GRACE ZOBY parked her too-big, white cotton scuffs on the floor and took off her matching robe. In her wrap, she clambered up onto the bed, slipped under the sheet, pulled up the comforter. The coffee-colored room was dim; music drifted from a hidden speaker. “Is this your first facial, Gracie?” the aesthetician asked, wrapping a towel around her client’s wavy blond hair. “Mmm-hmm.””You have pretty skin,” the clinician added. “Thank you,” said Gracie, and her brown eyes fluttered shut.
When you are 8, it’s all pretty skin.
Gracie had come to Spa Phoenix in Virginia Beach with her mother for a little relaxation. As far as Gracie was concerned, this visit was not about smoothing out wrinkles, depuffing the eye area or plumping up collagen-poor lip lines.
This was a treat.
Spas are seeing younger clients these days, following in the footsteps of teens who discovered the indulgence a few years ago. A 2006 survey of teenage spa-goers conducted by the International SPA Association based in Lexington, Ky., showed that nearly 4 million teens ages 13 to 19 had patronized spas in the United States. The organization has not studied the use of spas by younger children.
But an unscientific survey of several local spas revealed that little girls in Hampton Roads have developed spa tastes. Some spas are designing services especially for them.
Gracie is having a busy summer, said her mom, Jessica Zoby. There’s camp for field hockey and lacrosse, tennis team and swim team. The kitchen of the family’s home in the Little Neck section of Virginia Beach is being renovated and, just as school was out, they were in a car accident.
“And she had a tough time this week,” Zoby said about her daughter. “She had her first time trials for swim.”
Cynthia Galumbeck is president, CEO and co-owns Spa Phoenix with her husband, Matthew A. Galumbeck, a plastic surgeon and the spa’s medical director. Before entering the skin care industry, Cindy Galumbeck was a child-and-adolescent psychiatrist.
She is not surprised that she’s seen more children in her spa in the past 12 to 24 months .
“I think it has a lot to do with the general trend in society. Adults are much more stressed, and kids are, too. There are scheduled practices for swimming and soccer, and they need this kind of relaxation just as adults do. Parents are becoming more aware of the benefits of spa treatment.”
Teens, she said, come in for lessons on good skin care routines to help them with acne. Young children tend to arrive with their mothers for joint treatments, especially pedicures where they can sit together and chat. That was the plan for Gracie and her mother – facials, then partner pedicures.
Around Hampton Roads, spa menus now list things like the “Little Miss Sunshine.” For that package, at Anthony’s Salon and Spa in Suffolk, children 8 to 12 years old receive a $60 minipedicure and oatmeal facial.
The salon opened in February and, in deciding what services to include, studied brochures from other spas and salons. The “Little Miss Sunshine” caught on quickly. “It’s very popular for, like, birthdays,” said Amanda Dryden, a cosmetologist apprentice at Anthony’s.
In Norfolk’s Ghent neighborhood, Serenity Spa manager Sandy Nguyen said she recently revised the spa’s menu to include offerings for children.
“Their skin is not a lot of work.” Nguyen said.
During the last few weeks of the school year, Serenity saw a bump in elementary school-age business.
“We had about six parties, and moms brought a whole bunch of kids here, sometimes four, five or six per party, sometimes seven or eight,” Nguyen said. “They had a lot of fun.”
In Portsmouth, Totally Pampered on the corner of Washington and High streets is also seeing younger and younger clients.
They’ve performed ear candling for children for a while. A hollow candle of paraffin wax is put into the ear canal and lit. The resulting vacuum removes ear wax and impurities. The spa has had regulars for that $40 service. The kids especially like the part where the candle is cut open and they can see what came out of their ears.
“Another really popular thing,” said Rhonnie Smith, the spa’s owner, “is your ‘Spa Buddies.’ A lot of moms and daughters come in and get couples massage, a full hour massage with heated stones and oil on tables that are side by side. Each has her own therapist. That’s $115 together.”
Valerie Jackson recently booked that massage for herself and her 12-year-old daughter. Destinee Jackson had begged her mother for a spa treatment for a couple of years. She was even willing to pay for it herself with money she received for making straight A’s in school.
Finally, Jackson decided to allow Destinee the experience as a birthday gift. The occasion also conveyed a message from mother to daughter.
“I’m 42,” said Jackson, a medical assistant and phlebotomist who lives in Suffolk, “and that was my first massage. A lot of her friends don’t get to do a lot of things. I want Destinee to know that there’s more out there, that things cost money, and that you have to go out there and work hard for what you want.”
Afterward, Destinee – who loved the feeling of the stones on her back – said it had been the best part of her summer vacation so far. It was just like she had always seen in the movies.
Gracie enjoyed her mother/daughter spa day, too. She lay limp under steamed towels, toner, sea mineral mask and a facial massage.
Georgia Petridis gave Gracie the lecture prearranged by Gracie’s mom about the need for daily face-washing and regular sunscreen use. Petridis also took a look at Gracie’s pores. A magnifying lens shows any congestion.
“This is where usually I would do an extraction,” Petridis said, patting Gracie’s smooth, pink cheek and pushing the magnifier out of the way, “but she’s a teeny bit young.”
Instead, she gave Gracie another face massage, a vitamin nourishing mask, an arm, hand and finger massage, another warm towel, a moisturizer full of vitamin C serum, another facial massage and, finally, a scalp massage.
It lasted 45 minutes. Petridis said she limits the amount of time she spends on young clients to keep them from getting antsy.
Gracie heaved a deep sigh, opened her eyes and climbed off the table. Her waffle-weave spa robe dragged on the floor on her way to the waiting room, where anti-aging minerals anchored a cosmetic display. Sitting cross-legged on a gray sofa, Gracie sipped a glass of ice water and thumbed through Interior Design magazine while she waited for her mother.
Fifteen minutes later, Zoby emerged from her own facial, took a look at Gracie and said, “Oooh, you’re all glowy.”
Krys Stefansky, (757) 446-2732, [email protected] If you are 6 years old and itching for a mud mask and manicure for yourself and a dozen of your best friends, Michelle Berard can help.
Berard has carved a business niche out of customers’ craving for spa treatments for children still too young to pay for them. Her original enterprise, a mobile hair salon called Hair, There and Everywhere, has been around for 20 years.
Four years ago, she added “Beautiful Birthdays” and painted the windows of her bubble gum-pink van to advertise the idea. “Glamour parties for Young Ladies,” the windows shout, and “Give her a party fit for a princess!”
She has watched, in traffic, as moms nearly run off the roads trying to scribble down her phone number or Web site – www.beautifulbirthdays.com. They call, seldom bat an eye at the requisite fee, then look on in delight as she throws themed parties for children ages 4 and up.
“It was a fast start from the get-go,” said the resident of Virginia Beach’s Kempsville area. “And it’s definitely increased. We get a lot of repeat business now. We have some girls that we’ve had for four years in a row.”
They love her tea party, her fairy princess party, her Cinderella party. The 4- and 5-year-old party guests think it’s funny when she dresses them up in drab clothing, a la Cinderella before her prince has come. Then Berard hands out brooms and feather dusters and tells them it’s time for their chores.
“They are horrified: We have to clean?” she said, laughing.
Lately, what Berard’s little clients really, really want is spa treatments.
Her mini-spa includes a mud mask, make up application and manicure and costs parents $150 for up to 10 kids. More, and she charges $12 per child with a maximum of 20. The cosmetologist’s regular spa party is $150 for up to five girls and $25 per girl after that for a maximum of 12 girls. It’s a bit more lavish with both manicure and pedicure.
Berard makes the whole thing happen with just one helper. To get things started, she twists the kids’ hair up in towels, ties aprons on everyone, then serves fruit smoothies all around. After the mask, girls make a spa kit with bath salts, body glitter, peppermint powder and more. It becomes the gift bag they take home. In between, there are spa games to win prizes – fun diversions like picking up jewels with bare toes and memorizing beauty items attached to a bath robe.
In May, Diane Wickum called Berard for a birthday celebration for her daughter, Marley.
“It was my idea,” Wickum said. “We have three kids and have done all kinds of birthday parties all around town. I was looking for something different, and Marley’s kind of a girly-girl and so are her girlfriends. It was a riot.”
Once the fun was over, it was back to reality. The rising fourth- grader will not be booking herself an appointment in a real spa anytime soon.
“I don’t want her to do it all now,” Wickum said. “She doesn’t have her ears pierced and I’m not going to color her hair when she’s in middle school. I think that those things should wait for a while.”
The sight of a flock of kids having facials still sometimes sets Berard back on her heels.
“Last weekend we were in the Princess Anne Country Club in the Founder’s Room doing mud masks for a 9-year-old’s birthday party,” she said, laughing. “I thought it was insane.”
Insane fun. Kimberly Cordle Smith was the country club mom. She had hired Berard before to make a dream or two come true. The sales rep is on the road a lot missing her girls, so she tends to pull out the stops for her two daughters’ birthdays. She doesn’t routinely take them to spas.
“You have to think about that a young child doesn’t need to be getting this all the time,” Smith said.
But because the day was special, her daughter Lauren’s bash for 16 guests included spa treatments, dancing, lunch and took up two rooms at the club.
Organic ingredients, lipstick and eye shadow, party bags full of goodies and enough video to record it all: “I don’t think this group of girls had ever experienced anything like it,” Smith said. “It was the most unique little spa party.”
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