When we're busy, beauty routines can often boil down to applying blusher at the bus stop or simply feeling smug about not sleeping in our make-up. So the idea of an entire day devoted to beautification and self-indulgence is pretty appealing. But how best to spend that day?

That was the question posed by The Independent's charity auction, and the prize of a day's beauty treatments. When it came to arranging eight hours of pampering for Val and Christine, the two charming women whose partners had bid for the day, I aimed for treatments that either I or friends and colleagues had tested, and offered gentle improvement rather than harsh processes.

Beauty treatments and products are deeply personal – one person's facelift in a jar is another's snake oil – which is why buying them as a surprise for someone isn't easy. But everything mentioned here should suit almost anyone.

The English Rose treatment at the Intercontinental Hotel on Park Lane (£180 for two hours, 020-7318 8691), which includes a hot stone massage and Elemis Visible Brilliance facial, left Val's complexion plump and clear, and the Eve Lom facial at Spa NK, which includes lymphatic massage and acupressure (£120 for an hour and a half, spacenk.co.uk), did the same for Christine without irritating her sensitive skin.

After a Spa NK pedicure for Christine – and an excellent lunch in the Parlour at Sketch – the next stop was the Daniel Hersheson salon on Conduit Street (danielhersheson.com). These guys are brilliant at creating expensive looking hair and they also do a mean eyebrow tint, which framed Val's face beautifully.

Sitting in on Val and Christine's make-up lessons taught me some new tricks. Professional artist Lauren Hersheson (whose sessions cost £150) introduced Christine to a brilliant concealer – Armani's Master Corrector (£23, 020-7318 2486), which hides redness very effectively. Meanwhile, the Bobbi Brown make-up artists at Fenwick showed Val that smoky eyes can be easy, especially using their idiot-proof Long Wear Gel Eyeliner (£15, bobbibrown.co.uk).

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