I've had my hair done in some of London's top salons and I've had my hair done in my kitchen while eating beans on toast. Here's why I'll always opt for hair at home...
"That'll be £2,120, madam," said the very tall, very attractive, very London girl on reception.
Thankfully for everyone involved, that startling total for hair services rendered was not for me, but another lady. It was 2011 and I was in this high, high, very high-end salon in Mayfair as a press guest. I felt terribly out of place and extremely grateful that my credit card would not feel the weight of a bill like that. I could barely afford the £4 bottle of branded water propped up on the counter.
"Was everything okay for you today?" the tall girl asked the lady. "Wonderful. The champagne was needed!" They both laughed. I almost choked. Champagne! While you're having your highlights done! And you can bet your boots it was some zillion pound bottle of Armand de Brignac she was quaffing while her stylist was quiffing.
How I got on...
My. Nerves. My experience in that salon was unique, to say the least. When first I went in, I was greeted with a fresh orange juice and a lovely guy who brought me to sit at a station. I waited for 25 minutes, gleefully observing the clientele (there was a C-list celeb sitting next to me chatting about her child support problems, entertaining her enthralled blow-dry 'artist', as they were listed on the menu of services).
After a while, my colourist arrived over and talked me through what would be done, and then went to mix my colour. Thirty minutes later, he started actually doing my colour. So I'd been in the salon an hour before anyone began actioning my hair.
We made the usual small talk (London people don't get me, by all accounts) and bonded over our love of dogs. He showed me pictures, I oohed and ahhed. I was offered a menu - there was an in-house CHEF - and I ordered lunch. I decided to err on the side of 'I might be here for 11 hours without food'.
Perks of the salon
I was given the most up-to-date magazines. I was told of celebrity after celebrity that frequents the salon. I mentioned how warm I was and someone brought over a fan. At one point, there were four people (F-O-U-R) blow-drying my hair. While my colourist checked over the process. I FELT LIKE CELINE DION. The sheer indulgence was knocking my Penneys socks off.
Six hours after I first entered the salon, I left, expecting that million-dollars feeling to wash over me. Instead, I realised I was exhausted. That much small talk, the heat, the food, the constant head touching. It had all made me zombie-like. My lower back was sore from sitting in the same spot for so long.
My hair colour was grand, like. But my head felt sore from all the pulling and prodding that had been done. I had spent what amounted to almost a full day's work in there, inhaling hairspray remnants and listening to irritating dance music and hairdryers. Was it worth what it would have cost? Roughly, by my estimate, £1,100?
Meanwhile at home...
Not that every salon experience has been quite that dramatic, but in general, there is an amount of waiting, noise, small talk, hairspray and nonsense that comes with even the nicest places for hair. And frankly, after one particularly painful Dublin salon experience where the stylist talked AT me for three hours and I left with a migraine, I decided enough was enough. Hair at home was my next thing to try.
I was recommended someone who usually works on TV and film but did a small selection of other clients in the evenings or on weekends in their homes. I booked her straight away.
Roisin arrived to my house and I was in my finest loungewear. Friends was on the TV and I had just arrived in from work, so I had just made myself beans on toast. I sat in front of the TV, eating away, while she straight away got to work. We chatted and thankfully it wasn't forced, it was pleasant and not your usual small talk.
She took up no room at all, asked only for a couple of towels and the whole thing went swimmingly. It took less time than the fancy salon - I had her undivided attention - and sure, I had to flip my hair into the bath to rinse out the colour and get it shampooed. But apart from that, it was a totally relaxed experience. And it wasn't £2,000 either before you ask.
Champagne lifestyle, Capri-sun budget
Champagne, five stylists and an uncomfortable leather chair, versus beans on toast, Friends and your own home dressed in loungewear. Maybe I'm getting old, maybe I'm unappreciative of nice things. But maybe I'm just here for the advent of chilled-out, home-based experiences. Doesn't anyone else feel as though, when you're paying for a personal grooming treatment like a pedicure, massage or haircut, that you should be able to relax and unwind for a few hours, and that it should be convenient too?
I've had some incredibly fun and enjoyable experiences in hair salons in my 16-year long quest to blondify myself, but I think for me, hair at home is where it's at for the moment.