The spa industry, which is seeing massive growth in major metropolitan cities, is now trying its hand at the girl spa experience, a trend that brings tweens and young girls into the spa for many of the same services their mothers get, including facials, manicures, and pedicures.

Spa chains with cutesy names like Sweet & Sassy and Little Princess Spa are dedicated to this very experience. These spas, often drenched in shades of pink, cater to young girls desire to feel and look pretty. And spa girl parties are becoming one of the most requested birthday party themes for tweens.

Critics of the trend claim that girl spa experiences are for privileged kids and are teaching tweens to be spoiled. They also point out that it is an experience that makes girls grow up too fast.

But spa experiences may actually prove to be much more than meets the eye. Research is showing that there is undue stress on tweens and that girls may actually have higher stress levels than boys. With stress levels and sleeplessness reaching record levels, many in the medical and psychological fields are scrambling to find ways to reduce the stress and anxiety in kids. A little spa pampering may be just what the doctor ordered after all.

According to clinical psychologist Sarah Neustadter PhD, “A lot of kids are stressed out because everyone is addicted to social media and their smart phones. That creates a lot of pressure for them to look a certain way and to be hyper-social and engaged with one another through social media… scanning and stalking to see what everyone else is up to.”

The stress caused by social media is also affecting kids sleep. Dr. Neustadter says tweens and teens are “up all night texting, messaging with their friends on Facebook and they are not getting enough downtime or sleep that they need.”

Tweens need nine or more hours every night, depending on their age. This is because their bodies are still growing and need to be able to rest, decompress and reorganize. However, stress — from school, personal life, or other external factors like social media — has led to a rise in a majority of tweens not getting nearly enough sleep. In fact, it has been reported by The National Sleep Foundation that 59% of all tweens and 87% of all high schoolers are simply not getting enough sleep.

“Getting good sleep, exercising, spending quality time with friends or family [and] having space to learn about who they are and what their interests and hobbies are, [are all healthy],” says Dr. Neustadter. “Unfortunately, we became more obsessed with our selfies and celebrity culture,” she adds.

Most adult women view spas as self-care time. It is a time to focus on themselves, relax and unwind while feeling a little bit pampered. And for this reason, girl spas can be of great service for stressed-out tweens.

Massages, facials, manicures, and pedicures are a form of self-care. When combined with other healthy stress coping mechanisms, tweens will find that they are more relaxed, can handle their schoolwork, and get a good night’s rest. And because the girl spa experience can be done at a real spa or at home, tweens can repeat the spa process at their leisure, giving them the tools to master their own stress.

Photo credit Mama Mia Salon & Facial Bar

Spas are increasingly adding young girl services to their list, making it easier than ever for moms (or dads) to have a special day with their daughters. But it’s not the only way to get a girl spa experience. More and more, girl spa companies are offering birthday parties and specialized services for parties of six and up, bringing girls and their friends together, all for the same price as a traditional birthday party. At Sweet & Sassy, a children’s salon, spa and party place with franchises nationwide, spa parties range from $200 to $450. 

Aside from the wellness factor, pampering young girls and tweens with specialized spa-themed birthday parties or other special events in the spa vein is a great way for parents to bond with their daughters. It also gives young girls a way to relate to their friends in a safe environment. According to Dr. Neustadter, “Female girls are more hard wired for female connections.”

For moms who want to make sure their daughters are having the best spa experience from experts in the field, there are a variety of new spa concepts that are opening up to fill this void. Lisa Dominguez, licensed esthetician, massage therapist and Founder of Spa O On the Go in Bergen County, NJ who has done over sixty girl spa parties since opening says “I talk to the girls about hygiene and work on boosting their self confidence. I make them realize that skin care is part of beauty and it’s not just about makeup.”

Dominguez, who is a mother to a 5 year old girl, was frustrated by having to go to yet another chaotic kids party that offered a slice of oil-drenched pizza and left parents with headaches and feeling starved. “The way the girls feel when they leave [a spa party] is so nice and the parents can’t believe how great the experience is,” Dominguez exclaims.

And for mothers who want to have a nice day out with their daughters comes the welcome news that more and more spas are embracing the trend by providing select services, like Mommy and Me manicures and pedicures, to their clients. These services are popping up in salons in major cities across the country, with the idea that most spas will follow suit in the next few years.

Brands like Ella + Mila are creating products to meet the demand of this emerging new spa market with collections like their mommy & me showcasing nail color duos in large and smaller sizes to suit both parent and daughter. Repechage, a professional spa line, developed spa facials and retail masks called Fusion geared toward spas wanting to cater to the tween market.

Stephanie Simons, Sr. Director Franchise Development and Growth at Sweet & Sassy says “we are seeing a big surge in experience-driven services…[and] we have seen an increase in spa services.” 

Simons suggests “as parents we are looking for more experience-driven things to do with our kids to spend time with them. I think there is a shift in people not wanting to reward their kids with food. They are looking for other things that they like to do in order to reward them.”

With self-care becoming an important issue for tweens, the girl spa trend is making way for these young girls to find time to relax and unwind from the stress of modern life. It is also teaching them how to develop bonds with not only girls their own age, but their parents and extended family as well, strengthening the relationships with all the women in their life. According to Dr. Neustadter, “A lot of parents are stressed out too. If parents are not modeling good self-care and are very anxious and stressed out, then their children will take that on as a lifestyle too.”