Safety Tips for Salon Birthday Parties

Hosting or attending a kids' salon party? Here's how to make sure you bring home the glitter, not the germs.

Manis, pedis, gossip -- a day at the salon used to be an activity reserved for grown women. Now it's a hot trend for children's parties, so don't be surprised if your young daughter gets invited to celebrate at a spa. While glitter tattoos, updos, and pampering can be fun, it's important to be aware of the following health risks and safety precautions.

Brian Maranan Pineda

Keep it Clean

Whether you're scouting locations for your own party or have just shown up for the festivities, make sure the place looks tidy. Are there instruments from previous customers lying around? Are the mirrors smudged? If it appears clean at first glance, look a little deeper. The footbaths should be emptied between each client to avoid the risk of bacterial and fungal infections. Your child shouldn't get a pedicure if she has a cut on her leg because nicks and scratches make it easier for bacteria to enter the body. "Mycobacterium infections from unclean water can cause hard-to-treat lesions on the skin," says Wilbert Mason, M.D., an infectious disease specialist at Children's Hospital Los Angeles.

Make sure that disposable items, such as emery boards, are thrown out after each client. Any reusable tools should be sterilized, including those for hair care. "Brushes and combs can transmit lice and fungus," says Sarah Taylor, M.D., assistant professor of dermatology at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.

If you're not sure whether the nail clippers or foot basins have been sterilized, it's okay to ask what methods the spa uses for disinfection. If you see unsafe practices during a party, like technicians not washing their hands or someone double dipping into a lip-gloss tube, talk to the salon manager. You can also bring your own nail kit for your child to use, but even yours should be sanitized with rubbing alcohol between each use.

Mind Your Child's Maturity

Some spas and salons focus exclusively on children, while others cater to both kids and adults. Either one is fine, but your best option is a place that offers shorter-length treatments geared to children, says Susie Ellis, president of SpaFinder Wellness, based in New York City. She suggests 15- to 20-minute treatments for children ages 2 to 7 and 20- to 35-minutes for kids ages 8 to 12. Consider your daughter's temperament, too, before signing her up for anything. If she's more likely to squirm and run around, you might want to hold off on letting her get a treatment.

Avoid invasive procedures, like getting cuticles cut or waxing. "The spa experience should be about building self esteem, helping your child feel good about her body, and creating self-acceptance," says Ellis. If you do choose a more "adult" treatment, like a massage, Ellis suggests your child wear a swimsuit, and she should never be left alone with the massage therapist. "If you approach these parties as a way for a child to feel good about herself, they can be a positive experience," says Tina Drossos, Ph.D., an assistant professor of psychiatry at The University of Chicago who specializes in children and adolescents. If your daughter doesn't want to get her hair or nails done, or is reluctant to partake in a glamour-fest, that's okay. "Just as I wouldn't force a kid to ride on a roller coaster at an amusement park, I wouldn't force anyone to go to a salon party," says Dr. Drossos.

In general, it's best not to bring a baby or toddler to a spa or salon, but if you have to bring your younger child to an older sibling's party, be sure to keep a close eye on her at all times. It only takes a second for a small child to ingest a product, grab a sharp pair of scissors, or yank the cord of a curling iron.

Investigate Ingredients

"Nail polish is generally safe for kids," says Dr. Taylor. It's best to avoid nail polishes that contain toxic chemicals, such as toluene, dibutyl phthalate (DBP), and formaldehyde. Brands like OPI and essie are good options. You can also bring a natural polish, such as Zoya, or a kid-specific brand, like Hopscotch Kids or Piggy Paint, which have non-toxic, hypoallergenic formulas.

A spritz of hair glitter and a swipe of sparkly lip gloss are usually not cause for concern, either, says Dr. Taylor, though some kids might be sensitive to their preservatives or fragrances. Be sure your child removes her party makeup thoroughly with gentle soap and warm water before she goes to bed; wearing it too long might irritate her skin, and bits of glitter could get into her eyes. Besides, you want the sparkle of the day to live on in her mind, not on her skin.

Copyright © 2013 Meredith Corporation.

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