Lebanon's spa kids - doing their nails and having facials
Lebanese beauty fever
The Lebanese are notorious for being image- conscious. But now so-called "Lebanese beauty fever" is hitting the very young, with the opening of three children's spas this summer. "Be beautiful, even if you are young", reads a poster in Verdun Street, one of Beirut's most fashionable areas, advertising one of the new spas. It shows four girls, who look no older than nine or ten, wearing face masks and doing their nails.
"Kids can come here to pamper themselves," says Maya Kabbani Hilal, the 34-year-old owner of the Tacular Salon and Spa.
Children are the spa's main clients, she says, and even have their birthday parties there, doing their nails and having facials.
"They can invite their friends to spend a day beautifying themselves, instead of watching a clown and eating cake," she says.
At the pink-themed Chez Lulu Salon and Spa, young girls can enjoy a "floral bath", or a foot massage and pedicure.
"Coming here is better than playing with dolls or other things,' says nine-year-old Rania, a frequent patron of Chez Lulu. "I can read a magazine and relax."
But not all Lebanese approve of this new hobby.
"These spas steal childhood away from children," says Leen Habib, a sociologist at the Lebanese University of Social Studies. "They make them focus on matters that shouldn't be important at such a young age."
"Some of the spa owners say this will help children learn to clean their nails and feet," she says. "I disagree, this should be taught to children at home and not in spas".
But in a country recently dubbed "the land of cedars, beauty and facelifts" the trend for children's spas seems set to catch on.
The plastic surgery industry has been booming in Lebanon since 2000, prompting some Lebanese banks to start offering loans specifically for operations.
The country has now become a destination for "plastic surgery tourism" according to Dr Elie Chammas, owner of the Hazmieh International Medical Centre, which employs some 50 plastic surgeons.
"Our prices are low compared to European countries and our surgeons are just as good," says Chamas.
There are no official statistics, but some industry experts say that plastic surgeons in Lebanon perform 1.5 million operations a year, as well as more than 8 million non-surgical operations such as collagen fillings and Botox injections.
"For Lebanese men and women, being beautiful is considered a national duty, not a luxury," says Wafa Eid, the mother of two girls aged eight and ten. One of the girls was invited to a birthday party at Chez Lulu.
She enjoyed the whole day, says Eid, who is pleased at the opening of the spas: "It's a woman's duty to look the best she can, even at very young age."