The Situationist

Spas and Girls

Posted by The Situationist Staff on July 27, 2007

Girl at Spa

We have explored the intersection between social psychology, attitudes toward beauty, and marketing on several occasions (“Shades of Fairness and the Marketing of Prejudice“; “Fitting In and Sizing Up“; “Survival of the Cutest“; and “Black History is Now“). We now bring you excerpts from an article by Bonna Johnson in the Tennessean on how spas have found a growing customer base in young girls.

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When Melina Rotoni was 12, she got her eyebrows waxed for the first time. By the eighth grade, she was wearing acrylic nails.

“I started early,” said Rotoni, 28, owner of Elysium Day Spa and Cosmetics Shop in Green Hills and Brentwood.

By today’s standards, though, Rotoni would be right in sync.

Girls and tweens are showing up in larger numbers at full-scale adult spas to get plucked, waxed, massaged and moisturized, just like mom.

At Elysium, girls 9-13 can pick their skin-soothing choices from the “Spa Divas” menu — “catering to little girls transitioning to young ladies,” it says — where treatments can be a bit cheaper than adult prices. Manicures are $10, eyebrow waxes $12, mini-facials and half-hour massages $30 each.

“It’s feels good,” said 8-year-old Abbey Holzapfel of Smyrna, as strawberry-scented scrub was slathered on her smooth skin during a half-hour facial. Her favorite, though, is getting a manicure, and the hotter the pink, the better.

Little princesses are also choosing the spa instead of the roller rink for birthday parties.

“My kids loved it. It was great,” said Debbie White of west Nashville, who treated both her daughters to sweet-13 birthday parties at Apropos in Green Hills.

“It was their dream. They’d never been to a spa before,” said White, whose daughters are active in pageants and modeling. “It’s in every fashion magazine they read.”

But one social psychologist worries that spa outings early in life may condition children into believing happiness comes from looking pretty.

“I can see how on the surface it can appear to be all fun and games, especially if it’s packaged as a birthday party, but we do need to be careful about the message we’re sending,” said Sabina Gesell, a research coordinator for Vanderbilt’s Pediatrics Department.

Bonding over facials

Family outings to the spa was one of the hottest trends last year, according to the International Spa Association, introducing more children to the pampered life.

Among parents who go to spas, about two-thirds have brought along teen daughters, a report last year by the spa group said. Teens are most interested in getting their nails done, followed by full-body massages, facials and waxes.

Such outings can be bonding moments for busy moms and their daughters, said Celeste Hilling, CEO of Skin Authority, a San Diego-based skincare company, and a board member of the International Spa Association.

Mother and Daughter at Spa“That bonding time that used to happen over dinner is now happening over manicures and pedicures,” Hilling said.

The craze . . . shouldn’t be surprising. Girls are growing up a lot faster than a generation ago with their cell phones, micro-minis and 24/7 exposure to the well-groomed, from party girl Lindsay Lohan to the more wholesome Emma Roberts.

At the same time, more people are starting to view the spa business as more of a wellness necessity, not an occasional luxury, said Shauna Rae Samograd, co-owner of Bodyworks Emporium in Hendersonville and Magnolia Spa Cosmetics Yoga in east Nashville.

“Parents are directing kids to spas, but teenagers also are much more sophisticated, savvy and concerned about their appearance, health and diets, and they’re willing to explore different options,” Samograd said.

A learning opportunity

Moms may need spa days to de-stress or battle wrinkles. Now that the kids are coming along, they’re great places to teach youngsters about proper skin care, especially at a time when they are prone to breakouts, said Tami Sprintz Hall, owner of Escape, a day spa in the Belle Meade area.

“I want her to be able to feel better about herself,” said Trisha Elcan, who recently started making appointments for her 12-year-old daughter Lauren for brow waxes and teen facials at Escape.

Growing up too fast?

Teens spend some $9.7 billion a year on beauty products, and cosmetic and beauty aids are among the most advertised in teen magazines.

Vanderbilt’s Gesell is afraid that exposure to beauty treatments at too young an age pushes girls to be older before their time.

“The key message that children need to receive at any age is that they are whole and beautiful as they are,” Gesell said. “It’s not their physical appearance that makes them whole and beautiful, it’s who they are as an individual. It’s their character traits, accomplishments and efforts.”

Research shows that children as young as 4 are affected by our appearance-obsessed culture, Gesell said. Pressure from parents and peers can result in negative body image and low self-esteem, she said.

Dr. Sharon Albers, a dermatologist with Pediatric Specialists of Nashville, sees no medical benefit in kids going to the spa, and, in some cases, thinks it can be harmful.

She worries that children’s skin can get burned with waxings and that teens may wrongly get their pimples popped during facials. That can lead to infections and scarring.

“Spas do play a role,” said Albers, who often fields questions from parents about whether to permit facials. “If it relaxes you and you have the money to spend, fine.”

She too worries children are being sent the wrong message in a time when the media is filled with images of skinny models.

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To read the rest of the article, click here.

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2 Responses to “Spas and Girls”

  1. It’s a newer generation, kids are maturing much more quickly and it’s evident in how today’s female youth are visiting day spas. Good for them :)

  2. [...] “Prejudice Against the Obese and Some of its Situational Sources,” “Spas and Girls,” and “Fitting in and Sizing [...]

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