Pre-Teen Spas A Growing Trend

Seven-year-old Naomi Hoersten at a spa
When it comes to day spas, Naomi Hoersten is an old pro.

Naomi's regular trips to a stylist started at age six. Before long, Naomi wanted to sample a lot more of the spa menu.

And what Naomi wants, Naomi gets.

"Naomi loves to have her nails done and her toe nails done and makeup," says Jill Hoersten about her daughter, who just turned seven.

Naomi is on the young end of a growing group of girls -- and boys -- saving their allowance to buy the latest look.

For some, it's a way to unwind from an over-packed schedule of studies, sports and after school clubs. But there is also a deep and potentially detrimental desire to be perfect.

The young girls who attend the spas say there is a lot of pressure in middle school, among their peers to look good — to have highlights and the right hairstyle.

"If you don't, you are kind of looked down upon," says one young spa-goer, Paige Rosener.

Susan Tierney, the owner of Seventeen Spa in Plano, Texas, says the whole business is booming.

"Business is good,'' says Tierney.

Backed by Seventeen Magazine, the spa is custom-made to attract teens and kids and their hundreds of billions of dollars in buying power.

"They all have affluent baby boomer parents, they all get allowances and they have part-time jobs," says Tierney.

The teen-oriented spa is the fastest growing trend within the spa industry. Teen-agers are expected to outnumber baby boomers by 2010. But child experts fear the intense focus on beauty and image at younger ages could come at a cost.

Bombarded by images of beauty — from music videos, makeover TV shows and fashion magazines. Some child psychologists worry that
fast-forwarding kids into adulthood could have lifelong problems.

"It leads to low self-esteem, body image problems, eating disorders and a real difficulty aging,'' says child psychologist Jill Bellinson.

Jill Hoersten brushes off any criticism that pampering her daughter is causing permanent damage.

"It's nothing risqué," she says. "What's wrong with getting your hair done and nails done and caring about what you look like?"

But some still ask at what age is a child better off in the world of make believe, rather than the world of makeup?