SALT LAKE CITY – A Utah woman who braids hair to supplement her family’s income has won a federal lawsuit against the state over its licensing process for her craft, arguing state regulations violated her right to earn a living.

A federal judge ruled this week that the state’s requirement that Jestina Clayton get a cosmetology license to braid hair was “unconstitutional and invalid” because regulations are irrelevant to Clayton’s profession.

Clayton, 30, sued last year after she found it would be illegal to run a hair-braiding business without a license, in part because of public health and safety concerns. Clayton said she learned how to braid hair as a 5-year-old in her West African home country of Sierra Leone, and she was doing it at her suburban Salt Lake City home to support her three children — ages 7, 5 and 1 — while her husband finishes school.

“I’m excited. I can’t believe it,” Clayton said of the ruling. “You go in with the hope, but sometimes things don’t go your way.”

U.S District Judge David Sam in Salt Lake City said Utah’s cosmetology licensing requirements are so disconnected from hair-braiding “that to premise Jestina’s right to earn a living by braiding hair on that scheme is wholly irrational and a violation of her constitutionally protected rights.”

Sam said the state couldn’t prove a cosmetology license for hair-braiding is needed to protect public health. He also said Utah has never investigated whether any health or safety threats are associated with the practice.

Paul Murphy, spokesman for the Utah attorney general’s office, said Friday that lawyers are reviewing the case and have not decided whether to appeal.

Utah is among at least a half-dozen states that require braiders to have full cosmetology licenses, while others such as California and Arizona exempt braiders from such laws. About a dozen states require specialized training, such as more than 30 hours in the classroom.