London Beauty Black Book: The Only Guide That Matters

Fed up with sub-par facials and so-so cuts? We feel your pain. It really is the worst when a much-anticipated beauty treat becomes an expensive letdown. Precisely why it’s time to say no to inferior services and below-expectations treatments.
And, that's where we come in — with a wonder-list of beauty treatments that will knock your socks off. In a good way. From fantastic manicures to muscle-melting massages, meet the therapies that matter.

Best Haircut For Short Strands: Nicole at Whiskey Divine
A close-cropped 'do needs regular maintenance and lots of TLC. At retrotastic Whiskey Divine, stylist Nicole gives you just that. (Well, it does help that she sports a bob herself.) The relaxed, glamorous setting and cool, funky clientele make this salon a real pleasure to pop into.

Whiskey Divine, 63 Hanbury Street, Stepney, London, E1 5JP; 020 7377 9436.


Best Salon for Colour: Alex at Bleach London
Thinking of going pastel? Or peach? What about a leopard-print undercut? Well, this is your salon. Bleach is by far the most creative and colourful hair salon in the city, making it a favourite among London’s most popular party girls. A little bit punk and a lot Barbie, so don’t expect to leave without a crazy ‘do and lot of attention.

Bleach, 420 Kingsland Road, London, E8 4AA; 020 7275 9500.

Best Blowdry: Daniel Hersheson Blow Dry Bar

Time is a precious commodity in London. Sometimes we just don’t have two hours to get ourselves suited and booted for a night out. Step forward the Daniel Hersheson Blow Dry bar. The salon offers blowdrys that will have you in and out of the door in 30 minutes. You can even choose from a selection of blowdry styles, from the signature Wavy Gravy to the classic Big and Brushed. There is even a 15-minute blowdry treatment for the extremely time-poor amongst us.

Hersheson's Blow Dry Bar, Westfield London Shopping Centre, Ariel Way, London, W12 7GF; 020 8743 0868.

Best Highlights: Jessie Knight at John Frieda Salon

If subtle, shimmering highlights are what you’re after, then make a beeline for the John Frieda salon on New Cavendish Street and ask for Jessie. The stylist is a wizard at creating highlights that flatter skin tones and never look stripey. Genius.

John Frieda, 75 New Cavendish Street, London, W1; 020 7636 1401.


Best Haircut For Long-Haired Ladies: Jack at Josh Wood Atelier
Josh Wood Atelier is like your chicest friend’s apartment and bijoux East London art space, rolled into one. The uber-discreet salon (no sign on the door and a private entrance for celebrity clients) is a stone's throw away from Holland Park and boasts its own live-in chef as well as some of the UK’s leading colourists and cutters. For Rapunzels everywhere, may we suggest booking a cut with Jack, a stylist whose feather-light layers delightfully frame the face and don’t leave the hair looking too “done.”

Josh Wood Atelier, 6 Lansdowne Mews, London, W11 3AN; 020 3393 0977.

Best Salon For Girls With Curls: Jonathan at Lockonego
When curls work, they kick ass. When they don’t, they really don’t, and all we want is a duvet-day. Making life a little easier, the guys at Lockonego get curly hair. From cuts, to gloss treatments, to anti-frizz solutions, they won’t have you hiding under the duvet the day after the salon. Just ask for Jonathon.

Lockonego, 394 Kings Road, London, SW10 0LN; 020 7795 1798.

Best Salon For African-Textured Hair: Eve at Errol Douglas

With textured hair a speciality, Errol Douglas and his team tame unruly tresses, leaving you with nourished and manageable locks, and giving Solange a run for her ‘fro.

Errol Douglas, 18 Motcomb Street, Knightsbridge, London, SW1X 8LB; 020 7235 0110.


Best Fancy Updo: Hari’s Beehive Bar

When it comes to an updo, we still like to feel the wind in our hair, if you know what we mean? No overly lacquered looks for us, thank you very much. Hari’s Beehive Bar does what it says on the tin: create beehive styles to your specifications. We plan on making this part of our pre-wedding-guest preparation routine come the onslaught of outdoor nuptials this summer.

Hari's, Kings Road, 233 Kings Road, London, SW3 5EJ; 020 7349 8722.

Best Vintage Updo: It’s Something Hells
We’re rather partial to beauty styles from bygone eras — Hollywood in the 1940s, to be precise. Stepping inside vintage rockabilly hair salon It’s Something Hells is the next best thing to creating a time machine and travelling there. The expert vintage stylists create hairdos that wouldn’t go amiss in a film noir movie. Lana Turner, eat your heart out.

It's Something Hells, 2nd Floor, Unit 2.16, Kingly Court, London, W1F 9PY; 07896 153491.

Best Bang Trim: The Bang Bar at Liberty
Because sometimes, we just don’t want the whole shebang. Catering for those of us with fringes, and with strands that grow quicker than the rest, The Bang Bar at Liberty does a stellar job at tiding us over until we’ve got time to commit to spending a day in the salon.

Bang Bar, Liberty, 3rd Floor, Great Marlborough Street, London, W1B 5AH; 020 393 0977.


Photo: Courtesy of Whiskey Divine, Bleach London, Hershesons and John Frieda


Best Lash Extensions: Blink Brow Bar
For a big celebration, luscious lashes are a must, and sometimes, mascara doesn’t cut it. From tinting to perming, to individual extensions, Blink boasts the best lashes in London. There, we said it. You needed an excuse to flutter your eyelashes at the bar, didn’t you?

Blink Brow Bar, Unit 5, 34 North Colonnade, Canary Wharf, London, E14 5HX; 020 7719 1989.

Most Helpful Beauty Team: Bobbi Brown
Whether you’re looking for a new foundation or want a complete makeup overhaul, it can sometimes be a little overwhelming to walk into a beauty hall and know which beauty brand to ask for help. Step forward the Bobbi Brown beauty counter in House of Fraser at Westfield White City. The staff has an exhaustive knowledge of the entire product range and are more than happy to share it with you. They’re also great at quickly giving you mini-makeovers so you can see if that mauve eyeshadow really is the must-have you thought it was. A visit to the counter is a treat and mood boost rolled into one.

Bobbi Brown, House of Fraser, White City, Westfield Shopping Centre, W12 7GA; 0844 800 3765.

Best Brow Shaper: Shavata Brow Studio at Harrods
In all our years of brow trimming (too long to mention) we are still a little squeamish about the level of pain involved in the removal process. Not so at the Shavarta Brow studio in Harrods. Their traditional threading technique is almost painless, and it allows the brow shape to be created to suit the curve and contours of your face.

Shavata Brow Bar, Harrods, 5th Floor, Urban Retreat, Knightsbridge, London, SW1X 7XL; 020 7893 8333.


Best Place To Find Cool New Products: BeautyMART at Harvey Nichols
If you make a beeline to the local pharmacy the minute you step off a plane on holiday, BeautyMART is for you. Founded by makeup guru Millie Kendall MBE (of Ruby & Millie fame) and ex-Vogue Beauty Director Anna-Marie Solowij, BeautyMART is the culmination of the knowledge they have gleaned by from being the best of the best in their chosen fields. How does this reflect in their beauty store offering? An eclectic edit of obscure and super-cool beauty brands from around the world. Think Japanese skincare brand DHC, cult moisturizing cream Embroylisse, and heavenly scents by Mary Greenwell. Their brick-and-mortar home is in Harvey Nichols. Taking a peek around their counter will leave you feeling better informed that when you arrived.

Beauty Mart, Harvey Nichols, 109-125 Knightsbridge, London, SW1X 7RJ; 020 7201 8087.

Best Makeup Application That Won't Break The Bank: Illamasqua's Beauty School Drop-In
If you’re looking to (finally) learn how to create a smoky eye but balk at the idea of spending money on a makeup lesson, allow us to point you in the direction of Illamasqua. This cult makeup brand specialises in directional and pretty-out-there makeup, but their colour ranges and skin bases are second to none. The first Sunday of every month, they host a free makeup masterclass on a particular subject. The class is taken by one of their professional makeup artists and allows you to experience the products and get some expert tips while you are at it.

Illamasqua, 20 Beak Street, London, W1F 9RE; 020 3432 3274.


Best Spray Tan: James Read
With British weather, spray tans are pretty much non-negotiable. Impromptu garden parties and off-to-the-beach days are commonplace, so it’s essential to keep up your colour. Stick to the safe method and stay on top of your tan with James Read’s home visits service — he’s the best in the business, didn’t you know?

James Read, is available for home visits:

Photo: Courtesy of Blink Brow Bar, Bobbi Brown, Shavata and BeautyMART


Most Relaxing Facial: Sarah Chapman Signature Facial
A stone’s throw away from South Kensington tube lies Nirvana...or in this case, Sarah Chapman’s salon, where for 60 minutes one is made (and allowed) to feel well and truly relaxed. Chapman is one of London’s leading facialists, with a loyal clientele and incredible skincare range to boot. Her signature facial entails a thorough examination of the skin under microscope, followed by cleansing rituals, myriad masks, numerous extractions, heavenly shoulder massages, and finally, a topical treatment to address whatever the skin needs to the most. What's even better is that the good work Chapman preforms in her salon can be replicated on your own, as she will talk you through the after-care treatment you should continue at home. It’s the perfect mix of relaxation and a skin M.O.T rolled into one.

Sarah Chapman, 106 Draycott Avenue, London, SW3 3AE; 020 7589 9585.

Coolest Spa Treatment: Bliss Rhythm & Bliss Treatment
Bliss’ ‘tune in and tune out’ treatment is by far the coolest in London. If you find the standard massage a little boring, or end up a little too relaxed by the soft sounds of running water, then this is the one for you. Handed a pair of noise-cancelling headphones, you choose from four music mixes to create your perfect wind-down playlist, whilst the therapists kneads out your knots to the notes and the beats. Nice.

Bliss Spa, 60 Sloane Ave, London, SW3 3DD; 020 7590 6146.


Best Spa To Hang Out In: Mandarin Oriental Spa
Here’s how you fill an empty day in London: Catch the first tube to the Mandarin Hotel, and don’t leave the spa until it turns to dusk. With all sorts available from massages to facials, to tranquil treatments, the Mandarin is the ultimate all-day destination.

Mandarin Oriental, 66 Knightsbridge, London, SW1X 7LA; 020 7235 2000.

Most Pampering Spa: Elemis Day Spa
Leaving you looking and feeling luscious from head to toe, Elemis is the place for pampering perfection in the city. Sorting out every ailment and imperfection, there are purifying facials, fitness rituals and exotic steam rasuls (and even a selection of treatments dedicated to men). So, clear up your diary, cancel those meetings, and commit to an afternoon of...just you.

Elemis Day Spa, 2 Lancashire Court, London, Mayfair, W1S 1EX; 020 7499 4995.

Best Facial For Girls With Screwed-Up Skin: Teresa Tarmey
Facialist Teresa Tarmey has a Rolodex of A-list clients that would make a publicist jealous. Daisy Lowe, Suki Waterhouse, and Tallulah Harlech have all reaped the skincare benefits Tarmey offers. For the last 15 years, Tarmey has worked from Harley Street, offering a variety of treatments from massage to laser hair removal. Now temporarily based in Belize Park, it is her facials that we’d like to bring to your attention. Her massage technique is legendary and helps to reduce any puffiness that might be lurking under the surface. Plus, her IPL treatment will help to reduce the look of thread veins and pigmentation issues too.

Teresa Tarmey, 88 Haverstock Hill, Steele’s Village, NW3 2BD; 07932 227092.


Best Weird-Ingredient Facial: Bee Sting Facial at The Hale Clinic
Buzzy beauty trends come and go, and the latest is literally... buzzing. Bee venom is the It thing in the world of facials at the moment, reportedly supported by Victoria Beckham, Gwyneth Paltrow, and even Princess K-Mid, as the secret behind her blushing bridal complexion. Coined the ‘natural alternative to Botox’, the use of Heaven Skincare’s Bee Venom promises to deliver younger and smoother skin, with fewer wrinkles and less lines. Combined with Manuka Honey for skin softening results, it’s the sweetest skincare solution we’ve found for a while. And if it’s good enough for royalty...

The Hale Clinic, 7 Park Crescent, London, W1B 1PF; 020 7631 0156.

Best Mobile Beauty Service: Perfect 10
Here’s our top stay-in solution for the next rainy day. Perfect10 beauty brings its salon services to you. Believe it. Operating across London, its experienced beauty therapists get you pampered and polished in the privacy of your own pad!

Perfect 10 Mobile Beauty, 0203 086 7833.

Best Treatment For Sorting Out Tired Pins: Island Paradise Revitalising Leg Treatment at Mandara Spa

Day in day out, we pound the pavements, jump onto escalators, and run for buses without a care for what it's doing to our poor legs. Thank goodness the team at Mandara Spa are here to help with their latest revitalising treatment. Legs are smothered in the spa’s signature moisturizing and exfoliating creams, while the rest of the body is given a brisk but effective massage. The session culminates in the legs being massaged by warm bamboo shoots to help with circulation and skin de-puffiness. Post-treatment, we felt like we were walking on air.

Mandara Spa, Park Plaza, Westminster Bridge, SE1 7UT; 020 7620 7300.


Photo: Courtesy of Sarah Chapman, Bliss, Mandarin Hotels and Elemis


Best Nail-Art Haven: WAH Nails
If it’s good enough for the celebs, then it’s good enough for us. WAH is the definitive go-to for nail art in the city, and the answer to making an outfit pop. With designs more complex than we thought possible, the WAH treatment is like mini modern art for your digits.

WAH Nails, Boxpark Shorditch, Unit 26, 2-4 Bethnal Green, London, E1 ;

Best Mani: Cowshed Spa
Manicures don’t come more indulgent than the signature treatment at the Cowshed spa in Holland Park. The spa looks just like the type of country house you’ve always wanted to rent for a mini-break. Think plush interiors, muted colour ways, squishy sofas to have your treatment on and wine-on-tap if you so desire. The ranges of nail colours are pretty wonderful too. You’ll have to be pried out of the sofa with a crowbar at the end of your treatment. Trust us.

Cowshed spa, 119 Portland Road, Clarendon Cross, London, W11 4LN; 020 7078 1944.

Best Pedi: Margaret Dabbs
Before you even think about getting your tootsies out this summer, make an appointment with Margaret Dabbs. The superstar podiatrist and her crack team are on hand to get your feet back into the condition they originally came onto this earth with. The medical pedicure sloughs off dry skin, attacks corns and any nail issues, all the while surrounded by the understated luxury of the Marylebone-based spa. You leave with feet as soft as a baby’s bottom.

Margaret Dabbs, 7 New Cavendish Street, Marylebone, London, W1G 8UU; 020 7487 5510.

Photo: Courtesy of WAH Nails, Cowshed Spa and Margaret Dabbs.

Want more local flavour? Like Refinery29 London on Facebook for insider tips on the coolest spots to shop, eat, party, and play.

More from Beauty

R29 Original Series