- The Washington Times - Saturday, December 21, 2002

DEERFIELD, Ill. — There's nothing like a good massage or even an eyebrow waxing to relieve a little teenage angst. . So says 17-year-old Jessica Schwartz, who frequents a day spa in her suburban Chicago hometown every other week.

"It's something we do to de-stress ourselves from homework, boys, things like that," she says. "There's a lot going on in the world."

With more disposable income than any young generation before them, a growing number of teens, like Jessica and her friends, are pampering themselves with spa services traditionally sought by adults.

Mary Bemis, editor in chief of American Spa magazine, says it is a trend that has been building in the past three years. And many spa owners say their teen business has taken off in the past year, post-September 11.

"Everybody's scared right now with what's going on in the world," says Anna Pamula, owner of Renu Day Spa in Deerfield, Ill., which has become Jessica's regular retreat.

Jessica's mother, Betty Schwartz, sometimes pays for her daughter's visits, which can top $100 each. But more often, Jessica uses money from her after-school job, often opting for a massage or facial over dinner out with friends or concert tickets.

"I think it's really decadent, but it's probably cheaper than psychology," her mother says.

More than one-third of International Spa Association members offer services for young people including group parties, date specials and mother-daughter nights according to a survey this year.

Belle Visage Day Spa in Studio City, Calif., where more than half the clientele is younger than 21, offers "teen clean" facials to help clear up acne.

And last summer, Canyon Ranch, a health resort with facilities in Tucson, Ariz., and Lenox, Mass., started a three-week summer camp for teens.

Some spa managers have seen children as young as 5 coming in for parent-supervised massages and other services.

Parents say it's an attempt to help their children find a little inner peace early in life. And sometimes tony surroundings aren't always required: Girl Scouts, for instance, can earn "stress less" badges.

Alison Schmitt, a 12-year-old cadet from Rutherford, N.J., says yoga and breathing exercises help calm even her biggest fears.

"Like terrorism and the possibility of war," the seventh-grader says, noting that her father worked two blocks from the World Trade Center when the towers were destroyed last year. (He made it home safely.)

But when it comes to teenage girls frequenting spas, not everyone thinks stress is the reason.

"I think it's more vanity than anything else and being able to be 'chichi-foufou' and say they went to a spa," says Nancy Ganzon, administrative manager at the Murrieta Day Spa in Murrieta, Calif.

She has noticed a marked increase in teen clients in the past 18 months. Many come in for such teen-only services as "The Princess" a facial, Swedish massage and manicure for $115.

Although not every teen can afford such luxuries, a surprising number can. Last year, on average, teens spent $104 per week, according to a study by Teenage Research Unlimited.

That kind of spending power got the attention of Seventeen magazine, which licensed its name to the Seventeen Studio.Spa.Salon, geared specifically, though not exclusively, to teens.

The first, complete with "pedicure pits" and "manicure bars," opened in Plano, Texas, earlier this year. President and Chief Executive Susan Tierney says the company plans to open 36 more in high-income areas with big teen populations nationwide.

They will be looking to lure people like 15-year-old Jennifer Ernst from Highland Park, Ill.

Jennifer's parents bought her a spa certificate two years ago for getting good grades. In May, she got a massage and facial to help her relax before a national classical guitar competition in which she placed third.

"It's a great thing to do every once in a while," Jennifer says, "as long as you keep a level head and don't get conceited about it."

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