Timeout New York Kids

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New York City spas for kids

Are salon treatments for children twisted or just good clean fun?

When I was a kid, my beauty regimen was primarily in the hands of three men: my father, who was adamantly against ear piercing; my grandfather, a retired police officer with an American flag tattoo and dentures; and Louie, my father's half-blind barber. Queer Eye for the Straight Guy they were not. When my hair became unruly, my father would bring me either to my grandfather for a tomboy trim or to Louie for a crooked Dorothy Hamill wedge. (Thankfully, my mother wrested control away before I entered adolescence.) To think that my five-year-old daughter, Belle, can now get her hair styled into an elaborate up-do in a salon that offers strawberry-scented detangler, Disney movies on demand and sparkly manicures shows how far the world of kiddie beauty has come. With the exception of moms worried about chemicals and fumes, most agree that it's okay to splurge on a mini manicure from time to time. The challenge is figuring out what's over-the-top and what's not.

New York City institutions like Bumble & Bumble and the Paul Mol Barbershop have long offered children's haircuts, and kid-specific salons such as Cozy's Cuts for Kids in Manhattan and Lulu's in Park Slope began appearing in the mid-1990s. At some point, though, it was no longer enough for salons to provide bang trims in a chair shaped like a race car. In recent years, these businesses have expanded their services to include indulgences that were traditionally in the mommy-needs-some-me-time domain: manicures, pedicures, blow-outs, even facials. While the trend isn't unique to New York City, it is, as with so many other things, more prominent here. One reason city kindergartners may feel so comfortable at the mani station is because the number of nail parlors in their neighborhood rivals that of Chase banks or delis.

"My first salon opened 15 years ago," says Cozy Friedman, owner of Cozy's Cuts, which has three locations in Manhattan and a line of children's hair and makeup products. "The climate was different then. There wasn't the same focus on children that there is today. Now, with so much attention on celebrity kids, things have changed. When we opened our Second Avenue branch in 2004, we included a manicure station because people were always asking for mani/pedis." Similarly, places like Dashing Diva have added peewee salon services to their menus.

I don't think I had my first professional manicure until my prom. Back then, getting a mani was something special, a womanly luxury I thought only Alexis Carrington would do on a weekly basis. I remember going to my Upper East Side nail place in my pre-children days and being appalled by moms who brought along their preschool-aged daughters. I judged it inappropriate to have a little girl—with nail beds the size of grains of rice—serviced by a grown woman. How very Bonfire of the Vanities.


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