The bowels of a Virgin Active gym may not be the most glamorous location for a spa, but this one offers an array of affordable treatments from budget manicures, waxing and massage to more specialist reflexology and colonic sessions. We tried the hour-long Green Tea and Ginger Detox, currently available at the promotional price of £49 until March 31, which kicks off with a quick scrub before your body is wrapped in a warm squelchy mud parcel and you’re given a calming facial as the detox takes hold. Emerge glowing, relaxed, and less than £50 lighter.
0844 800 2142
Cucumba charge by time slots, which you can fill with anything from a foot peel to, as they put it, ‘fanny art’. We chose a pedicure, a facial and a massage for our 45-minute Cucumba Deluxe package and, of course, it did feel a little rushed. For really fleeting visits, the tenminute Quick Fix (£13.50) offers two treatments of your choice including emergency make-up, threading or lash extensions.
£40: Jimmy Campbell aromatherapy massage
With aromatherapy, the cheaper oils and treatments can be a bit headache-inducing. Not so here – the level of luxury far exceeded our expectations of a local hairdresser. Treatment took place in a candelit room with discreet music to relax, and a musky warm oil was used to massage the whole body, including the feet. Legs got so much attention you’d think they belonged to Angelina Jolie, and a facial massage was also offered as part of the service.
Jimmy Campbell, 32 Parson’s Green Lane, SW6 4HS
£20+: CACI Hydratone Facial
108 Bond Street might be Mayfair’s best-kept salon secret: an oasis of calm located in the building where Vidal Sassoon first set up shop. The salon offers the latest firming facial on the market – the CACI (‘Computer Aided Cosmetology Instrument’) Hydratone. After the application of a cooling gel mask, small rollers charged with microcurrents massage the mask’s collagen and rose water anti-ageing solution deep into the skin. Afterwards you emerge plumped, hydrated and relaxed, taking just 20 minutes: the perfect on-the-go pick me up. Plus you’re packed off with a bag of the mask and remaining solution to keep in the fridge to top up.
108 New Bond St, W1S 1EF
At Topshop’s Powder Lounge, treatments take place in chairs out on the lower-level shop floor, but while you get what you pay for in terms of surroundings, this bargain treatment does promise stunning, dramatic falsies that last two weeks. Choose your look (from a natural shape to ones like those of a Dalston tranny) and then sit tight while squelchy pads separate your eyelids and strips of tape to pull back your eyebrows in full view of shoppers.
Powder Lounge, Level 2, Topshop
084 5224 4179
Go to Harrods, and eyebrow tweakers trained by Shavata Singh will thread your wayward arches into submission for £22. Book into House of Fraser, and the Shavata therapists will swiftly tidy you up for £17. The surroundings might not be as plush (no golden escalators here) but the service isn’t any different – Shavata Singh has developed a unique browshaping technique that combines threading, waxing and tweezing, and it’s consistently good no matter which of her salons you visit.
House of Fraser
0844 800 3752
£17: Pamper Rooms file and French
The Pamper Rooms caters for its East End clientele expertly, with a great-value standard menu and frequent special offers. Treatments make use of elite products (such as Lycon wax for pain-free hair removal and Gelish lacquer for long-lasting nail colour) at lower-than-average prices; our simple file and French used Opi polish, was executed superbly, with warm, professional service.
The Pamper Rooms, 24 Curtain Rd, EC2A 2NG
This 75-minute experience goes well beyond any simple cleansing, toning and moisturising routine. California’s Dr Perricone – a pioneering doctor and specialist in anti-ageing treatments – focuses on the topical for this indulgent session, which involves deep-steam cleansing, a gentle lymphatic massage, face mask and application of two of the doc’s ‘most potent’ therapies for radiance and firming. Plumping and a healthy blush were short-term benefits, but a huge plus was the expert neck and shoulders massage with oils, leaving this tester knot-free and spaced out.
£115: Thalgo Micronized Marine Algae Wrap
If you’re looking for the ultimate in luxurious relaxation treatments but wouldn’t mind a body-improving result as well, this detoxifying wrap is a real winner. Thalgo source natural marine ingredients to relieve muscular fatigue and boost circulation. A scrub is applied to remove dead skin cells, then a gel is slathered on to encourage the algae wrap to take effect. Following a relaxing head massage, you’re asked to wash the solution off in the shower before a rich moisturiser is applied. Skin stayed silky soft for over a week and generally looked brighter and tighter.
Chuan Spa at The Langham
£60: Kyoku back preparation
Whether you’re sitting, standing, playing sport, lying down – doing pretty much anything, in fact – your back is putting in a shift, so it pays to show it a bit of love from time to time. The Refinery – a Mayfair grooming salon with a fine line in he-tments for the busy man – offers a solution in the shape of its new Kyoku back preparation. The 45-minute procedure takes place in a sleek, dimly lit relaxation grotto and involves exfoliation, deep-cleansing and massage of the upper posterior. Intensely relaxed, you’ll be aware of various applications of nourishing Kyoku lotions (a top men’s Japanese skincare line using ingredients such as green tea, ginseng and avocado) as well as your muscles being manipulated. The treatment leaves your back looking and feeling better than ever.
The Refinery, 60 Brook St, W1K 5DU
If you’re the scrappy type whose nails seem to chip faster than you can paint them – and you find the whole manicure process as dull as, well, watching paint dry – you need to try Shellac at the W Hotel. After an incredibly meticulous cuticle and nail makeover, a colour gel is applied and hardened under UV light. After a couple of coats,which take two minutes to dry, you have bullet-proof nails which will last until you have them soaked off with acetone. Otherwise they won’t budge, no matter how much biking, washing up or general muckiness you subject them to.
Away Spa at the W Hotel
If you’re lazy about your lashes, and can’t put mascara on your eyes without half of it ending up on your cheeks, this is a completely transformative treatment that lasts for months. You lie down while a perming solution is applied to your lashes, then pressed into place with eyeguards. It smells a bit funny, and it’s not particularly comfortable– especially as it takes about half an hour for your lashes to ‘set’. But when the solution is removed, you are guaranteed the curliest, most doll-like lashes imaginable. It’s not an extension – so you won’t look like a Wag or Miss Piggy – but the difference is noticeable and promises two months of mascara-free mornings.
Groom at Selfridges
Anyone who fears the undercarriage wax (and you’d have good reason to) needs to book into hair removal specialist Strip pronto. This small London chain deals almost exclusively in waxing, and they are extremely good at their specialist subject. There’s a fancy shop selling smalls up front and waxing rooms have the feel of a boutique hotel, complete with a widescreen TV which shows films to distract you from the job in hand. Therapists use only expensive Lycon wax, which quickly goes solid on the skin and is then lifted away without the use of strips. And, crucially, it does not hurt. Honestly. We opted for a chocolate wax, but were informed that olive and lavendar versions were equally effective. Expensive, but worth every painless penny.
£35-£50: Nail Art by The Illustrated Nail
Having been given the essential stamp of hipness by Dalston’s Wah Nails, nail art is now ubiquitous across the capital’s talon salons. But mobile artist Sophie Harris- Greenslade is the best in the business. Her nail blog, which documents her incredibly intricate designs, has seen her invited to illustrate the fingertips of the great and good, with her densely patterned tribal designs favoured by MIA and Nicole Scherzinger among others. So it’s worth booking Harris- Greenslade to come to your home (she will travel anywhere in London) and spend up to two hours on a bespoke design painted directly on to your nails. If you look after your fingers and replenish the nails with a top coat every couple of days, the art will last up to a fortnight.
See www.theillustratednail.tumblr.com for more info
More great places to get pampered
Having tended the tresses of the rich and famous from Ivana Trump to Jamie Oliver, Stuart Philips retains a remarkably down-to-earth attitude and his plush Covent Garden salon reflects his demenor. We are always impressed by the treatment we receive here – on a recent trip the blow dry we had managed to give volume to our fine, limp hair with out making it frizzy. The interior is ultra-comfy and induces instant calm; recline in cool leather chairs and have a chat with the friendly, informative staff. From £30 for a wash and blow dry.
Venue says: “Multi-award-winning London salon. Quoted by Time Out magazine, 'one of the most relaxing salons we’ve ever experienced'.”