The internet has long been a place to fiercely debate whether or not children should wear makeup. This weekend, armchair parenting experts were spoon-fed another potentially controversial question: How do we feel about kids getting facials?
It began, as these things often do, on Instagram Stories, where Victoria Beckham showed her 7-year-old daughter Harper getting a facial from Dr. Barbara Sturm. The Dusseldorf, Germany-based aesthetics doctor is well-known for her celebrity clientele, who include Kim Kardashian and Bar Refaeli.
“We MUST use CLEAN products on our children!” Beckham captioned the snap. (One hopes those standards apply to adult patients, too.)
The whole shebang seemed fairly innocuous, and yes, pretty sterile. The young Beckham wore a pristine hairnet, and was covered with (“CLEAN”) white towels.
Dr. Sturm, who earned fame slathering clients in their own blood per her bespoke “vampire facials,” took a much gentler approach to Harper’s appointment. In the video, she gently padded the child’s face with a cloth. There were no needles or lasers in sight. It was the equivalent of giving a child sparkling cider on New Year’s Eve so she can toast with the adults.
And it’s not all that uncommon. Spas and salons across the country have opened their doors to a new generation of clients.
Should Harper ever visit Long Island, she can ask her mother for $25 to spend on a 15-minute “Chocolate Facial” at the baking-themed Seriously Sweet Salon & Spa.
Nashville’s Giggles & Glam Salon offers a similar service, and if Harper brought three friends to Napa Valley’s Mais Oui Massage & Mobile DaySpa, they could all indulge in a $375 “Party Package” that includes a chocolate facial.
Macy's sells a Quarto All-Natural Spa Lab ($30), which includes all the ingredients and hardware an amateur skincare mixologist needs to whip up “fruit-based face masks, fairy glitter gels, and more!” As a slight afterthought, the product description assures parents that this set is “STEM-focused” that allows young girls to “cover science and beauty.”
Numerous mommy blogs contain recipes for often-edible facial masks made out of applesauce, coconut, olive oil, and bananas. One post on the site eHow asks the question, “What Things Are Necessary at an 11-Year-Old Girl’s Spa Party?” One requisite is—you guessed it—a facial mask made of prepared oatmeal, milk, and honey “combined into a smooth paste-consistency.”
But what, if anything, will all this pampering do to an already-poreless young child? Not much, experts say.
“A child's skin has more collagen and elastin than an adult's does, which makes it plumper,” Dr. Alan J. Parks, a Columbus, Ohio-based dermatologist, told The Daily Beast. Since the under-10 set already has soft skin, they do not require the smoothing treatments their mothers might shell out for. Baby skin is also much thinner than that of a parent, which makes it a lot more sensitive.
But once a child discovers their first pimple, things start to change. “I usually do not recommend facials for patients until they start to develop acne,” said Dr. Joshua Zeichner, cosmetic & clinical research dermatologist at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York.
However, as Dr. Zeichner went on to note, “the first person” a teen with acne should see is a dermatologist, not an esthetician.
That is a sentiment Dr. Michele Farber of Schweiger Dermatology Group in New York agrees with: “When in the right hands, facials can also be very helpful to unclog pores and accelerate healing of lesions—just be careful of who is performing your facial, as any aggressive extractions can lead to scarring.”
Other skin treatments a woman should have a valid ID before trying? Best to save microdermabrasion, a procedure that gently sands off layers of skin, and chemical peels until after one's 21st birthday.
All of the doctors agreed that getting a one-off facial as a treat (especially from a world-renowned skin expert, as in Harper's case) will not cause any harm. However, parents should be sure the child wants one in the first place.
“Even if a facial seems like a small procedure, it's important to make sure that the child, not only the parent, wants it done,” Dr. Farber said. “While it makes people happier to have clear skin, children are much more susceptible to feel self-conscious depending on the approach taken to get there.”
Angela Jia Kim founded Savor Beauty, a New York and Hudson Valley-based spa. While Kim primarily treats adults, she will give teens (and “only teens”) a facial, usually with adult supervision.
The goal is not necessarily to fix any problem, but rather encourage young girls to take care of their skin. “Teens won't necessarily listen to what their moms tell them to do, but they will listen to an esthetician who tells them to protect their skin under the sun, not pick at pimples, and to wash their faces every single night to keep the blemishes at bay,” Kim said.
In conclusion: #KidFacials will not doom the next generation, and we don't always listen to our mothers—even if the mother in question happens to be a woman formerly known as Posh Spice.