Beauty Salon Services for Kids: Are Treatments Too Much, Too Soon?

Hair, nails and body treatments for children. Is it too much, too soon?

ByABC News
November 30, 2011, 9:59 PM

Dec. 1, 2011 — -- Celebrity kids at the spa are a tabloid staple.

On "The Real Housewives of New Jersey," Gia Guidice celebrated her ninth birthday by being pampered with her friends.

But it's not just Tinseltown's tots. Little girls everywhere are buffing, plucking and even waxing! At Drybar in New York City, the under-10 set – like 5-year-old Lois -- can get the Shirley Temple hair blow-out for $28.

"They always love it," Alex Ketcheson, manager of Drybar, told "Good Morning America." "They always have a big smile on their face, and a lot of times they'll get up and give their hairdresser a big hug."

At the newly opened Beehives and Buzzcuts, also in New York City, no one is too young. Manicures for 1-year-olds, fancy updos and braiding parties are on the menu.

"There's always a market for little girls and giving them a little special time and a little love," the salon's owner, Karolyn Massey told "GMA." "You can really relax."

At the Simon Says spa in Skokie, Ill., the tween beauty business is booming, even though the young clients' feet barely touch the ground aboard the salon's seating.

Pint-sized pampering isn't exactly what comes to mind when one thinks of a stress-free spa day, but at New York City's Sothy's Spa, that's exactly what happens.

"We do a coconut and lemon facial. We have seasonal facials that we offer to the tween market," said Trena Ross, Sothy's spa director.

Danielle Gallagher was looking for perfectly plucked brows for her first dance, at the age of 11.

She got them.

At Salon Ouidad, a national chain of spas catering to clients with curly hair, some of the smallest clients say they're unhappy with their curls. Those young clients comprise up to 20 percent of the salon's clientele.

"I have 9-year-olds coming in for chemical treatments … I have as young as 6 and 7 (years old)," Ouidad, the salon's owner who goes by one name, told "GMA." "They do a chemical treatment … to release and loosen their curls."

But it goes beyond that. Girls as young as 11 and 12 are even getting bikini waxes.

"I feel it's part of hygiene," Kelly Burrus, the mother of a middle-school aged daughter, told "GMA." "When it's appropriate and they need to, they'll be doing it."

Asked if she was okay with her 11-year-old daughter Danielle getting a bikini wax, Rose Gallagher replied: "I would be fine with it if she's okay with the pain factor."

Dana Edell is the founder/director of Spark, a national movement to end the sexualization of girls.

"If you're telling your daughter, okay this is, on a Saturday we're going to spend six hours at the salon getting our toes done and our eyebrows done and straightening our hair, what are we actually teaching her about what's important? … They think it's important to spend their time and their money is on things that are making them look prettier and prettier," Edell said.

Edell says focusing on beauty can strip away a girl's fragile confidence. Many admit to feeling the pressure to look good.

"I do feel a lot of pressure. It's very nerve-racking," one young girl, Evelyn O'Byrne, told "GMA." "Everyone is like your hair is messy or you look ugly … Sometimes I feel sad."

Girls are a particular target of marketers. In TV shows and in sales pitches, girls are bombarded with images of ideal beauty.

"I feel like little girls are just the biggest target right now," said Edell.

"The marketers are definitely telling them, you're not pretty enough, so you need to buy makeup and you need to wax your eyebrows and get your hair straightened. You need to change all of these things about yourself," she said. "That has a strong negative effect."