Looking for a cheap beauty treatment in London? Whether you want to get your muscles pummelled with a budget massage or whip your brows into shape on a budget, the selection of cut-price primping palaces below will have you looking and feeling your best in no time.
Cheapest! Nail colour change, £7, Tottenham Street, London, W1T 4RH
This little nail bar sorts out your nails with little ceremony and only moderate cost attached (£15 gets you a good manicure). The only glossy thing about the place is the nails, but that means staff are happy to get stuck in with the power tools to file off dead skin; our tester left after a pedicure with feet half a size smaller. We’re not the only ones to have discovered it: often the queue is out the door, so it’s worth booking.
Cheapest! Intensive scalp treatment, £8, Camden Passage, London, N1 8EA
This drop-in hair bar has just opened on a cosy Islington back street. The young, stylish team offer a range of blow-dry styles for £16 in the teeny, clean-as-a-whistle salon. That gets you a swish blow dry, your own iPod on a speaker and a glass or two of fizz to prep you for a night out. And there’s something for the gents too: men can get a hair pep-up for just £5.
Cheapest! Unisex ‘Instant Treats’ conditioning treatment, £12.50, Sicilian Avenue, London, WC1A 2QH
Brooks and Brooks is a multi-award-winning salon in Bloomsbury (three times London Hairdresser of the Year, for starters). It’s good value in general (with cuts from £35), but on Mondays and Tuesdays you can get a restyle completely free. Cuts are by trainees, but fully supervised by the best in the business.
Cheapest! Nail file and polish, £8, Edgware Road, London, W2 1TH
You wouldn’t know it from the outside, but the door of number 439 leads you to a underground cavern of exotic delights – tiled tunnels filled with billowing steam, copper pans filled with cool water in the saunas and Moroccan maidens dispensing buckets of olive soap and mud. If you opt for a hamam for £89 (and you really should), then prepare yourself: for every relaxing sit-down in the steam, there’s a bucket of cold water to be chucked at you, and the beauticians are really not shy about the bits they soap down between mud wraps. But the good old fashioned scrubbing and traditional clay masks will leave you with results that are easily a match for some of the most expensive treatments in the capital, even if you feel at times like you’re being pressed to reveal state secrets rather than pampered. For those of a more delicate disposition, the Dermalogica facial is excellent, an hour long and £40.
Cheapest! Top-up ten-minute treatment (massage, manicure or pedicure), £9.50, Poland Street, London, W1F 8QB
We have heard the odd less-than-favourable review of Cucumba, with testers griping about being ushered in and out a bit too quickly – but that’s rather the point of this express Soho salon, which specialises in pit-stop beauty treatments. Happily, our testers don’t have a bad word to say about their experiences here, where you can pick treatments charged by the minute. Choose between ‘Topups’, ‘Quickfixes’ and ‘Pitstops’– and pay about £17 for a duo like an eyebrow shape and nail job, which will take about 17 minutes. New to the menu is the beguiling-sounding ‘vajazzle fanny art’, a steal at £3.50. Sadly, testers for this one were unavailable at the time of writing.
Cheapest! Eyebrow shape, £12.50, Turnham Green Terrace, London, W4 1RP
Yes, that Dove. In between filling bars of soap with one quarter moisturising cream, the cosmetics company has found time to establish a chain of good-value, no-nonsense beauticians across the capital. While most are located in the bowels of Virgin Active gyms, the stand-alone branch in Chiswick is quite cosy, and offers great massage and some lovely treatments for January, like the ‘head-to-toe recharge’. That gets you a full-body buff, wrap, facial and massage for £49.
Cheapest! Moisture treatment for Afro hair, £10, Motcomb Street, London, SW1X 8LB
Errol Douglas is one of the capital’s most award-winning hairdressers (nominated no less than 13 times for British Hairdresser of the Year) and is visionary in his treatment of Afro hair but equally adept with other types, too. You can experience the treatment for just £15, Monday to Wednesday, when supervised trainees offer cuts and blow dries. If you’re after colour with a pro, tinting services with the lovely Jade come with a free blow dry (usually £35) until the end of January.
Cheapest! Eyebrow wax, £5, Margaret Street, London, W1W 8SE
Esthetique is part of the London School of Beauty, and a training ground for beauty undergraduates, but it is run like a professional salon, with a full roster of treatments at incredible value. Your £9 manicure may be carried out by a student, but it will be under the watchful eye of a note-taking tutor. We haven’t been brave enough to entrust our bikini lines to the novice waxers, but a recent facial at £15 was of a very professional standard. Booking in advance is recommended.
Cheapest! Women’s blow dry, £24, Hanover Street, London, W1S 1YQ
Headmasters is a fairly widespread chain of hairdressers, but don’t let that put you off. The Mayfair branch does a great cut and blow dry, and there’s a free loyalty scheme that gets you 25 per cent off all services Monday to Friday before 4pm. If you’re not particular about which stylist serves you, then go for an excellent-value last-minute appointment: book after 6pm the day before your visit, or walk in, and a cut/blow dry is just £18 for men and £25 for women. Hair only.
Cheapest! Half-hour blow dry, £24, Topshop, Great Castle Street, London, W1W 8LG
The Time Out team have been fans of Hershesons Blow Dry Bars since the first one opened in Topshop, Oxford Circus, in 2006. Branches now exist in Westfield and One New Change. A 30-minute blow dry – you pick from one of eight set styles – will set you back just £24. You can also buy the full range of hair accessories including Hershesons bows and the new ‘winges’ (a wig-fringe). No appointment is required: you just turn up, which is always handy.
Cheapest! Eyebrow hair (men and women) removal, £11, Litchfield Street, London, WC2H 9NU
This glossy two-floored hair and beauty salon in Covent Garden has won several industry awards for its cut and colour services (including London Hairdresser of the Year for Karine). Despite its stellar credentials, you can get a luxury Kérastase blow dry for £15, which includes refreshments, from Monday to Friday. The staff are friendly and accommodating, whether you’re popping in for a quick fringe-trim or a brand new cut.
Cheapest! Light repair treatment, £15, Shaftesbury Avenue, London, WC2H 8EB
This neat little salon is in the heart of theatreland, and offers a high standard of unpretentious service. New customers get 40 per cent off their first visit, which means a glossy Covent Garden cut and blow dry is yours for just over £30. The salon also offers a Keratin permanent blow dry for £150, which seems pricey until you find out the going rate is more than £250 and you’ll look like a L’Oréal advert for the rest of the year... so it could well be worth it.
Cheapest! Lip or chin wax, £8, Porchester Road, London, W2 5HS
If you’ve never felt able to justify a spa trip, then grab your mum/significant other and head to Paddington, where The Porchester’s tranquil pools, Turkish hot baths, steam rooms and Finnish saunas await you at a very reasonable cost. Couples can come for the day on Sundays, and pay less than £30 for both of you for full use of the facilities. You didn’t hear it from us, but if you express an interest in membership of the club you can often solicit a day pass for free too.
Cheapest! Nail file and polish, £12, Ravey Street, London, EC2A 4QP
About a year ago, this plush, cosy little salon decided to combat the recession by halving a lot of its prices. We only wish the idea would catch on in the nearby Shoreditch bars. That means prices are very fair for the area, and the spa also regularly advertises great offers on its website. In January, these include a complete dry body brush, detox wrap, massage and blow dry for £100. Alternatively, a cut and blow dry will be less than £30 for the whole month.
Cheapest! Eyebrow or lip wax, £5, Rachel McGregor covers most parts of east London from Shoreditch to Essex (07985 312987/ www.beautyeastlondon.com).
Rachel used to work at the pricey-but-good City Beach in Spitalfields, before starting up as east London’s favourite mobile beautician. She is a quick, no-nonsense waxer (a thorough Brazilian is £20 – just make sure your flatmates are out), but her real speciality is nails. Her bio-nails simply do not chip and can easily last for a month, so that’s four manicures’ worth of nail for £20.
This lovely little salon is run with a meticulous hand by the fragrant Mariama Diallo-Soauré, and attracts Parisians from all over London. Prices are always reasonable (pedicures start at £13), especially considering the recent refurbishment of the premises, but book in for a slimming course in January and you’ll get a free body wrap to speed along the pudding-shedding process. Every month there is a similar offer run via the website, so it pays to check before you visit.
Cheapest! Eyebrow threading, £7, Kingsland Road, London, E8 2JP
It doesn’t look like much at all from the outside – or the inside, for that matter – but family-run Sheer Bliss is a real beaut for treatments in Dalston. Waxes are great value (£18 for a full Brazilian) and threading is a steal at £7 for eyebrows.
Cheapest! False nail removal, £10, Kingsland Road, London, E8 4AA
This edgy nail bar has made such an impact on the fashion scene in London, it’s hard to believe it only launched last year. It’s already established nail stations in Topshop, as well as just about every fashion launch party of 2010, and brought nail art back to the fashion masses. The deft-of-hand nail technicians can rattle off a photo-real animal print on a nail in a matter of minutes, and will happily undertake a design of your choosing – particularly if you’re up for something ‘badass’. A basic design like stripes, zebra or Chanel-style tips will set you back about £15.
Cheapest! Lip or chin threading, £7, Swiss Cottage Leisure Centre, Adelaide Road, London, NW3 3NF
Noticing the success of the Turkish bath conversion in Bethnal Green’s York Hall, Camden Council opened up Spa London, a Swiss Cottage cousin to the original, in 2009. Public-sector day spas bring luxury to the masses, although prices are reasonable rather than dirt cheap (£25 for 15 minutes in the dry floatation tank). For a complete spa day package, with steam rooms, Turkish hamam and plunge pools, you’re still best heading to Bethnal Green, where the aqua facilities are great, but Swiss Cottage still offers a long treatment menu which is unparalleled for variety and value in the area.
Mad World Fancy Dress and Costume Hire
This vast dungeon (well, it's in a basement) of a fancy dress store offers a stellar personal service. Staff will help you navigate some 35,000 costumes, from a sleek ant to a fuzzy Orvill duck, and then assist in piecing together a unique outfit for sale or hire. Mad World is a great stop for period costumes, character fancy dress (they have everyone from Ron Burgandy to Rainbow's Bungle) and seasonal events such as halloween. Their get-ups are so on point that TV and movie production companies use them, too. They also stock balloons and costume accessories, such as wigs, swords and more, and there's another Mad World store in Charing Cross.