It's a rite of passage for a girl — walking into a salon, picking out her favorite color and sitting down at the table to have her first manicure. It's something she'll continue to do to bond with girlfriends and relax. Until then, you paint her nails (and sometimes let her paint yours). Then one day, you wonder, "Why not just bring her to the salon with me?"
There are some precautions to consider first. Even adults who walk into salons are exposed to chemicals and potential hygiene dangers. Aside from the health hazards, the ideas of "beauty" and privilege come into play; what is your daughter learning about beauty practices and expectations, and is she able to recognize this treatment as a privilege? These are valid questions that have surfaced over the Internet, compounded with maternal opinions and tradition. Is there a right or wrong answer? Not necessarily, but learn everything you can to make an informed decision.
Stinky fumes and dirty utensils: Before diving into this issue, there are plenty of salons that take sanitation and cleanliness very seriously. The code varies by state, but the bottom line is that, legally, everything that comes into contact with a salon customer must be sanitized and disinfected or tossed. Despite the regulations, the media has grabbed ahold of stories about women getting infections from salons. One of the most common complaints is a diagnosis of paronychia, which is when the cuticle puffs up in a red, sore blister. People have also reported cases of herpetic infections called whitlows from dirty tools. As far as fumes are concerned, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration recognizes at least 11 chemicals within nail salons that cause adverse health problems. Of those chemicals, like acetone (polish remover), formaldehyde (polish) and methacrylic acid (nail primer) all cause an array of symptoms, including headaches, skin and eye irritation and allergic reactions. Formaldehyde can actually cause cancer. Yikes!
>> Read more: Protect Yourself From Everyday Harmful Chemicals (more on salons)
- Make sure the salon is well ventilated.
- Double check and ask the staff if your station has been bleached (and rinsed). Bleach is the only way to kill the bacteria that causes the infections mentioned earlier. It's cool to be a mom who asks!
- Bring your own utensils, including nail trimmers, nail files and pumice stones or buffing blocks.
- Do not allow your child to have her cuticles cut. It's a natural barrier to protect the body from infection.
- Bring your own kid-friendly, chemical-free polish: Piggy Paint, Suncoat Polish, Keeki, or Priti Princess
- Avoid long soaks in the pedicure tub and check the temperature first.
Creating beauty expectations: Taking your daughter to the nail salon once or twice probably won't lead to any issues of entitlement or swayed expectations of what beauty is. Mothers have actually listed these as reasons not to take their daughters to the salon (see more here). In 2013, famous skateboarder Tony Hawk tweeted a photo of his young daughter painting their nails and it sparked the question: What age is appropriate for a manicure? More than 5,000 moms were polled by Today.com and more than half said 13 years old at the earliest. Twenty percent said younger than 8 was acceptable. If you have a girly girl, she's definitely observing you and your painted nails (or those of the sitter or a family member), and wants to join in on the fun. For wiggly kids with higher energy, they might not sit well in a salon. At-home manicures could be the way to go.
- Have a spa day at home with a "pretend" manicure; check out this play manicure set for inspiration.
- Use the manicure as a reward or a special bonding activity. Click here for more bonding ideas.
- Establish that manicures are for grown-ups or promise her when she turns 13, she can go get one if she chooses. It's like saying no without saying no.
- Be perceptive of how your child is perceiving the activity (read more here).
>> Read more: What Your Nails Tell You About Your Health
Final considerations: If you're at a salon, forgo the UV light drying table, as it can age the skin more quickly even though the rays are harmless. Schedule your appointment so you don't need to sit and wait, testing your daughter's patience that day. Try to choose a time when the shop opens or with very little traffic to cut down on fumes.
Now you know! Whatever you decide, that doesn't make you a better or worse parent than the next. Just don't let her grow up too fast.
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