The Luxe Life For Little Ones?

August 8, 2006

When did you get your first manicure and pedicure? Do you remember the first time you got highlights, a facial, a massage?

I do. The manicure and highlights were very occasional splurges during college. I was well into my 20s before I ever got a pedicure. Same for my first facial. And I have only had one massage so far…when I was almost 9 months pregnant, and it was bliss.

To me, these are occasional indulgences, and I always feel slightly guilty forking over the cash required.

But there’s no guilt involved for the little girls featured in this USA Today story. It seems that a growing number of kids as young as 6 years old are making spa visits a regular part of their lives.

The age at which girls begin grooming regimens and beauty treatments has dropped dramatically in recent years, spa owners say, as girls follow their favorite celebrities and their self-indulgent baby-boomer parents.

Bombarded with marketing and media messages their parents never heard growing up, kids today find stores filled with grooming and cosmetic products aimed specifically at them. These days, it’s not uncommon for kids as young as 6 to get minifacials and French manicures as spas-for-kids have evolved from a rarity to a growing subset of the bustling spa industry.

So more and more grade school girls are getting honey-colored highlights, pink pedicures, even mind-numbing massages…

Kid spas have “moved from a trend to a staple,” says SPARTY! owner Alexis Ufland, whose company offers at-home spa parties for teens and tweens in New York and 10 other cities.

She recently did a birthday party for a gaggle of 10-year-olds on the Upper East Side that featured manicures/pedicures, mini-facials, henna tattoos, pink robes with each girl’s name, goodie bags with pretend makeup, food and a birthday cake — all for about $5,000.

“They already know what a French manicure is. They know they want square nails, not round.”

Well I don’t know about you ladies, but I sure am RELIEVED to know that our growing girls have a strong opinion on the shape of their nails!

In all seriousness, I guess I don’t see the harm in an occasional indulgence, even for little girls. Just the other day I was telling my husband I can’t wait until my daughter is 6 or 7 years old, so we can go get a pedicure together and have a little flower or something painted on her big toe. I envision that as a once-a-year treat, and can already see her delighted, smiling face as she gazes down at her brightly painted toes.

But I do think it’s risky for such pampering to be the norm for young girls, and even teenagers. It puts way too much emphasis on their appearance, and could create an unhealthy sense of entitlement.

Then again, some girls don’t stand a chance if their mothers think like this one:

“This is America, and America is into beauty, taking care of yourself, staying healthy, eating right and taking vitamins,” says Siobhain Buckley, mother of Diandra, 11, and Ireland, 8, who love visiting the Hyatt Hill Country with their mother. The girls say they plan to keep going to spas when they become teens and adults.

Like many women her age, Buckley, 40, didn’t get her first manicure/pedicure until she was an adult. But her daughters are growing up in a different world.

“Children are so far advanced compared to us. But it’s for fun, and if it teaches them hygiene and good skin care, how can it be bad?”

You hear that, fellow MTers? If you consider yourself a patriotic American, get your family to the nearest spa, STAT!