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The next, beautiful, generation

On nearly every street in the country, Lebanese women are provided an avenue for grooming and beautification. Hair, nail and make-up salons abound. In the diminutive Achrafieh Sodeco Center, there were four hair salons at the beginning of the summer until a fifth beauty parlor opened its doors in July.

The candy-colored Spa-Tacular Salon and Spa offers manicures, pedicures, make-up, facial treatments and hair dressing, but targeted to a slightly different market; Lebanese children.

 “The kid is the main client here, but the mom can also do her nails or get a brushing [blow dry],” explained Maya Kabbani Hilal, the 34-year-old spa owner and creator. “Kids come in to take care of themselves, to look good and to pamper themselves.”

Having taken notice of mothers taking their children to their own high-end salons, Hilal decided there was a market opening for a beauty parlor that catered to the country’s youngsters.  Indeed, Spa-tacular already has 100 clients and has hosted three birthday parties, where groups of young girls celebrate with beauty treatments.

 “Four or five year-olds come; it’s fun for them with the stickers [offered] and the colors [that the salon is painted]. Sometimes I get a group of four or five girls who reserve the spa room for two hours and they just pamper themselves with make-up, manicures, facials,” said Hilal.

Spa-tacuar isn’t alone in the child spa industry in Lebanon; two others, both in Verdun, opened in rapid succession this summer.

Last month, event planning company Special Events opened Bella’s, a colorful and kitschy spa for pre-teens on the bottom level of Verdun Plaza 2. Across the street in the Dunes Plaza, children’s activity center Frizzy opened a few months ago.  The center offers a variety of activities tailored to children of different age groups, including the Chez Lulu Salon and Spa aimed mainly at girls aged three to five, but according to an employee, the pink-themed salon is most frequented by eight year-olds.

Chez Lulu’s “floral bath” is particularly popular, said owner Lamice Joujou. The treatment involves bathing the young girls’ feet in hot water infused with special oils and flowers, followed by a foot scrub and massage before finishing with a pedicure.

According to Hilal, such outlets are primarily avenues for Lebanon’s young girls to learn the importance of hygiene and cleanliness, a rationale echoed by the owners of the country’s other two children’s spas.
 
“They become more and more aware, they grow up knowing that they have to have clean hands and clean feet,” said Hilal.

However, as many feminists and sociologists contest, the young clients also conceivably grow up with engrained ideas of womanhood that are detrimental in the long run, both to their individual self-esteem as well as to their larger role in society.

“It’s going to help form a certain idea of femininity in their minds from a very young age, [one in which] women are supposed to be manicured and waxed… and this really is a social construct more than anything else,” said Lynn Darwich, a member of Feminist Collective, which primarily advocates gender equality in Lebanon. “It’s a negative social construct because women end up feeling ugly if they’re not manicured… You get little girls who really focus on matters that shouldn’t be this important at the end of the day.”

Yet such matters are becoming more important at an increasingly young age.  Soraya Blell, the head of the English Department at City International School, has taught in Lebanon for a decade.  In her experience, over the past six years girls have become consumed with beautification starting around age ten, which Blell attributes in part to a simultaneous increase in exposure to foreign television programs.

Frizzy’s Chez Lulu Spa and Salon certainly provides solid substantiation for this suggestion; the most popular of the makeovers for children is Hannah Montana, the protagonist of the widely successful Disney TV show. Also popular are treatments themed around High School Musical, a movie series that has found immense popularity with teens and “tweens” – eight to 12 year-olds.

And because these teens and tweens live in a society in which women’s roles are greatly entwined with appearance, it is likely that the young girls frequenting such salons and receiving such makeovers will come to reflect the country’s social norms concerning females, says Darwich.

“Women are expected to live a certain gender role, and this has a lot to do with appearance as well. There’s a specific role they’re supposed to be playing…They have to look a certain way and act a certain way. They are encouraged to use their bodies,” she said. “When you have bank loans for plastic surgery, it tells you a lot…it says what kind of society this is.”

But while feminists may see the children’s salons that have cropped up as a both a symptom and reinforcement of a much larger societal problem, others do not make so strong of a link. To Hilal, salons for youngsters are not problematic in and of themselves; “It depends on their lifestyle, on their family upbringing. I’m not a school, it’s a salon.”

Related articles:

The Lebanese beauty myth

The cost of looking good

The Lebanese Beauty Myth

In Lebanon, thin is

Nose Job Nation

  • lulu

    i thought i have a comment but after thinking i decided not to.simply becoz it dosent matter...

    August 28, 2010

  • nour

    IT IS A VERY NICE PLACE,GO AND VISIT IT ,THEN YOU CAN COME AND POST UR COMMENTS

    November 16, 2009

  • Lara

    **nails and freshens herself up and learns to be clean. how would this affect them? just like them playing games with their friends they are doing that at these places which are big and beautiful. i planned on doing my neice's birthday there and they enjoyed it so much! they dont put full make up, just enough to make them feel special and also they put very clear and colors, nothing too dark and ugly, they do curly or straight hair and dress up in cute costumes and feel happy about themselves. i know there is no harm in that, they love it an if others cant see that then they dont know anything. go to special events or sumthing and check out what they do then comment.

    September 29, 2009

  • Lara

    I think it is a beautiful idea. if a child wants to feel like she is fresh for some event or any other chance then WHY NOT? its not like they are doing something that is considered sinful. i actually went to these places especially Special Events, they have all kinds of things such as cooking, arts and crafts, dance classes, singing, the spa, a place to have tea with their friends and learn certain tbale manners, and even they can design their own dresses. they are enjoying it and many of them feel like they are doing something that may be persued in their future. like someone who wants to be a cook or a fashion designer. why would we prefer a child with dirt in their nails when they can be clean? this is not the real beauty, i dont think any mother would enjoy her kid dirty him or herself, rather they would clean it themselves, if they did find dirt to be "real beauty" then that i must say is cruel and disgusting. but why do it when the child is sad and bothered as she cleans her na

    September 29, 2009

  • liliane

    To be fair many parents do orient their children into music, sports, reading (reference to Zeina's comment), and Tamar Lebanese are not the most..... What happened was as every where in this world there are many types of people out there, and the owners of this spa, are nothing but business people who saw this niche and made use of it, yes I personally wouldn't want to take my imaginary daughter to such a place, but if people like that exist, we don't go dissing Lebanese in general, what we try is to spread awareness of what we thing is right, which is expose the child to many "safe" things in this world, teach them, raise them, and then it's up to them to choose the lifestyle they wish. Freedom of choice?

    September 23, 2009

  • Samer

    I think they don't even have that in Hollywood

    September 23, 2009

  • 1984

    What a ridiculous invention! Actually...if it's working..it means it's not so ridiculous but actually clever of the owner! And no- I do not blame the salon's...I blame the clientele!I think mothers are highly to blame because it's them who take their daughters to be pampered. By the way, I didn't need a salon to know that I needed to wash my feets and hands! I agree with Hilal- it's parents who raise kids, not salons!

    September 19, 2009

  • amira khourchid

    When i heard about these places, I didnt believe at first!! But it is true, the very sad truth!

    September 9, 2009

  • Miumiu

    How sad....a true reflection of how their parents look at the real life !

    September 5, 2009

  • Maya Z

    I guess Lebanese women will become shallower and shallower from a generation to another. This is such a shame! Children need to have fun, play, do sports, cultural activities, not THIS NONSENSE! this is very sad.

    September 4, 2009

  • bint ras beirut

    Really? the kiddie spas are the abominable threat to these girls' self-esteem? As opposes to what - the prevailing trampiness they see everywhere in their country, on billboards, tv and mags? or the mind-boggling self-absorption of their siliconed, botoxed and bj-lipped so-called mothers? I should add largely absent mothers - you rarely see these busy ladies accompanying their own offspring to any sort of child-centred activity. Don't shoot the piano player - it's not the hired entertainment that's the problem, it's the parents who are only too willing to let someone else do the parenting.

    September 4, 2009

  • }I{ أمل

    I'm all for cleanliness, hygiene & taking care of one's appearance, but this is taking it one step too far! For the love of God people let children live their age & grow @ their own pace. One is almost unable to tell a 15 yr old from a 50 yr old woman anymore!

    September 4, 2009

  • Karianne

    Yes, that's really cruel and disgusting! By manicuring a child you hinder their development- children should be out playing with other children and get dirt under their nails and and clothes- that's natural and that's the real beauty of children. Please save the children, we don't want children to be as grown up, every child has a right to have a childhood, and this is making them loose it and care for superficial things, let's save them that and let themselves decide when they are grown up to understand the crazy world of "beauty" in this country.

    September 4, 2009

  • Zeina

    I wish parents would orient their children to sports, musical education and reading as well as learning other languages as this would be more productive for society. Why these complexities. Kids at a very early age grasp the most

    September 4, 2009

  • anonymous

    That's disgusting. Just what the little girls of Lebanon need: spas to make them feel even more insecure about the way they look and in turn see themselves. The people opening these horrible "chidlrens spas" should be ashamed of themselves.

    September 4, 2009

  • tamar

    thats too much i can't beleive it Lebanese r the most ..................... peolpe ever "salon for kids "

    September 4, 2009