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BEAUTY FIRST, THEN CLASSES SCHOOL PREP NOW INCLUDES WAX, WEAVE.

Byline: Naush Boghossian Staff Writer

SANTA CLARITA - When 16-year-old Erin Martin smiled, her braces flashed just like the small shiny pieces of foil folded into her hair.

Martin, her tennis shoe-clad feet swinging from the salon chair under the dryer, waited for the blond streaks to lighten up her naturally red hair.

Teen visits to the hair salon for highlights herald a new era of back-to-school rituals for teen and pre-teen girls that includes manicures and pedicures and getting their eyebrows waxed and shaped.

Beauty routines that 20, or even 10 years ago, would have raised eyebrows have become as commonplace today as the trip to the drug store to buy notebooks, pencils and erasers in preparation for the new school year.

``It's pretty much normal now,'' the Valencia High junior said. ``Every girl I know has had her hair dyed at least once, and I know girls that have dyed their hair since elementary school because they didn't like their hair color.''

Martin has been highlighting her hair for three years, and she said her parents never really had a problem with it - even forking over the money for each visit. She had no idea how much it cost to give her hair that lighter touch, guessing that it was somewhere between $40 and $60.

``They were OK with it just as long as it didn't make my hair look unnatural,'' Martin said. ``Most people don't even know I've highlighted my hair.''

Highlighting or weaving has become extremely popular with young girls and it's not a trend that is likely going to pass, said a local hair salon owner.

``Girls are just starting at a younger age,'' said Laura Jicha, the owner of Kids Kutz & Wavez in Newhall, who has seen up close how times have changed in the 16 years she's owned salons.

Both Jicha and Martin say television, movies, magazines and music have played the biggest roles in influencing the kind of physical appearance girls try to achieve, but Martin says other influences - like an older sister - expose them to these indulgences at an early age.

At her salon, hairdressers highlight the tresses of girls much younger than Martin - even 9- and 10-year-olds. Jicha even highlighted a 4-year-old whose talent agent felt her hair needed to be blonder for a television commercial.

Emily Ranboldt, 11, Allison Ranboldt, 13, Sarah Mitchell, 13, and Margaret MacQueen, 13, all showed off their fresh highlights and their sculpted eyebrows for the start of junior high.

``People with light hair get blond highlights and people with dark hair get red highlights,'' the 11-year-old Ranboldt expounded. ``Some do their whole head and some do half.''

Jicha advises the parents of her younger clients to only do a partial weave - putting streaks in a smaller portion of the hair - because it is easier to maintain when dark roots aren't an obvious issue. It's also less expensive because touch-ups are needed every six to eight months instead of every two to three months for a full weave.

``Nobody wants their kids having dark regrowth,'' she said. ``The more discreet, the better.'' She explained that a lot of the younger girls' parents use the promise of highlighting as a reward for everything from doing well in school to behaving in class.

The back-to-school preparations don't stop at the highlights, though.

Martin showed off her newly done, French-manicured acrylic nails - nails she first put on in the eighth grade.

Local nail salons count teens and pre-teens among their regular customers now.

``A manicure/pedicure used to be a luxury or a reward, and now they wear it all the time,'' Jicha said. Her own 9-year-old is already asking her for acrylics. ``Before, they'd put it on just for the prom.''

Steve Nguyen, the manager of Wonder Nails in Stevenson Ranch, said his salon has done acrylics on 12- and 13-year-old girls.

At the Fair Lady salon in Stevenson Ranch, owner Jane Yoon said teenage girls come in all the time for a full set of acrylics, and for the $27 manicure/pedicure - usually paid for by their parents.

``Kids like acrylics because the polish chips quickly on real nails,'' Yoon said, pointing to a chip on one of her own real nails.

The freckle-faced Martin had one more appointment before school started Monday - she was going to get her eyebrows waxed and shaped.

Jicha, who shapes the eyebrows of her 9- and 11-year-old girls, said she doesn't mind allowing them a few highlights, too, choosing instead to save her energy for the issues she feels are more important.

``I don't want them to have cell phones and pagers, so we have to make choices and pick the lesser of two evils,'' she said. ``And all your friends are doing it. As parents, unfortunately we are influenced by other parents.''

CAPTION(S):

2 photos

Photo:

(1 -- 2 -- color) Erin Martin, 16, a Valencia High School student, gets a weave from Laura Jicha, above, to add blond highlights before going back to school on Monday. Left, Martin sits under the dryer to complete her new coiffure.

David Crane/Staff Photographer
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Aug 18, 2002
Words:851
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