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Rise of the 24-hour beauty salons

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The beauty salon has been reinvented. Say hello to a world of midnight manicures, breakfast blow-dries and virtual receptionists…

Words: Samantha Flowers

It’s 3am and I’ve just had a blow-dry. Yes, really. No, this isn’t some sort of media diva special treatment. Nor do I have a personal coiffeur on speed-dial to cater for my nocturnal grooming habits. Quite frankly it’s the only time that I could find between staying up all night to project manage this issue of Stylist, throwing my husband a surprise 30th birthday party that starts seven hours after we finish putting the magazine together, and squeezing in a few precious hours’ sleep. Thankfully the Neil Cornelius salon on London’s Bond Street offers a 24-hour service – it appears I’m not the only one with a life so hectic that I can’t operate within the average salon’s usual working hours. In a world where our supermarket shopping is delivered to our front door at 6am and we order a shiny new pair of J Brands before bed (Net-A-Porter’s sales peak between 8pm and 10pm every night) so they arrive before lunch the next day, we now expect our world to revolve around our very hectic schedules.

Luckily there was availability at Neil Cornelius' salon for Sam's 3am blow-dry

Open all hours

The beauty world is catching up with our fast-moving lives. The average British woman spends 43 hours in full time work per week only surpassed by Japan and America. Inspired by the cities that never sleep such as Tokyo and New York, a new generation of open-all-hours services are cropping up in the UK. This month, Cheeky Parlour, the new venture from Soho House, opened in London’s Shoreditch with one aim: to deliver on-demand grooming. According to CEO Christina Russillo, the venture was unsurprisingly influenced by America where she hails from. “In New York and LA basic grooming is affordable and available at all times – that’s just a given,” she explains. “When I moved to London, my regular blow-dry suddenly became a luxury – not just in terms of price but also in terms of my time. I wanted to change that. Who has an hour to spare at the hairdresser when they have a big meeting to prepare for?” Not only do Cheeky’s treatments take between just 20-30 minutes, they come with attractive New York prices, too. A manicure will set you back £10 and a blow-dry is £15. “It shouldn’t be a treat to have great hair or glossy nails, it should be the norm,” states Russillo. Currently their doors are open between 10am and 10pm but Russillo has no qualms about opening later: “If we need to open until midnight to satisfy our customers, then we will.”

Sam tries to beat the up-all-night look with a 7am make-up session

This US-inspired, open-all-hours culture is spreading across Britain. Strip Wax Bar in Bristol offers late night services and Pure beauty salons in Aberdeen, Glasgow and Edinburgh stay open until 9pm but early morning appointments were still hard to find. Until now. Blow Ltd, the brainchild of ex-magazine editor Fiona McIntosh, offers hair, make-up and nail appointments from 7am, catering for busy, professional women who hit the gym at 6am, have a meeting at 8am and need to be at their desk by 9am. “I lost count of the times I needed a blow-dry before a breakfast meeting,” McIntosh recalls. “We offer quick remedies when you need them – in 20 minutes for £20. Clients can select their desired look from a ‘fast-food menu’ of nine hairstyles and three nail and make-up looks and they’re good to go.” The first salon just opened in Covent Garden, with more planned for Canary Wharf, Soho, and locations further north in 2014.

Suddenly decide you need your nails done at 10pm? No problem

Traditional salons are also breaking new ground in speediness. Maintaining your hair colour used to mean dedicating half your Saturday to the cause. To alleviate this Redken has launched it’s first Express Colour Bar Service, priced up to £30 at the Lisa Shepherd salon in Birmingham. With a no-appointment-necessary menu of five colour services that take less than an hour you’ll be pleased to hear the service rolls out nationwide next year. New technologies are also responsible for saving you time. Wella have spent the last four years developing Color.id, a range of shades that don’t run or bleed when applied next to each other, allowing colourists to ditch the time-consuming foils and instead hand paint colour straight onto hair. It’s not just colour, it’s hair cuts too. London hairstylist George Northwood has created a seven minute haircut for his jet-setting clients, including Alexa Chung and Rosie Huntington-Whiteley. “When I get them in the chair it has to be quick but that’s no different to my other clients. Everyone is busy these days,” he says. “Clients arrive with dry hair, styled as usual. I cut the length first, then sculpt around the face. My client leaves happy after telling their boss they were popping out to post a letter!” For those not in London, book a Fashion Fix hair styling appointment at one of Toni&Guy’s nationwide salons, pay £25 and you’ll be in and out in 30 minutes.

After 20 hours in a pair of Jimmy Choos, Sam's reflexologist was a welcome visitor at 5am

But late-night salons aren’t the only invention designed to fit around your life. A new wave of services that even cut out a commute are proving popular in the world of beauty. Natasha Dwyer, CEO of mobile beauty company Return To Glory, a service that comes to you at home or in the office, has seen demand for afterhours at-home appointments boom: “We extended our treatments to 11pm earlier this year; we had to bring ourselves in line with services like Ocado and Net-A-Porter. Now 50% of our appointments take place after 7.30pm. We’re available when our clients want us.” The spa industry used to encourage clients to put aside ‘me time’, now they’re devising ways to fulfil the demands of the need-it-now generation who only have an hour (or less) to indulge: “Women want to squeeze everything in: they thrive on doing it all and that includes looking after themselves,” says Dwyer.

A moment's notice

Of course, it’s not just appointments that need to be convenient. Booking needs to be simple and discreet too. Who wants to bellow across an office when you’re booking a Brazilian? Lopo Champalimaud, CEO of Wahanda.com, the UK’s biggest online beauty bookings service, tells me that 10% of bookings are made with less than three hours’ notice, a figure that has doubled since spring thanks to the introduction of their app. The average UK resident spends nine hours a day glued to a screen be it a computer, tablet or phone – more than any other country – so calling to book seems archaic. Blow Ltd also offers an app-led booking service similar to the Hailo cabs app, storing credit card details to save you looking for a cash machine or wasting valuable time queuing to pay. Meanwhile Cheeky Parlour operates a no bookings policy – you simply turn up, take a ticket, wait in the Wi-Fi enabled lounge and catch up on emails. Little touches including phone charging stations hidden underneath the manicure tables make it all the more efficient.

A world of 24/7 beauty treatments has arrived and I for one thank the grooming gods that it has. The less than glamorous alternative would be hosting my husband’s surprise party with greasy hair and chipped nails. And while beautifully blow dried hair isn’t an antidote for lack of sleep, an espresso martini will do just fine.

Main photo: Rex Features

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