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Should NH open the door for microblading at beauty salons?

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Big brows are in, and unless you are blessed with Brooke Shields’ genes, you may have considered eyebrow microblading. The procedure takes more than a trip to your local beauty salon in New Hampshire, however – only tattoo artists can legally microblade. The New Hampshire Legislature is considering a bill to change that.

What is eyebrow microblading?

Eyebrow microblading is a form of semi-permanent tattooing on the eyebrows. A super-fine pen made of needles is used to break the skin’s surface and deposit pigment. The fine lines look like eyebrow hairs.

Eyebrow microblading usually fades after a year or two. A session costs anywhere from a few hundred dollars to over one thousand.

Eyebrow microblading isn’t just for beauty gurus who want to look like the Kardashians. Cancer survivors and other people with medical hair loss use microblading to restore the look of natural eyebrows.

Proposal to change the current law on microblading

Under current state law, only a licensed tattoo artist can perform microblading in New Hampshire. This requires a year’s apprenticeship.

HB 70, sponsored by Rep. Carol McGuire (R-Epsom), would allow licensed cosmetologists and estheticians to perform microblading with a certificate from the state. The Office of Professional Licensure and Certification (OPLC) would be responsible for setting the requirements for a certificate, including training courses and standards for hygiene.

The New Hampshire House passed HB 70 on February 24. The bill now heads to the Senate for a public hearing.

Update: HB 70 passed the House and Senate and was signed into law by Gov. Sununu.

Arguments to expand microblading

Supporters of HB 70 argue that cosmetology and skin care professionals have enough related experience to perform microblading, following adequate training courses. A year-long tattoo apprenticeship is unnecessary for consumer protection.

At a recent public hearing for HB 70, some supporters argued that allowing licensed cosmetologists and estheticians to perform microblading might bring down costs for the procedure. That would make it easier for people with medical hair loss to afford treatment.

Arguments to limit microblading to tattoo artists

Opponents of HB 70 argue that microblading is a form of tattooing, and therefore should stay in the realm of licensed tattoo artists. Microblading does involve breaking the skin, which increases the risk of infection, and the procedure is semipermanent. This is notably different than hair coloring or waxing, which is temporary.

A Google search reveals many stories of people from around the country suffering from botched microblading. Depending on the circumstances, bad microblading can require thousands of dollars in laser tattoo removal.

Larger context of the microblading debate

The debate over HB 70 mirrors many debates over occupational licensing in New Hampshire. Every year there are bills to add new professional licenses, revise the training requirements or fees for current professions, and lessen penalties for operating without an occupational license.

For example, in 2021 the New Hampshire Legislature is considering bills to add a license for music therapists (HB 209), create a license for wild mushroom harvesters (HB 345), increase the number of cats and dogs a person can transfer without a pet vendor license (HB 250), and let a person cut hair for free without a license (HB 606). One omnibus bill in the Senate covers everything from a “limited plumbing specialist license” to nursing assistant licenses during the COVID-19 emergency (SB 133).

In general, free market advocates argue that many of New Hampshire’s license fees and training requirements are a barrier to workers in New Hampshire. New Hampshire has a workforce shortage in many fields, particularly healthcare.

On the other hand, the state has a compelling interest in protecting consumers. A bad haircut may be temporary, but a poisonous mushroom or an infected tattoo needle could be deadly.

You can explore the current debates over business regulation – including occupational licensing – on the Citizens Count topic page.


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