Cheap London Part 1 – Slap Happy

In an exciting departure from just talking about food, this series of blog entries explore a more holistic look at living in London on the cheap starting with Beauty. (Day 2 looks at food though obvs…)  

London College of Beauty currently has an offer for the whole of June where eye treatments (i.e. eyebrow shaping/ tinting) are a £1 each and if you buy a manicure (£10), you get a free pedicure (make sure you mention offer at time of booking). The deep-cleansing facials are currently £13 and these are great, I would definitely recommend them.It is based by Carnaby Street and is a microcosm of how I believe the beauty world to be: chaotic, run by glamorous young women and full of procedures which are deeply confusing to plebs such as myself.  The electrical treatments are also way cheap but I don’t understand them so I just sit quietly and have my nails done instead. Be warned, the treatments often take a long time, the cubicles are divided by curtains meaning it can be noisy but the services are generally extremely professional because the students have the results graded by their supervisor and you have to give a written verdict on their delivery. I have never seen nails painted so seriously. I have also never heard a gaggle of beauty therapists giggle so delightedly at a (poor) man having his chest waxed. (But then, I’ve never actually a man have his chest waxed before). They are mostly open week days and get very busy although they do some evenings and most Saturdays. If you get there before 11am, you should go to nearby Ben’s Cookies where if you buy a coffee in the morning, you get a free cookie. (The cookies aren’t particularly conducive to looking beautiful per se but they make you feel it.) My mum also recommends South Thames Beauty College in Wandsworth which is a similar set-up to LCB.

Neals Yard have an excellent Graduate School on Sundays where you can different types of treatments for £30 including massages and facials and you can often get same-day appointments. The staff are extremely knowledgeable and great at putting you at ease (I’d particularly recommend Lola), they use Neal’s Yard’s delicious products and you can have free tea in the waiting room. They are particularly good at listening to what outcomes you desire from the treatment and giving advice on relieving tension. 

Somewhere I’ve heard good things about and really want to try is Porchester Spa. It’s Grade II listed building with Art Deco flourishes and can be about £20 for a day of Turkish baths/ steaming and sauna-ing. Apparently these places were established to promote hygiene in the olden days before people actually washed (but I wouldn’t recommend you giving up your showers altogether; that, my friend, is what we call a ‘false economy’ rather than a ‘budget tip’.). Altogether, the building boasts three Turkish hot rooms, two Russian steam rooms, a cold plunge pool, a Jacuzzi, sauna, swimming pool and relaxation lounge.  I know I will come out like a smiley prune but it will be worth it. 

Now this is not London-specific but does deserve a mention – there are a plethora of excellent online websites where you can get great, often top-end products for next-to-nowt. Direct Cosmetics for example offers cosmetics such as Urban Decay, Benefit and Too Faced for discounted prices. Fragrance Direct is also a good’un.

Lancome counters in Department Stores also offer surprising value for money through the fact that you often get a free hour-long facial in return in exchange for spending over £25 on products. But bear in mind that L’oreal is owned by the same company as Lancome (whilst Chanel also owns Bourjouis) so many top-end products are of the same quality as lesser-mortal make-up. 

So, go out into the big smoke and be beautiful and cheap*! And let me know if you have any other good tips of places to go.

*Hopefully not in every sense of the word. See my point about avoiding a false economy.

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