Kansas Senate retreats from effort to deregulate pubic hair removal

Sen. Beverly Gossage
Sen. Beverly Gossage
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Sen. Beverly Gossage asked senators to override the governor's veto on a bill that would deregulate sugaring, then withdrew her motion. (Sherman Smith/Kansas Reflector)

TOPEKA — The Kansas Senate’s attempt to override Gov. Laura Kelly’s veto of legislation that would deregulate sugaring, a hair-removal technique, faltered this week after Democrats voiced concerns about giving “sexual deviants” unfettered access to customers’ genitalia.

They also raised concerns about the potential for unsanitary conditions and serious health risks that include bleeding, tearing, bruising, ingrown hairs, burns and infection.

Sugaring is the practice of removing hair with a paste made from sugar, lemon and water. It is mostly used to remove pubic hair, but also applied to eyebrows, arms, legs and lips.

Senate Bill 434 would have eliminated criminal background checks, training, continuing education and inspections for sugaring practitioners by exempting them from oversight by the Kansas Board of Cosmetology. The bill cleared the Senate 38-1 in February and the House 71-52 in March.

Kelly said she had “serious concerns” about deregulating the practice when she vetoed the bill last week.

“Deregulating sugaring risks contamination, improper infection control, and potential safety issues involving minors,” Kelly said. “I am not willing to undermine the Kansas Board of Cosmetology’s expertise or threaten the long-term health and safety of Kansans who receive sugaring services.”

On Monday, Sen. Beverly Gossage, R-Eudora, said she was confused by the governor’s veto message.

“All that she mentioned was something to do with concern that this might be a medical issue of some kind,” Gossage said.

Gossage, who made the motion to override the governor’s veto, repeatedly said sugaring is “simple.”

But Sen. Cindy Holscher, D-Overland Park, and Senate Minority Leader Dinah Sykes, D-Lenexa, said they had talked to medical officials who highlighted a number of problems. Some of those concerns were addressed during hearings in the House, after the Senate had already voted on the bill.

Holscher said she had abstained from voting in February because the bill moved so fast, she couldn’t have her questions answered. Now, she said, the risks are clearer.

“A lot of this process with sugaring is in regard to some very sensitive areas,” Holscher said. “If not done properly, this type of hair removal can cause ripping up the skin, burning of the skin and detaching genitalia, which is a very serious issue.”

“Unlicensed means these individuals will not be screened by anyone,” she added. “You could have sex offenders, sexual deviants, touching people in very sensitive areas. This is buyer beware in the regard to some of the safeguards that consumers anticipate being in place.”

Sykes said the absence of inspections would increase the risk of unsanitary conditions, allowing for the spread of infectious diseases, lice, ringworms and parasites.

Additionally, there would be no age requirement or parental oversight for consumers.

“There are ways that maybe we could reduce some of those regulations, but having no licensure, or cleanliness, or no background checks on people who are looking at women or men’s genitalia — I think we need to have some caution,” Sykes said.

As debate ended, Gossage said she realized the Kansas Board of Cosmetology “would like to regulate folks.” She also said it “doesn’t make sense” that people would be at risk of burning, a common side effect, “because this sugaring is done at room temperature.”

But after a break in Senate action following the debate, Gossage withdrew her motion to override the veto.

The post Kansas Senate retreats from effort to deregulate pubic hair removal appeared first on Kansas Reflector.