Beauty Parlour

Affordable beauty in London

The words affordable and London very rarely coexist in a single sentence, which really is quite sad, given that not all of us are multimillionaires (quite the contrary, most of us aren’t). Being a student here, even one with a decent salary (or a good deal with the Bank of Mom and Dad), really isn’t easy at times, especially when a round trip on the tube to see your boyfriend costs you almost £5. Living in this reality develops two things in most of us – one is being in awe at how cheap everything outside of London is, and the other is a survival instinct of searching for sales, discounts, vouchers and offers. Because I might be poor, but I can’t have roots showing. Come on.

Obviously, I can’t afford to go to a fancy London salon and have my colour and cut done there with a senior stylist. That would cost more than I leave in Waitrose a month. One method would be to only get my hair done when I come to Poland during breaks, but that didn’t feel like a valid option to me. I wasn’t all that happy with what my Polish stylist was doing to my hair, and after a year of working in a fancy hair salon and getting my hair done for free by some insanely good stylists, it’s not that easy to go back.

That’s why I decided to model.


Not in the fancy Kate Moss way. I’m way too attached to my stir fries for that. Ok, but in what sense, then? Let me explain.

Many high end salons have apprentices, that’s their way of ensuring they have a steady supply of well-qualified stylists, and there is only so much you can learn by cutting a doll’s hair. Similarly, beauty school students need to practice their newly honed skills, and there are only so many manicures a fellow student’s nails can endure. At some point, all of these people will need a living, breathing, paying customer to practice on. Obviously, they can’t practice on people paying £90 for a haircut. That’s where models come in.

Sounds scary? Worried you will leave with your hair/face/nails ruined? Don’t be.

No student will ever be let out loose if their instructor isn’t sure they can actually handle it. And even then, they will watch them like a hawk. Students that will be taking care of you vary in experience – they can be at the beginning of their training (in which case they will be watched very closely) or close to graduating (in which case they will be working mostly autonomously, getting the trainer to check their work at various stages). From my experience, the results can be truly great.

My most recent ‘do’ from 2 weeks ago

As you can see, I still have all of my hair and it looks great. Cost me around £40 in total for cut and colour, at a Marylebone salon. Not bad, right?

Below is a list of places where you can get your hair, nails, or even a massage, done at a fraction of a price you’d pay in most salons and SPAs.

Disclaimer: I have not yet tested any of the establishments mentioned below (apart from the Michael Van Clarke salon of which I’m a former employee but am no longer in any way affiliated and my opinion is honest and unbiased). However, I am a firm believer in model appointments if you don’t have a big beauty budget. I will only say one thing: always say clearly what you want, ask for suggestions, then once again clearly say what you want. If you don’t like the effect, speak up. Also, model appointments take longer than regular ones, so make sure you have plenty of time (it usually takes me around 4h to get cut, colour and blow dry done, so I usually have a bag full of snacks, and a book).


  • Michael Van Clarke – the salon where I get my hair done. The apprentices are all fantastic, lovely people, and they will make sure you leave the salon happy and looking beautiful. You can make an appointment by calling or emailing the reception and asking about model appointments (they’re done on Mondays). Website:
  • Stuart Philips – the salon is located in Covent Garden. They don’t advertise their model appointments, but give them a call if you’re interested. Website:
  • Windle & Moodie – tucked in somewhere between Covent Garden and Tottenham Court Road stations. Their haircuts are £10 and colours start from £20. You will need to email them your details and picture, and they will contact you when they need a model with hair like yours. More details under this link:
  • Toni and Guy Academy – located just off Tottenham Court Road station, they offer a variety of services, and you can get your hair done Monday to Friday, which isn’t always the case (salons usually have dedicated training days). Details:
  • Vidal Sassoon Academy – close to Bond Street. Just like Toni and Guy, this isn’t a hair salon, but a dedicated training academy (you might even be seen by an experience stylist who’s improving their skills), so appointments are available throughout the week. And if you’re a student, you might just get a £5 haircut. It doesn’t get much better than that. Details:
  • Percy & Reed – they don’t advertise their model services, but give them a call to see if they have any students who can see you. Website:
  • Jo Hansford – yet another one that doesn’t advertise their modelling opportunities, but do give them a call if you’re interested. They’re located in Mayfair. Website:


  • London Beauty School – it’s good to follow their Facebook page, but you can just text them and they will get back to you about modelling opportunities, as and when they come up. Details:
  • The London School of Beauty of Make Up – I’ve never been, but I have walked past it and it definitely doesn’t look like a training academy, more like a really decent beauty salon. The prices are a bit higher than usual, but you can choose if you want a student or a qualified professional (at a slightly higher price) to perform your treatment. Details:
  • Ray Cochrane – central London location, and great prices. £10 manicure, anyone? Details:
  • Oasis hair and beauty salons – they’re powered by the City and Islington College students and have two locations – Holloway Road and Finsbury Park. They also offer hair services (though, personally, I’d get my hair done at a salon/hairdressing academy). Details:
  • LCBT – near Oxford Circus, so you can get your shopping done on the same day as well. They warn, however, that not all treatments are available at all times. Though a set of £15 gel nails sounds lush… Details:
  • East London Beauty Academy – located in East London (surprisingly enough), so a bit of a trek out of the city centre (get your Oyster loaded up and ready). They offer appointments with both students and qualified professionals. Details:


Another way to save money on beauty in London is Treatwell (, formerly known as Wahanda. They offer discounted beauty and hair treatments, and often send you a £10 off bookings over £25 voucher (which allowed me to get my colour done for £17 – sweet). It’s a very convenient way to book your beauty treatments, as you don’t have to call/email the salon or SPA – you can book directly on the site.  And you can check out the reviews before booking. It genuinely couldn’t be any easier.

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