Over the past 18 months, while scraping together a house deposit with my partner (emphasis on the scraping), I've really tried to scrimp and save money where I can. When assessing my spending, I thought it was about time I took a long, hard look in my (lamplit, magnifying, rose-gold) vanity mirror. I never really took stock of just how much money I was spending on beauty treatments. Not only that, it was taking up chunks of my time; when Grace told Dr Alex on Love Island her time off was spent on "maintenance, babe", I felt it.
Spending time on beauty treatments is great if you love sitting in a salon, spa or hairdresser's chair. I can see how it can be a much-needed break for some. But personally, I’d always rather be bingeing the latest Netflix true-crimer. So I decided to go on a one-woman beauty mission to swap all my in-salon appointments for DIY versions. Yep, it all went – every pluck, prep and preen usually undertaken by a professional was now in my own (and, at first, not very capable) hands. Here's what happened...
I’m not an easy hair colour customer. I have my mum’s natural red tones, so opting for a lighter shade usually means I end up a light ginger – beautiful on some, just not on me – or at best, brassy. In salon I prepare hairdressers for this, so they always add whichever magic toner cools my locks. Nowadays, a light brown/dark blonde natural-looking colour (think Millie Mackintosh) is the goal for my naturally dark brown hair.
While I was happy with my salon-coloured hair, I often had to set aside a rare Saturday morning to get it dyed. By the time I got to the hairdresser's, spent two-plus hours in the chair, then got home, half a day off was gone. Plus, it was spendy. I love a bargain, and had heard great things about Josh Wood’s at-home colour range. He’s manned the hair of many models and celebrities, and now, in my bathroom, he was manning mine.
Because I love a natural-looking colour, it’s been great for me. The protective barrier cream, stain-removing wipes and sachet of deep conditioning treatment make the box dye more luxe than your average. I have never had so many compliments on my hair since using this colour, and have converted lots of friends. Someone even said they prefer my hair to before – a backhanded compliment if I’ve ever had one, but I’m going with it.
"It’s changed my life," I told my boyfriend.
"That’s quite a bold –"
"Changed. My. Life."
I used to get Olaplex with my full head of colour, which no doubt added to my 'ooh, ahh' post-hairdresser's moment. You know, when you can’t stop touching the ends for hours afterwards. I’ve tried hair masks before and never been impressed enough to re-buy a single one until now. I also use the blonde shampoo and conditioner from the range, which has kept my colour fresh and my hair shiny. It’s been six months now, and I think I get more smug with every dye.
What I saved: £80-100 every six weeks.
I realised that if I could paint my nails at home nicely enough, why couldn’t I do that with a gel polish? There’s a lot of 'gel-like' polishes on the market but for me, nothing beats the shine or staying power of a machine-cured gel. I must admit I chose my gel machine completely on a whim after a quick google. I went for the Bluesky kit although the Mylee version, £22.99, is also reviewed positively.
I set up my nail station at my desk, then cut and shape my nails as normal, use the alcohol wipes, base coat, colour (two coats), top coat, then wipe again. The kit comes with a choice of three colours; I opted for a classic nude, pinky tone and dark red. Rotating these three has fared me well – I like the shine and knowing my nails are ‘neat’ more than changing colours often. Personally, I have been super impressed with my DIY job, which, by the way, lasts just as long as the salon version. Plus, I get excited when I treat myself and add a new colour to my collection (an individual gel colour is £6), as I recently did with a glittery gold. There is one downside – every time I’m complimented on my nails I can’t help but brag that I do them myself, so I’ve ended up painting my sisters’ and friends' nails quite a few times...
Saving: I estimate the supplies that came with the kit will last about six months (although I obviously won’t need to re-buy the machine itself). Salon gels were costing £308+ a year (see what I mean about seeing it in one lump sum?) so yearly, I’d estimate a saving of £230+.
I had such bad acne as a teen that I ended up taking Roaccutane and although it worked, the acne left me with large red marks and scars. I was so unhappy with my skin that I began salon treatments, namely LED skin rejuvenation light therapy for the marks, and dermarolling for the pitted scars. It helped, but at £50 for a 30-minute session, it was also draining my bank account.
This LED device was the most expensive of my DIY purchases by far, but £140 was akin to just three treatments in salon, and I could use it twice a week. So in cost-per-use, I consider it a worthwhile purchase. Maybe I’m an experimenter at heart, but I was happy to do this at home, possibly because I’d already experienced the treatment. It has definitely reduced the redness and seems to have plumped my skin back up. The LED light triggers the skin’s own collagen and elastin fibres, strengthening them at their deeper layers. Actually, I don’t think I could go back to paying someone to do it for me.
Saving: £30 per month for the facials (after the first month’s £20 jade roller purchase) and £300 for the LED treatments (usually £50 x 6) versus a £140 one-off payment.
I am pale. Very pale. While I’ve embraced it, I do like the glow a spray tan gives you now and then. I never wanted to go from my usual porcelain skin to a deep bronze, so finding a salon that gave me a hint of 'caught the sun in the garden' rather than 'week in Marbella' was tricky. When I did, I rejoiced – but in the name of saving, it had to go.
I wrote off at-home tans long ago; I'm too slapdash with the application and hate smelling like a digestive biscuit. But I was drawn to Isle of Paradise's body positive campaign, as well as the packaging and the fact it’s vegan, organic and cruelty-free. I opted for the Tanning Water in the lightest shade and I also went for the Priming Spray, £14.95, and Magic Self Tan Eraser, £17.95, which made the process feel a little more indulgent than usual. The good news: no awful smell. The great news: I’m a DIY tanning convert.
Saving: £23 initially this month, but £25 per month after the first month’s £52 purchase. These products will last me at least three months.
If you’ve never heard of dermarolling, essentially it’s a small roller with fine needles attached. When rolled over the face, the needles puncture the skin slightly, stimulating it to produce collagen to repair and regenerate. I paid £70 for a 30-minute session (you can find salons on Treatwell) but soon realised I was paying someone to roll a device over my face, which I could easily buy and do myself. You can buy dermarollers cheaply online, in 0.5mm, 1mm or 1.5mm needle sizes. I use 1.5mm now, but if you're a novice, I would start with 0.5mm and work up. It’s also worth buying an alcohol spray to ensure the roller is properly cleaned after each use. I love that after dermarolling, any product you apply is super effective, as it sinks into the skin at a deeper level. I am in no doubt this has completely changed the texture of my skin. My acne scars have almost completely gone. I've gone to the DIY side and I'm never going back.
Saving: £70 per month (after the first month’s roller purchase).
I swapped: A salon fringe trim, typically £8, for a DIY cut. Okay, so here I’m only saving time, as fringe trims at my hairdresser's are actually free.
My hair grows so fast, I need to trim my fringe weekly. But making the trek to the salon every seven days? Ain't nobody got time for that. So rather than reaching for the kitchen scissors and hacking away until I looked like the woman in The Shining, I opted for these £7.99 scissors from Amazon and the gold looks pretty snazzy in my bathroom. Of course, as for everything in this world, there are plenty of YouTube tutorials to help you get it right.
My tips? Always cut your fringe when your hair is dry. Hold the scissors vertically and make little snips into the hair so it falls naturally. Never cut straight across, it’ll look uneven and blunt. As a rule, I never go shorter than half an inch below my eyebrows. You can always trim more off, but can’t add back. Also, once you know where you’re cutting, hold the hair with two fingers away from your face and half close your eyes – you don’t want to accidentally cut your eyelashes.
Saving: Technically nothing because, as I mentioned, my closest salon trims my fringe for free (a handful don't, though). In terms of time? A whole lot.
I actually love my new routine as a one-woman beautician. I am completely sold on my new DIY way of life and I’ve saved time and a whole lot of money – between £400 and £500 this month. Call me lazy, but I don’t miss going to a salon at all. And while I can’t say I’ll never get a treatment ever again, right now I’m all set.