state cosmetology regulations that protect consumers.

Threading does not fall under the purview of California's Board of Barbering and Cosmetology, the principal cosmetology industry group that oversees cosmetologists, barbers, manicurists and electrologists, as the practice is void of chemicals and scissors covered by cosmetology rules. Besides, one does not require a licence to run a threading salon.

The method is a more comfortable alternative to waxing and has become increasingly popular with threading salons - mostly run by Indian Americans and which proliferate in the Silicon Valley in a big way.

Democrat assembly member Tony Mendoza recently introduced a bill that seeks to permanently exclude threading from the regulatory books, calling the practice "a tradition that should be respected".

Threading, said to be a direct import from India, appears to be the only exception to the multitude of California regulations that govern everything else that goes on in salons - from hair cutting and waxing to manicures and hair colouring.

These regulations aim to protect customers from health hazards including cuts, skin infections and exposure to harmful chemicals, according to the Mercury News newspaper.

The practice is so new here that the California state doesn't even offer licences to threaders to ply their trade.

"The procedure is very easy, doesn't hurt. You don't feel pain," said Stephania Blaga, who visits a threading salon every month.

Threading has in fact become a preferred method of natural hair removal in the Silicon Valley. salons and women working in homes offer eyebrow trims for as little as $8.

California lawmakers have been through this kind of dilemma before. In the 1990s, hair braiders providing what they called a "traditional cultural expression" from Africa were busted for working without beauty licences.

Braiders won a permanent reprieve, but it's too early to know if threading will also follow suit.

Some threaders like Kokila Shah are for regulation, but many others are opposed to any kind of restrictions.

The Board of Barbering and Cosmetology hasn't yet taken a stance on the issue "because we don't have a curriculum to teach it", said executive officer Kristy Underwood.

Regulation is preferred by the board, which wants the state to update what some salon owners describe as antiquated laws to reflect styles and techniques popular in a multicultural state.