With salons sadly still not open (although why hair is ok and other things not who knows), Sam thought she’d review a few home spa options. Here’s how she got on…
I’m a bit of a spa lover – one of my favourite things in the world is having a massage. But that’s because my back is always in shreds. Too many hours at the laptop.
I’m not particularly high maintenance. I love lash extensions, because I’m a lazy moo when it comes to makeup, and it means I don’t have to bother with mascara. And I like getting my nails done, and hair of course. But I’m not bigly into tanning or facials. So I thought I’d pick out the things that I’m really missing, and see how I got on at home.
Colouring my hair
I keep my hair blonde – my natural colour is a dark blondey mouse, the colour of wet sand. In the old days I’d have styled out the roots in lockdown and gone all balayage baby. But these days the roots are some dark blonde, some grey, and some white. And really patchy. I’m not quite ready for that yet, the white wings like bloody Dickie Davies.
I know salons are open soon, but I couldn’t wait and decided to bust out the box colour. Hair stylists everywhere are groaning now and putting their heads in their hands. But actually, this was ok.
I chose Clairol Nice n Easy Ultra Light Ash Blonde – because I’ve used the brand before and guessed I wouldn’t react to it. Also the ash part I was hoping would stop my hair going brassy yellowy blonde. Whacked it on, and was instantly impressed with how much better it was than box stuff used to be.
No rank smell, nice creamy stuff that was easy to apply. No purple splodges where I inevitably spilled it on the bathrooms tiles. All in all pretty straightforward.
So you can see in the picture that the colour isn’t uniform, which is actually a good thing. Where it’s gone really light is basically where my white wings are, so it’s gone much lighter there. I’m not unhappy with this at all, but it’s not like going to the salon and having that whole nice experience where someone does your hair. I missed the interaction, and stuff like someone else washing your hair, which I love! I’d do this again though, definitely. Worth the risk.
Getting a massage
So this is a biggie for me. I love, love, love massage. I try and get massages every month, absolute minimum. I’ve got a bad back, and I’m a massage connoisseur. And I’m really missing someone kneading the knots out of my shoulders and thoracic area.
I tried the HoMedics Gel Shiatsu Back & Shoulder Massager chair thing (£299.99). And oh my word. This has been an absolute lifesaver during lockdown. It’s got several different functions – shiatsu massage setting, rolling setting, heat – and I can quite literally sit on it and slide into a coma. It’s lovely.
If you position yourself right, you can get a really deep knuckling right in the knotted areas, and this has two sections. So you can get your back done, and there’s a top unit too for neck and shoulders.
I’m going to keep using it, even when I can get a salon massage again, because the de-stressing aspect of this is enormous. It is permanently on the sofa now, and I often have a bash after a day in front of the laptop. I’m a drooling fool within about ten minutes. Better than five gin and tonics.
This is an expensive gadget but if you’re going to use it a lot, probably well worth the cost. I found that I needed to play around with the controls and my position in the seat to ensure it hit all the right spots, but it didn’t take long to work that out, maybe two sessions. Obviously you’re missing human contact here, and you’re sitting up, rather than lying down. But the massaging action of the nobbly bits is really good. Very impressed.
Something else for my back
Someone ages ago recommended the Shakti Mat so I got one to try. This is essentially an Indian bed of nails to lie on, and works by stimulating blood flow around your back and body, easing blood back into tight muscles. The reason muscles ache and get tight is because of lack of blood flow. It’s why you go red when you get massaged.
Anyway, we were a bit sceptical, especially as when you touch the spiky bits it’s really, well, spiky. But somehow once you spread weight across the whole mat it’s not only bearable, it’s really nice. You get kind of rushes of heat, feel your skin and muscles warming up. Then you relax. I thought I’d hate this and actually loved it.
I also really like the ethics behind the production… “Shakti Mats are handmade by 72 women in an all-female purpose-built workshop. The word ‘Shakti’ in Sanskrit is a feminine principle, and symbolises empowerment, abundance and change. It is with these principles that we run the workshop.” There’s a whole welfare and funding program thing going on here that’s really commendable.
Apparently you can work up to standing on this for the reflexology vibe. Yeah, nah. Tried that and felt I was okay not working up to a daily stand on a bed of nails, although the others tried it. But lying on it, naked skin, yes. I’d really recommend this. It’s really good to use just before yoga, although I don’t know if that’s appropriate, but I liked it. Actually just writing about it now has made me want to go and lie on it again.
Gel nail manicure
I touch type and have to keep my nails really super short but I love having manicures and a have a gel set when I can. I’m guilty of picking off the gel varnish most times rather than going back and getting it soaked off, so I don’t do it regularly. But I like having pretty nails, and having gels is great because they last for yonks and they’re nice and shiny.
So I bought some kit off Amazon, figuring how hard can it be? I got a Bellanails Professional LED Nail Lamp, and a handy tool kit with all the stuff to do manicuring and removing the polish after. I also got some Bluesky products – the Bluesky base and top coat bundle was good, and then I bought a few gel colours, same brand. And some decent acetone. All in all, it was about £60 I think.
And so one Saturday morning I laid it all out on the table and had a bash at doing my own manicure and gel varnishing job. It was quietly satisfying, and I actually ended up with a pretty good set of nails.
It’s fiddly, I’m not going to lie. And it’s also really easy to get nail varnish on your cuticles etc, which you’ve then got to clean before zapping under the light. Because then it’s set super hard. It’s not like normal varnish where you can go in with an earbud and tidy it up. Once it’s zapped, it’s there for good. I nicked myself a couple of times with the cuticle clipper things too, but I got used to handling that as time passed.
This is great if you’re really super into having good nails without too much aggro. I mean, I wouldn’t want to have a bash at doing my own acrylics or anything, but this was totally doable. Pictured is my first attempt, and my second attempt was better a couple of weeks later. I forgot to take a photo though. But one of the nice things about having a manicure is all the other stuff that goes with it. The chit chat, the hand massage, the not having to do it. This is nice, but I’d definitely rather be in a nail place having someone else do the do.
Right. So I bought the ICONSIGN Lash Lift Kit off Amazon having watched this pop up about a billion times in my Facebook feed. The idea is that you increase the curl in your lashes (like you would get from using eyelash curlers) but it’s permanent. It’s a perm. Literally.
I’m going to tell you straight away that I haven’t managed to give it a bash. I couldn’t even get the funny little plastic things to stay on my eyelid, let alone glue my lashes to them to perm them.
I ended up throwing the plastic thing across the room like a five year old. So as at the time of writing, I can’t tell you much about this. I might give it another go and see if I can get this to work because I have heard good things. If I have any success (or otherwise) I’ll update this article.
If anyone has had a go at the lash thing and wants to let us know how it went, do comment below. I’d love to know!
So all in all, I guess you could say that with time and patience it’s possible to create most of those spa type experiences at home. The big thing missing of course, is the pleasure of other people. Chewing of the fat whilst your hair is coloured and cut, drinking coffee whilst your nails are made beautiful. Giving yourself up and lying in bliss whilst someone quietly works the knots out of your back and brings you a glass of water.
I am reasonably happy with all the things I’ve tried, but with the exception of the back massage things, I’ll definitely be going back to my favourite stylists as soon as I can for the rest of it.