The Ultimate Guide To London’s Alternative Beauty Scene

London’s salon scene has come of age. No longer the reserve of ladies who lunch with bouffant ‘dos, a new generation of alternative beauty and hair salons has taken over our fair city. And not a moment too soon.
These days, clinical white spaces and awkward chitchat have been usurped by underground hangouts that offer genuinely creative and different treatments, complete with an awesome soundtrack and achingly cool interiors. Whether you’re in the mood for some catwalk nail art or an extreme dye job, these, dear friends, are the joints you need to know.
01_Bluetit-interior2_Blue Tit
Session stylists Andi and Perry came up with the idea of creating "a special place where arty people would like to spend time." Translated? Chill roof gardens, fresh fruit smoothies, and a delightfully maximalist interior complete with vintage leather armchairs and 700 gossamer-hung light bulbs. Oh, and they're a dab hand when it comes to dishing out killer cuts. In fact, they’ve recently set up a second salon in Clapton, as well as a third Blue Tit nest in Peckham!
Where: Blue Tit, 7 Stoke Newington Road, N16 8BH; 020 7254 8538
Full disclosure: we're completely obsessed with WAH. Founder Sharmadean Reid's hipster girl gang dish out mini masterpiece after mini masterpiece; so it's no surprise that since pitching up in Dalston back in 2008, WAH fever has reached Topshop and beyond. And obviously, we love the Oxford Circus pit stop in Topshop's Beauty Rooms. It's perfect for a well-earned shopping break — and they'll happily coordinate your talons with your new swag.
Where: WAH at Topshop, 214 Oxford Street, W1D 1LA; 020 7927 7844
Bleach London
Bleach London's Dalston salon has achieved the impossible: It took granny-style blue rinses and made them heart-stoppingly cool; it trailblazed the dip-dye trend; and in fact, the salon has even been known to make a multicoloured perm look ridiculously awesome. The salon's rainbow-coloured, punked-out approach to hair never fails to put a smile on our face and their client list, including M.I.A, Pixie Geldof, Daisy Lowe, and Alice Dellal, reads like a London party scene who's who. Go there. Now!
Where: Bleach London, 420 Kingsland Road, E8 4AA; 020 7275 9500
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Stunt Dolly
Yeah, it's in hipster central, and sure, everything about this salon — from the neon-lit store front to the street-style snap-worthy staff — is effortlessly cool. But, what we really love about this place is its genuinely friendly vibe with an emphasis on proper service, which will make you feel instantly at home. And, if you need further convincing that it's worth the trip, you might like to know that Sophie Harris Greenslade's cult Illustrated Nail pop-up is on site to give your digits an artful overhaul.
Where: Stunt Dolly, 582 Kingsland Road, E8 4AH; 020 7018 2191
Hula Nails
Walking into this self-styled "Tiki cheeky beauty salon" is like stepping into a kitschy 1940s paradise. Gramophone music plays in the background and drinks are served in vintage glassware, with Champagne in old-fashioned saucers and fresh teas in miniature palm tree cups. The immaculate pin-up styled staff sport bespoke hula uniforms, oversized hibiscus flowers and sultry red lips, and the salon menu covers everything from manicures to spray tans to waxing. Step inside this parallel hulaverse and there's a good chance you'll never want to leave....
Where: Hula Nails, 203 - 205 Whitecross Street, EC1Y 8QP; 07557142055
This speakeasy salon is crammed with antiques and curiosities — so much so that on entering, it's easy to assume that you’ve stumbled into an eccentric Victorian parlour. This is anything but a typical hair salon, and founder Kenna — who trained with the likes of Guido Paulo and still works on shoots for Vogue et al — puts the emphasis firmly on individuality. The team also comprises genius colourist Sophia and cutter Banksy (no, not that one).
Where: Kennaland,76 Broadway Market, E8 4QJ; 0207 254 2416
Lost In Beauty
This A-list hangout favoured by the Primrose Hill crowd is a vintage paradise with attitude. Former pro makeup artist and founder Georgie Hamed's indie approach to products means that her salon and store offer a tightly edited and hard-to-find selection of brands including Oskia, Becca, Dr Alkaitis, and Belmacz, as well as Dr Hauschka, REN, and Chantecaille. Georgie dishes out bespoke makeup lessons, and she’s drafted in a team of experts to offer services including threading, lashes, waxing, spray tans, and facials.
Where: Lost In Beauty, 117 Regent's Park Road, NW1 8UR; 020 7586 4411
We love Cowshed. We love Shoreditch House. So, unsurprisingly, we’re rather keen on this cult beauty brand’s East London outpost, which is also open to non-members. We’re big fans of the super-chilled atmosphere, and we're fairly certain that the salon boasts some of the most comfortable manicure and pedicure stations in London. Just try not to get too comfy. Oh, and there are also treatment rooms if you fancy an impromptu massage or facial.
Where: Cowshed at Shoreditch House, Ebor Street, E1 6AW; 020 7749 4531
The tongue-in-cheek airline theme might be a bit novelty for some, but there’s no denying that this place does a rad manicure in a genuinely fun environment that feels anything but budget airline. The interiors are the real deal, including salvaged parts from an ex-American Airlines Boeing 737 and First Class seats from Air France. The crew will serve you a G and T from their hostess trolley, and coats and bags are stored in overhead lockers, natch.
Where: MWNails , 3 Chichester Rents, WC2 A1E; 020 7242 4555, and 111b Commercial Street, E1 6BG; 020 7247 0288
Why Radio? Apparently the salon is a "place to tune in to and receive a network of ideas that goes further than hairdressing." But, don’t let this whiff of pretension put you off. True, there is a rather lovely gallery space and self-consciously cool interior, but this Bumble & bumble salon is laid-back, friendly, and anything but pretentious. We thoroughly recommend weekend appointments, when the complimentary beverages stretch to an excellent Bloody Mary — the perfect accompaniment to the weekend newspaper supplements. In fact, we’re often tempted to turn up and hang out even when we don't need a haircut...
Where: Radio, 93 - 97 Redchurch Street, E2 7DJ; 020 8617 0024

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