Spa parties for four-year-olds, 10-year-olds getting waxed…the idea of looking perfect all the time is making kids demand a trip to the beauty salon earlier than ever, leaving parents clueless.
By Ankita Talwar
It is perturbing to note that the demand for threading, hair colour and styling, nail art, bleach, de-tanning treatments and more seems to have found favour in the pre-teen audience. Also, using makeup like lipsticks, beauty benefit creams, kajal, tinted glosses has found a market in the age group of five to six year olds and the many spa-themed birthday parties and kids spalons, dotting the city landscape, are a proof of it.
Speaking to birthday party planners, I was surprised to see ‘spa-theme’ topping the list for five-year-old girls. From manicures, pedicures, hair-dos, light make-up, temporary highlights, nail-art, hair braiding, the party planners had it all—along with mini makeup kits as giveaways. And when quizzed whether they think it was age-appropriate and wouldn’t a birthday party with bouncies and magic shows make more sense, the common retort was: “It is the ‘in-thing’. Many parents are opting for it. It brings business to us. We don’t say no. We have even hosted spa parties for four-year-olds where pedicure and make-up stations were set up for both the moms and kids. We even had a DIY station where the kids made their own fragrant soaps, glitter lotions and sparkly lip glosses,” says a kiddie spalon owner in Gurgaon who did not wish to be named.
Take 10-year-old Drisha (name changed), who is willing to subject herself to the caustic pain of waxing at a high-end beauty salon in Central Delhi. “I can’t look untidy or hairy. I wear shorts and body hair can’t show,” says Drisha, whose favourite celebrity icon is Taylor Swift and, closer home, Alia Bhatt.
It is an unsettling trend, as children as young as nine and 10 years get their body hair removed, indulge in regular pedicures and blow-drys so that they appear unnervingly like their favourite models. For Drisha, there’s nothing unusual about her regular visits to the salon since it is the in-vogue thing at school. “More than half the girls in my class go to salons/have beauty parlour aunties coming home regularly,” she says, as if it were the most natural thing in the world. “I noticed hair on my legs and was confused as to continue with my basketball classes or not, in case anyone noticed. But now I am happy,” she adds.
Remarks Nimmi, 43, her mother, “It broke my heart. She is still my little girl and I did not want her to grow up so soon. But she was thinking of quitting basketball because of the hair on her legs. I was disappointed, but didn’t want her confidence to take a hit.” With kids now so hypersensitive towards their appearance, Nimmi knew only too well how deeply any criticism would affect her daughter.
“I regularly get kids around 13-14 years who come for waxing and especially removal of hair from the underarms. We give them the required treatment only if accompanied by their moms or another adult,” says Neetanjali S Yadav, CEO and Owner, Api Ruche Unisex Spalon, Gurgaon. She once received a hair colouring request for an 11-year-old. “She was far too young and so I had to persuade her to drop the idea.” Often, Neetanjali feels it is the choice more of the child and mothers have to go along with it.
However, it is not healthy to expose children to these superficial concepts of beauty, warns Dr Rachna K Singh, HoD, Clinical Psychology, Artemis Health Institute, Gurgaon. “It kickstarts precocious puberty, gives children false ideas about the body and ingrains in them a need to get applauded by others. The worst part is that children acknowledge that there is something wrong in them that has to be set right, leaving them with a feeling of inadequacy. Instead, expose children to more age-appropriate activities such as the concept of fitness and eating healthy, for a healthy body, rather than superficial beauty.”
If we have to pin down the causes leading to the trend of young girls starting a tad bit too early on beauty regimens, the two main catalysts are images of hairless and flawless models splashed across the media (including social media) and peer pressure—not just of boys teasing, but girls looking at each other and competing. It also sometimes starts at home. When little ones with impressionable minds see their moms regularly visiting salons, getting their hair straightened, faces bleached and hands waxed, they pick up the subtle cues that looking good is essential and if you don’t have it naturally, go in for a treatment.
“Initiate the use of any cosmetics as late as possible in life. This will minimise the cumulative exposure to chemicals. Early exposure can sensitise children to cosmetics as their skin is thin and immature. Lipsticks can be licked and ingested; kajal or mascara can block the tear ducts. Also, hair shaft has finite life. Too much heat from hair styling can damage the cuticular scales making the hair brittle,” warns Dr Seema Oberoi Lall, Consultant Incharge of skincare centre at Lall eye and skincare, Gurgaon.
On the other hand, there are still many parents who prefer delaying the visits to the salon as far as 14 to 16 years. For them, it is about believing in your own worth rather than the notions identified by the society. If you too are on the fence with this, here are a few things you can try
- You are your child’s first role model. Start carrying your own imperfections happily. Reduce the number of trips to the salon, at least in the child’s knowledge. (No one said parenting was easy.)
- For a kid worried about wisps of hair, moisturise the legs/arms so that the hair is slightly less visible.
- Easier said than done, it is crucial to teach children to focus on life skills. Help them prioritise and build a very strong, positive self-image.
- Raise awareness on the potential health consequences of in-salon and other beauty treatments.
Like most parenting issues, it is a very thin line to tow. The constant see-sawing between what is appropriate versus pressures of living in a hyper-connected, visible world can leave fragile minds confused. For any parent, it will eventually come down to listening to the child and working in a collaborative manner rather than forcing our own wisdom.
Ask Drisha if she would like to emulate the fearlessness of her role model Alia in Raazi, considering she was too busy spying to focus on waxing and looking good, and pat comes the reply, “I can do that and this too.”
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