Preventing Your Daughter from Becoming a Salon Girl

I’ve always been a little uncomfortable around girls focused on their appearance.  I was a tomboy growing up, so the idea of spending lots of time doing my hair and nails seemed not only foreign, but also a waste of time.  Girls who played the piano, sang in the school shows, or wrote for the school paper, though not athletic, held my respect.  Girls focused on their appearance seemed to be wasting their time perfecting their own appearance and pining after boys.

And so when I walked into the local “Sweet and Sassy” store to pick up a specific item for my daughter, I was horrified at what I saw.

I had walked by the store in the past.  It drew a lot of attention with a long pink sparkly limousine parked in front, but I had never actually been in there.  Girls as young as 3 hummed in and out of the store, and as I walked in the door I instantly smelled some sort of bubblegum perfume mixed with hair spray.  I was there only because my girlfriend told me they sold a special brush.  According to my friend, the magic knot genie brush would comb curly hair with ease, and I hoped it would prevent daily screaming sessions from my curly haired toddler (for what it’s worth, the brush is amazing!).  But I was completely unprepared for the scene I saw at the Sweet and Sassy store.

Grown women sat giving little girls in miniature seats pedicures.  Girls giggled as they had their hair put into updos.  Pink bling was everywhere.  Each console was filled with ruffles and ribbons.  Dangly earrings and diamonds adorned tiny little children as they walked in heals with puffy ruffled skirts.

As I slowly took in the entire scene, I felt nauseous and wondered if I should even purchase the hair brush.  Was I materially cooperating with evil?  Were adults really running this place?

Since I don’t have a smart phone and I wasn’t sure about purchasing the brush online, and I’m lazy about things like material cooperation with evil, I bought the brush and left.  But I couldn’t stop thinking about why I didn’t want me or my daughters to go back to that store.

For starters, salons are for grown ups, not little girls.  Going with mom to get your hair done on a special occasion is very different from an entire store dedicated to making little girls look fabulous.  Little girls are already beautiful, and to make them think they need to be polished and painted to be pretty is robbing them of their innocence.  There is a small and precious window of time where a young girl doesn’t worry about her appearance.  Encouraging her to stare into a mirror from the time she is 3 years old robs her of this innocence.

The age-inappropriateness of it all reminded of another recent incident.  When my 8 year old daughter tried out for a local travel soccer club, they had outside evaluators with clipboards writing down her every move and making some of the girls cry.  There were parents screaming at little girls to run faster or else they would be cut from the team.  The entire scene was appalling, and completely inappropriate for 8 year old girls.  The Sweet and Sassy store is doing the same thing, but with pedicures and updos in lieu of clipboards and whistles.

But my distaste for the store runs even deeper than this.  The Sweet and Sassy store encourages young girls not to become Olympians, but Salon Girls.

A what?  I define a Salon Girl as a girl who spends a disproportionate amount of time caring for her appearance, visiting salons or similar establishments with regularity.  Salon girls often, though not always, wear heavy makeup and very high healed shoes and have long fake fingernails.

And you may wonder what is so wrong with being a Salon Girl?

Instead of excelling in sports or music or school, a Salon Girl’s focus and determination go directly toward her appearance.  Her motivation is either to create beauty in her appearance in service of self or in an attempt to attract the attention of boys.  The first motivation is filled with pride, the second is not only demeaning, but completely inappropriate for a young girl.

When we consider that women are VERY prone to feelings of insecurity and have strong tendencies to seek attention and affirmation from men, teaching young girls to spend significant time on their appearances is only encouraging them toward this very natural vice in our gender.  Overemphasizing sports or music to a young girl can also be a problem, but sports and music at least do not play on this inherent feminine weakness.  Further, female jocks and musicians are at least working towards a creation or accomplishment of real value to others.  Young girls should cultivate their natural talents through hard work, and the goal should always be the service of others and development of inner virtue, not the service of self.

So does this mean that I should stop getting pedicures or wearing makeup?  No.  Does it mean my daughter shouldn’t spend time on her hair before a dance recital or special event?  No, of course not.  Our appearance is an important part of our apostolate.  Girls should be taught how to take care of their bodies, how to dress for different occasions and how to select matching clothing.  But they should be taught these things in a manner appropriate for their age, always reminding them of their inner beauty, and always with moderation.  The goal of our appearance should never be to fill ourselves with pride, but to serve God and others.  Appearance is an important part of our apostolate, but appearance alone is never our apostolate.

  • Julie

    Ok so I’ll admit it …. I was the horrible friend who led “Red” to the store of horrors…but for what it’s worth, I did try to warn her that she probably would not approve of such a place. My daughters (3 of them) were each givin a gift certificate for Christmas for a spa day….I held on to the gift cards for three years!!! Anyways when we finally used the gift cards for their mini make-overs,three years later, I was totally impressed by the Knot Genie brush and just had to get one!! I have since found a Pro-Life, Pro-Mom website that sells the Knot Genie and if anyone is interested in purchasing the brush I would highly recommend this website. http://www.mom4life.com a portion of the sale goes to a crisis pregnancy agency that is prolife and there is always free shipping!!! Double bonus! Hopefully some good can come from Kellie’s horrific experience ;)

    • Kellie “Red”

      You are not a horrible friend! And you did try to warn me. And if we ever lose our brush, I will be sure to visit that site for a new one. Our brush is pink (big surprise there!), and I’d be happy to purchase it in another color. My older daughter, who does not have curly hair, actually prefers the brush as well.

      • http://www.buildingcathedrals.com Katrina

        That IS a great brush! I actually told JM about it this weekend, and was going to mention it to you too, Kellie, since you have the curly hair like we do!
        I love your post. I am struggling because I, like you, was not a girly girl at all as a child. I didn’t wear make-up, play dress-up, play with dolls or Barbies, etc. I think this was a bit abnormal, and I’m glad to see my daughters having fun with dolls and dress-up now! I had a whole kit of make-up for when I was in plays and musicals, but that was it.
        My struggle now is with my 4.5 year-old, who wants so badly for me to buy her a make-up kit for her 5th birthday next month! A few of her friends received one when they turned 5, and that’s all that she’s asking for. I don’t know what to do! She sees it just as a part of dress-up and make-believe play – when they dress up as Cinderella, they also put on eye shadow and lipstick. My instinct is to say “no!” I just don’t want my 5 year-old to wear make-up, even for dress-up, but I wonder if my perspective is skewed because I don’t even wear make-up now. I’d love input from other moms as to how you’ve dealt with this. Part of me thinks it’s just innocent fun, and part of being a little girl to put on way too much hot pink lipstick and green eye shadow while playing. The other part of me is afraid of the slippery slope…

        • http://thisaintthelyceum.org Kelly Mantoan

          Katrina, I am also a tomboy raising two princesses (alongside their three brothers). The girls have both, from an early age asked for makeup. It was given to them by a grandparent and they quickly tired of it. They didn’t like the feel of it on their faces. The one time my sister tried to give them full on makeovers, they were actually both repulsed by their own appearances and asked to have the make up removed quickly. My oldest was upset when the heavy eyeliner and mascara didn’t completely come off until her evening shower. They like having their nails painted on a regular basis, dressing up on Sundays, and having their hair done for special occasions, but I found the make-up attraction to be fleeting.They don’t even like me wearing it to be honest! It probably helps that the friends of my oldest are not into wearing makeup.
          Your example will persuade them more than a plastic case of cheap lipstick and blush. I don’t think there’s any harm in letting them try it (on a day when you know you’ll be staying at home.)

          • http://www.buildingcathedrals.com Katrina

            Thanks, Kelly! What do I do, though, if she really DOES like the way she looks in make-up? I guess maybe the key will be stressing that it can be used for dressing up and (maybe?) for special occasions…

        • http://thisaintthelyceum.org Kelly Mantoan

          Hmmmmm, that’s a good question. At this point, I find my girls are very heavily influenced by my style choices. I take care of how I look (I try to keep the PJ and ponytail school days to a minimum) and they seem to be content to model my behavior. They’re also not subjected to peer pressure at school on a daily basis which might sway them, and as I mentioned, many of their friends (and my friends) take a similar view of vanity. If you let her use it as a part of dress-up, and she’s not seeing it used by friends or even you, in any other way, I think she’ll treat it like any other accessory. I’ll be very curious to hear if she does indeed get a make up kit for her birthday now!

  • Saoirse

    I only have boys – but my 6 year old son recently ran into a group of girls from his class who had attended a diva birthday party at a salon. They all walked out with up dos, makeup, painted nails and feather boas. He was Horrified!!! Several of them asked him very sassily if he thought they looked pretty. He shuffled uncomfortably – and said – “I think your nails are cool – but you look prettier when you look like girls – not like THIS!”. The girls were quite annoyed with him. Several of the Moms told me later my boy’s words helped them talk to their girls about being pretty and not a diva. As my 6 year old said – the nails were cool. They were painted fabulous bright colors that are such a treat for a little girl. The updos and makeup were too just way too much. It made me sad that these 6 year olds have to deal with this.

  • http://dropsofmercy.blogspot.com Fiona

    I WAS the girl who took pride in “school and music” instead of “make-up” and I would caution that finding your identity in those things is just as detrimental as finding your identity in outward appearances. There is nothing inherently wrong with raising your daughters to enjoy being attractive, excel in school, love music, and be an all-star athlete. The problem lies in encouraging and allowing her identity to be defined by what she’s “into” instead of Jesus Christ.

    Music, academia, and sports are just as “fleeting” as our beauty. Just as a girl should not be defined by her appearance, neither should she be defined by her achievements.

    • Bethany “B-mama”

      Fiona, this is right on and I think we’d all agree with your thoughts here. Christ, alone, and none other. Anything of this world is a slippery slope.

  • JMB

    We have a “Sweet and Sassy” boutique in our town too and I always thought that it is simply a venue for little girls’ birthday parties, much like the laser tag warehouses for the boys. I think there is a tendency from ambitious and well educated women to down play femininity and beauty. I only say this because my mother was like that and my sisters and I sometimes talk about how detrimental it was to have a mother who basically didn’t give a shit if our eyebrows needed plucking at 16 or if we desperately needed to shave our arm pits or legs. We had nobody to help us along the often puzzling ways of female grooming and basic care. So it was trial by error and a lot of beauty blunders during those years. Mother cats show their kittens how to groom, why shouldn’t mothers do the same for their girls?

  • Kathleen

    I of course don’t want to raise spa girls, but I do paint my girls mails with tasteful colors and they see their Mom wear make-up! Its ok for little girls to want to imitate their mom in the area of self grooming. It’s a area that requires a lot of finess, but I want clothes and make up to be positive experiences. I want girls to feel to understand that you can look beautiful and fashionable without being immodest or looking tawdry! Fashion for young girls and teens is so awful and I’m going to need to steer them toward more authentic choices, but I don’t plan on banishing makeup or nail polish. I played sports my whole childhood and young adult and sometimes female athletes have trouble maintaining there sense of femininity so while I definitely want to encourage my athletic girls to not feel like they have to act like a jock. You can be totally feminine and totally athletic and strong!

    I would say that Sassy Salon is the spin off of the whole toddlers and tiara culture. It’s just bad news!

  • Lauren

    Katrina,
    I have two daughters, one 12 and the other 8. I have always been “low maintenance.” I don’t color my hair, I rarely wear makeup, and live most of my life in workout clothes or easy cotton dresses. I do, however, enjoy dressing up for parties, weddings, dates with my husband, and lunches with my friends. (Actually, my New Year’s resolution a few years ago was to “get dressed” in REAL clothes everyday!)
    My firstborn, is a lot like me. She is comfortable in Nike shorts and t shirts most of the time and hasn’t asked to wear too much makeup to school (only a little mascara and lip gloss). I feel that she is truly comfortable in her own skin (for now). My 8 year old, however, came out of the womb ready to dress up, do her nails, and wear makeup. She is also comfortable in her skin, but she enjoys the play of dressing up. I have raised these two girls the same. If either of them asks me, “Does this ___ look pretty?” or “Do I look pretty in this?” My answer is always the same…”You were pretty before and you do not need any of that. But, I like your effort too.” There is nothing un-Biblical about choosing to wear makeup or jewelry or fixing your hair in certain ways. And there isn’t anything un-Biblical about choosing NOT to wear makeup or jewelry, or fixing your hair.
    We must be sure that our daughters know WHO they are in Christ, not who they are in makeup or fancy clothes. Only then will they be comfortable with what they look like with our without all the “stuff.” I feel that we can get just as caught up in NOT being girly-girly as we can being made up all the time. We all have different personalities and that’s how God made this world so interesting!! The key is finding out who it is that GOD has called us to be…not our parents, our friends, or our world. And even if we are athletic Tomboys, God just might give us an artsy Princess to keep us on our toes :) We can only grow more dependent on God to raise these children that think and act differently than we do. And, who knows…maybe that was God’s plan all along???
    So, don’t worry about your Princess…as long as she knows her Creator (and you) love her and that all that “stuff” is just “fluff”…she (and you) will be just fine!

  • Bethany “B-mama”

    Funny how all the Builders seem to have been Tomboys. Add my name to that list! I can remember my mom and older (make-up-loving) sister trying to convince me to wear even a little bit for our dance performances. Ugh! It was torture and made my skin crawl! ;) After 3 boy-boys, I also seem to have produced a princess or two (the jury is still out on the baby, but her sister is totally girly girl). This is all so interesting and I never imagined navigating the world of make-up and nails, etc. at such a young age. Thank you all for your insightful comments here. You’ve given me a lot to think about as we plunge into the world of raising self-confident, faithful, modest daughters.

  • http://www.buildingcathedrals.com Katrina

    I’m not sure that I was a tomboy, since I was never all that athletic :) I just wasn’t inclined to lots of the typical girl stuff. Nevertheless, I still struggled with body image a lot throughout all of my teen years, and was always concerned about how I looked to others. I think it was all part of my “people pleaser” personality. When I think about how much time and energy I wasted because of distorted body image, I am ashamed! I really want my daughters and son to have a healthy sense of themselves, and all of these comments are great in emphasizing how to do this. Teaching our children self-confidence based in their identity as daughters and sons of God, teaching them that their talents are God-given and that they should always have Christ at the center, and being good role-models as mothers. I’ve tried to stay away from the word “pretty,” I never talk about my own weight, especially not in numbers, and I try my best to dress appropriately for each occasion.
    In the end, I think that my biggest hesitation with the make-up kit for my 5 year-old is that I see in her a real desire to fit in with her peer group. There is nothing wrong with wanting to emulate one’s friends – it is developmentally appropriate and healthy to a certain degree – but I want her to do something because SHE wants to do it and not because she wants to be like everybody else. At the same time, I don’t think it does any good to say “no” all the time, or for my children to feel like I’m trying to pull them away from the world that I have brought them into. They do, after all, attend schools outside of the home, go to parties outside of the home, go to friends’ houses, etc. There are enough ways that our family is different from other families, and I am learning that it’s important to prioritize and say “yes” whenever possible. So, perhaps, a small make-up kit with nail polish, lip gloss, and eye shadow will make it into the pile of birthday gifts. I’ll let you know :)

  • Annie

    I think the key is to help our daughters live true femininity: to teach them to nurture and be responsible to others, to teach them to love God, to teach them to respect themselves, to be polite, to be healthy. It’s OK for her to want to feel pretty, but never ever in pursuit of vanity or at the expense of kindness, charity, chastity, etc. I do dress my daughter in dresses almost daily, but they are usually simple, knit, and not overly ruffled, etc. My husband and I try to limit calling her pretty, but to focus on how well she completed a task, listened, how friendly she was, etc.
    (By the way, I was so sad the other day to walk into GapKids and find sweet, calico prints on age 0-2, but for 3T up, the options were animal print, sequined, and overly fussy. My daughter is 3T; must we dress her like a clubbing teenager? Needless to say, I walked right out. I’m old fashioned: I like peter pan collars, overalls, jumpers, sweet tights. Additionally, simple clothes are more developmentally appropriate for a child who is learning coordination and how to adapt to her environment. Clothes can so easily be a hindrance to movement or a distraction.)
    I could go on and on…I truly believe we need to pray for each other, pray for our daughters, and pray for our society. Our values are so distorted, and it’s a hard world to grow up in. I worry about what those little girls in the salon will be like as adults… We need to find positive mentors and be good examples ourselves. Mother Mary, pray for us!

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