Carola Long: 'Beauty treatments are deeply personal – one person’s facelift in a jar can be another person’s snake oil'

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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