Often, when one is low on funds, the first thing that can suffer is our own appearance. We’ll be clean and full of hygiene, but our outward appearance can dwindle. Split ends start to show as conditioner is sacrificed, teeth get yellow as dentists are abandoned, eyebrows become bushier as threading is thrown out, and we tense up worrying about it. But this doesn’t have to be the case! Here’s where to go for cheap haircuts and other treatments in London.

Note: Some services may be temporarily unavailable due to COVID-19.

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Cheap haircuts in London

Many hairdressing salons in London offer the opportunity to grab yourself a free or cheap haircut and/or colour, by offering yourself up as a model for their staff training schemes. Upon hearing this, I decided to test out the Toni&Guy training academy, which offers haircuts for only £10, and colouring for £35.

Considering the normal prices offered by Messers Toni and Guy Mascolo, this is an absolute STEAL.

cheap hair and beauty treatments london
Photo by Joe Baylis

What to expect

After booking about a week in advance, I approached the Toni&Guy HQ in New Oxford Street with a small pang of trepidation. Inside were around 20 others, representing different ages, genders and hair types, waiting for the chop.

We were lined up by the bubbly receptionist and the head honchos then cast their expert eyes over us, looking for the perfect “models” for their students (rest assured though—everyone is seen by someone).

Once divided into groups, we were led to our seats within large white rooms (across three storeys, each with different purposes), with mirrors and shiny surfaces everywhere, well-groomed staff members floating around dressed in black, and endless loops of hair tutorials and electronic beats playing out over the sound system. It was like the beginnings of a futuristic hairdresser revolution.

I was paired with 19 year-old Gemma, who had spent four years at Toni&Guy, working hard towards full qualification with this global company. And I felt in very good, thorough and careful hands. I was even treated beforehand to the full shampoo and head massage you would expect from a full-price experience.

Many people’s concerns about this process come from their perception that you have no personal choice over which haircut you are given. This is completely false, however. The very talented students will follow your desires to the letter, while also offering suggestions of their own and giving you the option of surrendering to the creative process.

The students are under the constant strict gaze of experienced tutors, who will check every detail as the process goes on, so very little can actually go wrong.

There really is only one downside, which is time. You will be required to offer a good chunk of your day (around three hours for just a cut), and during just two possible slots (either 9:30 or 13:45) Monday to Friday. Remember to book ahead, as slots are filled fast! Oh, and you need to be 18 or over.

Honestly, this is incredibly good value and, while I can’t speak for other salons, I would wholeheartedly recommend cheap haircuts at the Toni&Guy training academy in London to anyone. I’m rarely happy with a haircut (obviously I keep it under my hat until I get home, because I’m British), but I left with a genuine smile on my face.

hair cut with masks on
Not Toni&Guy, but you get the idea. | Photo by iStock.com/899429

Of course, there are other salons that offer this kind of discounted haircut experience too. These include Vidal Sassoon Academy and Hari’s Hairdressers.

Cheap beauty treatments and massages in London

There are a variety of beauty schools in London that offer reduced-rate treatments for cheapos like us. You will be able to find anything from Swedish massages to facials, waxing, nail care and even floatation treatments, for affordable prices.

Like the haircuts above, these treatments are performed by students at the schools, and supervised by their tutors. So not only are you getting fantastic value, you are helping future generations, as well as the school itself. Give yourself a pat on the back.

woman receiving a facial
Photo by iStock.com/Vagengeym_Elena

Where to go for student beauty treatments and massages in London

Here are a few examples of the training schools you can go to:

As an example of the kind of prices you can expect, the Oasis salon in Holloway Road charges just £6 for a half-leg wax.

Saving on makeup in London

If you feel like being a bit cheeky, and flipping a finger to the MAN, then there are plenty of department stores around London for you to go and “test” makeup. Liberty comes highly recommended, but try Harrods and Selfridges too. The salespeople will be more than happy to give you a bit of a makeover if they sniff a sale.

makeup artist works on woman in mask
Photo by iStock.com/SergeyChayko

Bobbi Brown stores do free makeup lessons that can last for anything up to 45 minutes, with no obligation to buy. And keep an eye out for free makeup tutorial courses on websites like Eventbrite, which will help you make the most of the makeup you already have. It is also worth joining company loyalty schemes, like that of SpaceNK, to be in the running for reward packages and discounted makeovers.

Discount dentistry in London

Next up, those pearly white teeth of yours. If you’re in need of some cheap dental care that may not be covered by our noble NHS, and you don’t fancy going under the pliers in some back alley, then check out the offerings of King’s College London Dental Institute in partnership with Guy’s Hospital in London Bridge. 

This is another mutually beneficial arrangement, as patients benefit from new cutting-edge techniques, while researchers are able to take these into the mainstream, and dentistry students can get experience working with living, breathing patients like you.

There are some conditions however, so I would advise checking if you qualify—basically you can’t be registered with a dentist already, must attend all your appointments, and be flexible with your time.

Apps and websites to check out

To finish, here are some apps and websites that could help you out, including some useful discount-voucher websites. It’s worth regularly checking these for any crazy reductions on beauty experiences.

Is it really a good idea to allow a student to practise on me?

You may feel a little uneasy allowing trainees and students to go to work on your body. But Gemma at Toni&Guy raised a very valid point. At these schools and training facilities, the students are striving for their future. They are doing what they are doing not simply for the paycheck, but because they have a passion for it. Plus they are being assessed constantly by resident experts. Therefore, you are almost guaranteed to be treated exceptionally well. So why not give it a go?

Pro tip: Keep your body on point with help of this article on frugal fitness around London.

While we do our best to ensure it’s correct, information is subject to change. Post first published in April, 2016. Last updated January, 2021.

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