I don’t know about you, but post-lockdown there was one thing that I was desperate to get back out and enjoy: IRL beauty treatments. Sure, there are plenty of treatments that we can do at home when necessary (nails, brows, and hair colour, to name a few), but there’s nothing like letting a professional go to town at what they do best. There’s no denying that in-salon treatments can be costly. (And for good reason—your treatments are being conducted by a pro with years of experience under their belt.) However, in my years as a beauty editor, there have definitely been times when I’ve been left feeling underwhelmed by a buzzy facial or trending massage—and when it’s your own money on the table, I think it’s important to know which treatments are genuinely worth your time and cash.
Thankfully, team Who What Wear was more than happy to join me on my quest to source the very best beauty treatments in the UK right now. From medical pedicures and eyebrow lamination to crystal facials and Botox, we’re covering the breadth of beauty experiences to bring you a comprehensive guide to the best out there. Think of this as your pampering pocket guide.
1. Rejuvenating Crystal Facial With Maria Christofi
Hannah Almassi before the Rejuvenating Crystal Facial.
I've been lucky enough to try many different types of facials over the years, but I have to admit none of the results have ever been "wow" enough to convert me as a regular customer, and I have remained fairly skeptical. It's all well and good (and relaxing) having lovely creams and balms and serums applied and removed for an hour, but how effective in the longer term have any of these indulgent moments been? Not very. So when I discovered that there was an acupuncture and sound therapist in my area (East Sussex) who has created a special acupuncture facial, I was intrigued to know more, as I'm a big believer in this side of Chinese medicine and have leaned upon it for various injuries and illnesses over the past decade or so.
The experience is more than just a treat; it's a rich, immersive, multifaceted session whereupon finishing I felt not only that my skin looked younger, fresher, plumper and clearer, but that I had also gathered some vital intel on my general skincare problems, my diet and overall health. I came away with action points and new products to trust in (everything from vitamins to skincare buys).
Facial tools used during the Rejuvenating Crystal Facial.
The facial itself involved a process of simple-but-effective, natural and organic cleansing and moisturising and nothing too tricksy. In fact, I discovered a great local beauty brand called D'still during this part of the treatment that I'll want to use again. And then the real jolt of efficacy came with how Maria uses her "family" of crystal gua shas and specialist massaging tools, and then the acupuncture itself. (For anyone afraid of needles, please note that these are incredibly fine, and you barely feel them at all.)
Hannah Almassi after the Rejuvenating Crystal Facial.
Although this was "just a facial," it felt like a full-body reboot and a moment to reset after months of madness and neglecting my skincare routine. The instant results over the following few days were clear to see, but many weeks later, I can still see the impact of Maria's guidance, and I can't wait to go back again.
Rejuvenating Crystal Facial with Maria Christofi costs £90 for a 75-minute treatment.
2. Eyebrow Lamination at Guys & Dolls
Vanese Maddix before eyebrow lamination at Guys & Dolls.
I’ve had sparse eyebrows for as long as I can remember, and over the years, I’ve tried everything from trending brow products that claim to be the perfect fixer for sparse brows to growing my eyebrows out during the majority of the UK’s lockdowns. I thought that by the time I came out of the third lockdown, I’d have the beautiful bushy brows that I’d always dreamt of. However, they really didn’t seem to grow that much. So when the opportunity presented itself to get a brow lamination, I couldn’t have been more excited! It’s been almost two years since brow laminations began to take off in the beauty sphere, and I’m glad I was finally able to try it out for myself and document the process.
A few days prior to my brow lamination, I went to Guys & Dolls for a patch test (to make sure that I wouldn't have an allergic reaction to the treatment), and the lady doing my eyebrows talked me through the process and what I wanted from the finished result, which was for my brows look less sparse, bushy and so easy to maintain that I wouldn’t have to really do anything to them!
Vanese Maddix during eyebrow lamination at Guys & Dolls.
I then went back a few days later for the lamination itself. The process involves cleaning the brows and applying a primer before applying curling lotion and cling film. (Yes, really.) A fixing lotion and more cling film are then applied before a brow tint and shape. Every step of the process was explained really well to me, and all in all, it took about 45 minutes to complete. The only part that I really disliked was when the perm lotion was applied to brush the brows up with—it had quite a stench, but thankfully I’d been pre-warned. Once my treatment was completed, I was advised not to get my brows wet for at least 24 hours (which is actually quite a challenge) as it could ruin the outcome.
Vanese Maddix after eyebrow lamination at Guys & Dolls.
I have to say that I am really happy with the outcome. It looks quite full-on immediately after my treatment, as the tint hadn't yet settled in, but over the following days, it became a lot more natural-looking. I would say that the results of my lamination lasted roughly two to three weeks, but I was told during my appointment that the more you top it up over time, the longer it’ll last. And since the treatment, my brows have become a lot less unruly in general.
Eyebrow lamination at Guys & Dolls starts at £41 via Treatwell.
3. Botox by Martin Nimmo at The Nimmo Clinic
Shannon Lawlor before Botox by Martin Nimmo at The Nimmo Clinic.
I must admit as someone who spends a big chunk of her working life talking about aesthetics treatments, I’d never really given too much thought to whether I’d ever have any injectable treatments. Until, that is, about six months before my 27th birthday, when I spotted that years of sun damage were starting to present themselves as fine lines and wrinkles in my forehead. So I decided to do something about it. Because of my job, I didn’t have to do too much digging to find a doctor I trusted with Botox. (Remember, Botox must be prescribed by a doctor, nurse, dentist or prescribing pharmacist legally and involve a face-to-face consultation.) I had read a lot about Martin Nimmo’s Botox results, and he came highly recommended, so I had faith I would be in good hands.
Upon arriving at The Nimmo Clinic, I was asked to fill out an extensive questionnaire covering everything from medical background to mental health. During my consultation, Nimmo asked me questions and kept me talking. Through years of writing about aesthetic treatments, I knew this was something all good doctors do—not only does it put you at ease, but it also gives the doctor a chance to see how your face moves. He then asked me to show him exactly where my areas of concern were (forehead creases and 11 lines between my brows) and explained that the preventative Botox (i.e., before deep-set lines form) I was having is the most effective way to fend off deep wrinkle formations. He also extensively ran through the precautions of the treatment.
The process of Botox is near-enough painless—like being pricked gently with a drawing pin. I had around 10 injections across my forehead and between my eyes. Nimmo asked me to make a certain facial expression before pinching the muscle and injecting the Botox. The actual treatment itself took less than 10 minutes. Nimmo then explained that the Botox will take around two weeks to really kick in (results aren’t instantaneous) and that it’s important not to massage the area, do any exercise, bend upside down or lie on your side for around 24 hours. He also recommended doing some brow-lifting exercises for the day to help the Botox settle. All of this is to ensure that the Botox doesn’t "run" or displace. (This can cause droopy lids.) He booked me in for a check-up two weeks later to ensure everything was looking good.
Shannon Lawlor after Botox by Martin Nimmo at The Nimmo Clinic.
After around four days, I started to notice that there were certain limitations to the movement in my forehead. While the Botox is getting to work in certain muscles at different times, it can feel a bit odd. But after around eight days, everything was working as it should. My forehead is now insanely smooth, and I wake up most mornings genuinely liking the way that my face looks. I look more awake, more radiant and much less stressed. Annoyingly, I think I am now one of those people that will forever get Botox in their forehead. While I know that my scenario was mostly preventative, I can’t help but feel like this is the best thing I ever did for my skin. Did I need it? Absolutely not. In fact, I don’t believe that anyone needs Botox. However, I feel a whole lot happier about the way I look with it.
It’s expensive, yes, but considering how much I spend trying to get my skin to look the way I want, it seems like a worthy investment. I went back to Nimmo for a two-week check-up, and we were both equally as happy with the results. I will likely need a top-up again in around four months and then should be able to make my future treatments last a little longer.
Botox by Nimmo at The Nimmo Clinic starts from £245.
4. Infrared Sauna at Glow Bar
As a social media editor, it's not often I get to completely switch off from my phone, so I absolutely relished in the chance to head to Glow Bar for a relaxing, meditative sauna. Being immersed in the warm, infrared room for 45 minutes gave me the opportunity to completely relax and take some uninterrupted time for myself, all while sweating out toxins and boosting my circulation. The whole venue felt very zen the minute I walked in, and the staff really did go out of their way to make sure it was all as seamless as possible. Not to mention the infrared sauna is also proven to help release endorphins, meaning I definitely left with an extra spring in my step.
Infrared Sauna at Glow Bar costs £45 for a 45-minute session.
5. Medical Pedicure at Margaret Dabbs London
About six months ago, one of my toenails came off. It was all a rather traumatic—especially as I literally hadn’t worn high heels or inappropriately uncomfortable shoes for a year because of the pandemic. I was perplexed, and it just added to the hate I already had for my feet, which I never really look after in the same way I do my hands. I’d heard great things about the Margaret Dabbs salon and their prowess in medical pedicures, so I figured this was a great way to start from scratch with my feet. From this point forward, I’d actually maintain healthy, handsome feet.
The biggest difference between a regular pedicure and a medical pedicure is that it’s carried out by a podiatrist instead of a beauty therapist. If you opt for a polish after, then you're handed over to a beautician for this. During my treatment, my feet were examined thoroughly, including the arch (or lack of in my case), which I was warned could lead to fun things like corns in the future due to the pressure I put on the outside of my feet. If I wanted to talk more about my gait, the clinic offers this too.
The podiatrist then filed and clipped my feet and nails, examined for possible fungus (it's all very glam) and diagnosed my missing toenail as a result of trauma due to wearing inappropriate walking shoes during our daily exercise, and apparently, it will grow back healthily. My appointment was topped off with the best gel pedicure I’ve ever had in London. Honestly, I would recommend a medical pedicure to anyone in need of a feet MOT. Ever since, I’ve really kept up my at-home maintenance. But in the same way you check in your car yearly, I’m hoping to make my feet MOT an annual occasion.
Medical pedicure at Margaret Dabbs London costs from £85 for a 45-minute treatment.
6. Lash-Lift at Brow Bar London
Lili Cavaliere before a lash-lift at Brow Bar London.
I’ve always loved getting my lashes done and used to be a huge fan of individuals. However, after realising they aren’t all that great for your lashes—and wanting to try more of a subtle, everyday look—I decided to try a lash-lift. And honestly? The idea of not having to apply mascara every day sounded like a dream. The lash-lift process itself took around an hour from start to finish. They essentially curl your lashes with a chemical to hold the lift and shape in place (kind of like a perm) and then dye them to add the colour. All in all, it was really fuss-free and mainly just involved me sitting down for an hour!
Lili Cavaliere after a lash-lift at Brow Bar London.
I absolutely loved the end result. And the fact that I didn't have to wear any eye makeup at all for a few weeks was truly a dream. My therapist at Brow Bar London did also recommend using a lash serum to keep them hydrated (as the chemical can dry them out), which I did, and I have to say that it worked a treat. I would definitely recommend a lash-lift for a holiday when you might not want to fuss with mascara or for everyday lift when you want to embrace a subtler makeup look.
A lash-lift at Brow Bar London costs from £82.
7. Balayage at Larry King
Joy Montgomery before balayage at Larry King.
I have been on a bit of a roller-coaster ride with my hair colour over the last 15 years or so, veering from my natural dark blonde to peroxide to a dubious strawberry blonde via a brief foray into dark brown. Don't ask. Finally, by my late 20s, I landed on a happy medium of natural, grown-out highlights, but recently, I have been intrigued by the concept balayage, particularly for short hair like mine. Enter Larry King. My fabulous colourist Katie explained that balayage can work just as well for bob lengths as it can for longer hair and in fact is an ideal way to create that beachy, naturally lightened look.
Joy Montgomery after balayage at Larry King.
The process is more informal than traditional highlights, and colour is hand-painted on to allow for a less structured, more organic finish. You definitely get that overall lightening but in a way that won't result in the dreaded block regrowth. In fact, as the hair grows, the roots become part of the beachy vibe, and the grown-out colour will continue to look fab even when it's just on the ends. Talk about low-maintenance. After a few hours in the chair, I came out with the perfect, grown-out blonde tone, which basically looked like I had been sunning myself in Saint-Tropez. The dream.
A full head of Balayage at Larry King costs from £280.
8. Ancient Bath & Massage at Aire London
Photo:Courtesy of Aire London
Editor Emma Spedding visited the ancient baths at Aire London.
I have mixed feelings about targeted Instagram adverts, but sometimes the algorithm can seem to read your mind, and this was certainly the case when Aire popped up on my feed. After a difficult summer, which started with COVID, followed by months of long COVID symptoms, I have been taking it really easy and wanted to treat myself to something relaxing and restorative. Aire London is a new spa near Covent Garden in the old home of J.M. Barrie, the writer of Peter Pan, and the basement has been transformed into a majestic ancient bath.
It is inspired by Roman baths, and the pools are all candlelit, making a really special and romantic atmosphere. Despite this being Instagram heaven, phones aren't allowed, and there are no clocks, so you really can get lost in your experience.
In the bath area, you can tour the Caldarium (hot bath heated to 40ºC), cold Frigidarium (cold bath at 14ºC and ice bath at 10ºC), Tepidarium (warm bath at 36ºC), Balneum (bath of a thousand jets), Vaporium (steam bath) and Flotarium (salt bath). I’ve never found a spa quite like this in London. The pool area was my favourite element of the experience. However, you can also add on treatments. I had a 45-minute relaxing massage, which was the perfect addition to the evening in the spa pools. If you want something more adventurous, they offer a massage with hot Himalayan salt stones or a wine bath experience. Yes, you literally submerge yourself in Spanish Tempranillo grapes! It was a really special experience, but given the central London location and how magical it is, you won’t be surprised to hear it is expensive. But for special birthdays or celebrations, you can’t beat this.
The Ancient Bath Experience and Relaxing 45-Minute Massage costs £165 at Aire London.