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Holland hair braider fighting to change license laws in the State of Michigan

"We can only do so much as a natural hair culturist," Shaketra Payne said, "and washing hair is one of those important things we're not allowed to do."

HOLLAND, Mich. — When we go to the salon to get our hair done, many of us look forward to getting our hair washed. But according to Michigan law, natural hair culturists who do braiding and locing are not allowed to wash their clients hair.

A Holland woman wants to change that, especially after she had to turn away a disabled client. 

Shaketra Payne is speaking out for change to make a difference in the natural hair world.

"We're only allowed to loc, twist, braid, turn the hair, and we can even sew hair onto the hair," Payne explained, "but we are not allowed to clean the hair before doing any of that. Isn't that crazy?!"

Payne is licensed in the state of Michigan as a Natural Hair Culturist, and owns her own business called Ketra Braids & Beauty along West Shore Drive in Holland. The Natural Hair Cultivation license is different than a cosmetology license, and there are several differences between the two, some that Payne believes puts her at a disadvantage.

"Our titles are different, our licenses are different, and we can only do so much as a natural hair culturist," she said, "and washing hair is one of those things that we can't do."

She said she's never understood the law, and has worked to get it changed for years, but last week her urgency kicked in.

"That was the tipping point for me," she said.

It was when a client of hers, who is confined to a wheelchair, came in to have her dreadlocks taken care of, but because her hair was wasn't clean and needed to be before it could be serviced, Payne had to turn her away. 

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"It just broke everybody's heart that she literally looked like she wanted to cry," Payne said. 

Payne said she feels frustrated that all of her hard work toward her license seems to not have been enough in the world of hair. 

"I'm not a cosmetologist, and I don't want to be a cosmetologist," she said, "I want to be a hair braider."

"So it was just like a slap in the face that I can't even wash my own clients' hair," she added.

Payne hopes that by speaking out about the issues that natural hair culturists face, she can spark change. 

"I would like them to change the law and allow natural hair culturists to wash hair," she said. "And if it takes us accumulating more hours or taking apprenticeships for hair washing hours we would do it, we just need some kind of change, and it's possible."

According to the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs, under Michigan law:

"Cleansing the hair is included in the definition of "hair care services," MCL 339.1201(k). "'Hair care services' means arranging, cutting, dressing, curling, waving, cleansing, singeing, bleaching, coloring, tinting, trimming, styling, relaxing, perming, straightening, or similar work upon the hair of the head or a wig that an individual is wearing, MCL 339.1201(k). Hair care services are within the scope of practice of a cosmetologist, MCL 339.1201(c) and (f). Therefore, in order to offer hair cleansing services to the public, a person must be fully licensed as a cosmetologist.  With few exceptions, cosmetology services can only be performed in a licensed cosmetology shop.  

A natural hair culturist is a person who does natural hair cultivation, MCL 339.1201(q). Natural hair cultivation is defined as "techniques that result in tension on hair strands such as twisting, wrapping, weaving, extending, locking, or braiding of the hair by hand, if that work does not include the application of dyes, reactive chemicals, or other preparations to alter the color or to straighten, curl, or alter the structure of the hair." MCL 339.1201(p).  "Cleansing" the hair is not included in that definition.  Therefore, hair cleansing services are not included in the scope of practice of a natural hair culturist.

This does not analyze or apply the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and LARA cannot advise a licensee on his or her potential responsibilities under federal law, including the ADA."

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