Star writers share their stories of… The last chance salon

Frantic fights to find a hairdresser in time. A mad dash for a manicure. And the agony of missing the beauty boat. As we plunge into lockdown once more, star writers share their stories of… The last chance salon

  • Six writers reveal how the second lockdown will affect their beauty routines
  • Jenni Murray says that she booked an emergency manicure session for her nails
  • Rachel Johnson says that the lockdown made booking appointments harder

The moment this new lockdown was announced, beauticians and hairdressers braced themselves for calls from panicking clients.

Women — and men — lined up outside salons long after normal hours, with many stylists working through the night to fit them in. Now our writers reveal the treatments they couldn’t face a month without . . .


By Sarah Vine

Sarah Vine (pictured) said that the first thing she did after hearing about the new national lockdown was to book a threading appointment for her eyebrows

It’s like a beauty version of Desert Island Discs. There you are, cast away by Covid, and what do you choose for your final treatment? Waxing? Manicure? Blow dry? Botox?

The botox is always tempting, but if I had to choose just one, it would probably be the eyebrows. That was what really got me last time, especially with all those wretched Zooms. Too much eyebrow and I just look like my dad in drag. And because I’m so blind these days, there’s no way I can do them myself. 

So the first thing I did when I realised Lockdown 2 was coming was to book a threading appointment with my local salon. Then another to remove my glossy red gel manicure. And yet another for one final blow dry.

Actually, that’s not entirely true: I’m lucky in that my hairdresser is staying partially open — but strictly for technical appointments only. (She’s a specialist in hair loss so she’s allowed.) Nevertheless, it felt a bit like the last days of Rome.

On my way home I stopped off at Superdrug for supplies. From now on I’m at the mercy of my new BaByliss Big Hair styling brush.

One consolation this time around is that at least it’s November. No need for depilation, or not on a grand scale, at least. Although there are some things one cannot abide winter or summer. Hairy toes, for example.

Still: what the last-minute rush to salons up and down the country has really brought home is quite how high maintenance your average British woman has become over the past couple of decades.

Grooming has gone from something most women had neither the time nor the inclination for to a nationwide addiction. And once you climb on that blow-dry/botox/mani/pedi express, it’s very hard to come off it.

What the last lockdown showed us is how we all really look without these tricks and tweakments. And for many of us it wasn’t a pretty sight.

Which is why, hard as it is for salons to have to close their doors, devastating as it is for their employees and owners, of one thing I’m sure: there will be no shortage of customers when the restrictions are finally lifted.


By Anthea Turner

Anthea Turner (pictured) arranged to have her Botox treatment brought forward

If, like me, you spend a huge amount of time and effort trying to look like you haven’t had anything done, you can never beat the effect of a really good haircut.

So at the first inkling of lockdown, I started frantically booking treatments. I was determined to be prepared this time: back in March I was only able to make a single pre-lockdown appointment to have my acrylic nails hurriedly taken off.

As I was due for my Botox top-up next month, I shuffled things around and went last Friday. I only get a tiny amount in my forehead every five months to get rid of my ‘11s’ (those pesky deep vertical lines between your eyebrows).

Next I went to Daniel Galvin in Marylebone on Tuesday, where I had my hair cut just a little shorter than normal to see me through. His salon was rammed. My hairdresser Lino, who also does Melania Trump when she’s in Britain, actually rang that morning and said: ‘You need to come on time because I’m back-to-back.’

I got my eyebrows and eyelashes dyed, then had my nails cut shorter than usual, even though they didn’t need doing.

The nail bar was also packed and even stayed open later than usual last night to keep up with demand.

It’s run by a family with three children who have put all their savings into making the space Covid-secure. It breaks my heart that just when they desperately need money coming in, they’re forced to close.

Personally, I feel safer in a salon than a supermarket.

At least I managed to snap up appointments for the essentials — my fiancé Mark was too late to get seen by the barber. I predict he’ll get so shaggy-haired I’ll have to get my hairdressing scissors out again.


By Rachel Johnson

Rachel Johnson (pictured) said that trying to book beauty appointments at salons became nearly impossible ahead of the new lockdown

I did not take the prospect of a second lockdown well. Nor the idea that ‘non-essential’ shops would be closed. If you ask me, very few things in life are essential, but they include books, sport — and beauty salons, which under the new rules might be closed from here to eternity or, at the very least, December.

I moved like a greased panther. It was like getting tickets to Glastonbury, but I booked a lash tint at 5pm on Tuesday. I can live without a blow dry, but pale eyelashes are a dealbreaker: I’ve been tinting mine since I was a teenager.

As the dye was applied to my wheaten lashes, I quizzed my therapist. She said she’d been back-to-back all week and was already getting texts from clients asking if she’d visit during lockdown for £££, but like last time she was declining all naughty offers.

‘Lash it on,’ I urged her as she applied the blue-black. ‘This might have to last three months.’ How we shuddered. Here we go again. I don’t know what’s worse — feral females, haystack hair or men growing working-from-home beards again.

Rake’s Progress by Rachel Johnson is published by Simon & Schuster £8.99.


By Jenni Murray

Jenni Murray (pictured) called her nail technician as soon ash she heard about the lockdown and she found her salon had been fully booked every single day ahead of the shutdown

Oh lord! Lockdown again! My nails! My pride and joy! Manicured every two weeks at my local London nail bar run by Eric and his wife Kate. It’s the one treatment I cannot survive without. Since the invention of Shellac varnish, which dries quickly and lasts so well, I’ve become tied to the nail bar as it has to be removed professionally.

I called as soon as I heard about Lockdown 2 on Sunday. Engaged! I called again. Answer phone! I left a pleading message. Kate called, offering 4pm on Tuesday for a manicure and pedicure. Thank goodness — I’ve heard some women stayed up until 3am to squeeze in appointments. Honestly, I suspect I’d have done the same.

When I turned up, three other women were there and staff were working as fast as they could. They were, Eric told me, fully booked every day from 9am till 7pm.

We were all women of a certain age for whom nails are so important. They don’t lose their shine as the rest of you seems to crumble. We chatted about the best way to progress. Should we just have the Shellac soaked off and leave the nails plain, or dare we risk new polish lasting for a month?

I couldn’t bear to leave mine naked. On went the usual OPI Big Apple Red, hands and feet, and I left, begging the nails to grow slowly so I don’t end up with gaps above the cuticles.

Our ‘Bye! See you in a month!’ was sad. It’s a well-run family business and, I know, they can barely afford to survive another month. Eric and his wife employ a couple of other young women, have two young children and have done everything to make the salon safe. Eric’s anxiety was palpable.

I now only had to worry about the hair, done three weeks ago. Will it last, colour and cut, for another four weeks? Probably not. On the phone immediately. Bound to be OK as I’m such a regular customer, I thought. Phone constantly engaged. Got through. All appointments gone. I’ve booked for December 5.


By Kath Brown

Kath Brown (pictured) bagged the last appointment with her mobile hairdressing friend on Wednesday before the lockdown

Last week I said a prayer to the grooming gods that the imminent lockdown would start after today — I had a hair appointment booked for 2pm. But no such luck. Exactly the same happened last time. I was due to have my roots sorted the week after lockdown started, so my hair looked awful for months.

So imagine my elation when I got a text from my mobile hairdresser friend, saying she would be working late until Wednesday. I bagged her last appointment.

When Rebecca wheeled her styling case into my kitchen last night I felt like the luckiest woman alive. Especially as I’d already had a stroke of good fortune when I got a ten-minute slot to get my gel nails soaked off at Pure Beauty Salon in Maidstone on Sunday.

I’m writing this as the dye on my hair develops and Rebecca is putting her kit away for the last time until December. I’ve got a pre-Christmas appointment in the diary to look forward to, but I’ve also stocked up on three cans of brown L’Oreal Magic Retouch. Just in case.


By Rosie Green

Rosie Green (pictured) found herself in the seat of her hair colourist after realising she couldn’t go through another lockdown without coloured hair

Last time around I was so sure lockdown wouldn’t happen, I didn’t bother booking a dye job. Which meant by the time I got in my colourist’s chair it was July and it had been a full six months since my roots had been tended to. This was not good for morale. Home schooling, zero socialising — all terrible — but add in a badger’s stripe of grey along my parting and it became too much. This time around I’ve been more savvy and a combination of incessant calling, and some undignified pleading, meant I found myself, earlier this week, in the chair with my colourist Cetera and my stylist Kiki (pictured far left with Rosie).

Whilst I was being beautified I could hear the phones ringing off the hook. Cetera tells me clients are already fighting for slots on December 3 when lockdown lifts.

Thank goodness my two other necessities are set to stay open, this time: subtle Botox at a medical clinic that hopefully comes under the heading of essential, and a good power-washing courtesy of my dental hygienist — crucial when you drink as much coffee as I do.


By Helen Carroll

Helen Carroll (pictured) said she dropped her mobile phone into a sink full of dishes in her desperate attempt to book a hair appointment

Learning the first lockdown was ending back in July, I dropped my phone in a sink full of dishes, so eager was I to message my hairdresser, pleading for his earliest appointment.

And at the weekend, Max Centini of Centini Hair in West London, was, yet again the first person I called.

As a natural curly girly I’ve spent decades desperate for sleek locks. Four years ago I was introduced to the amazing Max, so famous for the Brazilian Blowout (BBO) that one friend does a 1,000-mile round trip from Scotland to visit him.

And that’s where I was at 8pm on Tuesday, shoe-horned in among dozens of other women.

My appointment with Max, whose clients include model Sophie Dahl and presenter Cat Deeley, lasted two hours, beginning with the BBO — a keratin-based treatment that transforms hair into glossy gorgeousness.

Then for the cut. Just in case this lockdown goes on longer than expected, I asked for several inches taken off, plus a good thinning out as I have been ‘blessed’ with quite the barnet.

It was almost midnight by the time I arrived home, £320 worse off but happy.


By Hannah Betts

Hannah Betts (pictured) says that she missed the beauty boat and was unable to book appointments for any of her treatments

I write this 12 hours before Lockdown 2 kicks off, and I cannot be the only British woman of a certain age to be howling: ‘Ah! I missed the beauty boat!’

Blame the American election, blame trying to cram in a month’s work to four days, but somehow I managed to miss all the essential grooming appointments that render me a human.

Hair-wise, I last tripped off to Josh Wood a month ago, meaning this morning I found myself concealing a patch of silver across my hairline with a black Sharpie pen.

In terms of nails, I was supposed to see my lady on Monday, but a job overran, meaning I was forced to miss both manicure and pedicure. Am I resorting to chewing off my Shellac? Reader, I am.

As for a facial, don’t make me laugh. My skin could be compared to a teenager’s — but only because of its lumps and bumps. Thank God for Johnson & Johnson Spot Gel via Amazon.

Fortunately, I epilate, so will be spared gorilla legs. But, otherwise, here I am: grotty-skinned, gnarled of hand, and felt-tipped haired, planning on sporting a balaclava on Zoom.

If there are any Christmas parties when we all emerge, nobody is going to want me at any of them.


By Richard Ward, hairdresser to the Duchess of Cambridge

We’ve had 1,400 desperate clients in the past three days, making it the busiest week in all our 28 years.

But it doesn’t compensate for the £2 million we have lost since March. The handling of this pandemic has had a devastating impact on the hairdressing industry.

We’ve had nowhere near the help restaurants and hotels received, with ‘Eat Out To Help Out’ and a huge VAT cut. Something similar for us could have saved many from certain ruin — I know of really big London salons not sure they will be in business come January.

Instead, we were one of the last industries allowed to open in July and, despite our huge efforts to be Covid-safe — I’ve spent £20,000 — here we are forced to close yet again. As well as PPE and hand sanitising we have a one-way system, take clients’ temperatures, and use Perspex screens. Everyone has said how safe they feel, but nothing seems to be enough.

Our industry, like so many, will need a big helping hand to survive.

Richard Ward (pictured), who is hairdresser to the Duchess of Cambridge says that even his busiest period in 28 years hasn’t made up for the financial loss inflicted on his business by the first national lockdown

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