Thrifty Living: Save on salon costs with a spot of dye-it-yourself

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The Independent Online

I'll admit, I'm not the first person to have suddenly stopped paying for someone else to dye their hair. Joanna Lumley, for one, never bothers with £80 tints at West End salons. She told me this in an interview, leaving me impressed and also feeling a bit foolish about spending upwards of £20,000 over the years on hair dye. More, if you include highlights.

So, I decided to turn my humble bathroom into a Home Spa. To prepare for it, I stood in front of the hair dye section at Boots. "What do you think of this?" I said to a passing assistant, holding up a box of Chestnut L'Oréal Couleur Experte. On the box the model looked a bit like Joanna Lumley, which I took as a good omen. "Well, what colour's your hair normally?" she asked nervously. "Er, 'Mouse,'" I said. "I'd go for this, then," she replied, waving a box of Iced Meringue Light Iridescent Ash Blonde. "It's what I use. But go easy on the highlights. I give them to my sister." OK. If Iced Meringue is a disaster, I can always go back to Kim, I thought. The kit cost £9.64, reduced to £7.64 on some Boots Saving system.

I continued sourcing ingredients for the Home Spa. I bought a tub of No 7 Restorative Crème for £15.75, which apparently does marvels for your wrinkles. This purchase meant I got a tube of Microdermabrasion Exfoliator, whatever that might be, for a fiver. And for £5 you can't really go far wrong. Then, feeling summery, I went for a tube of Boots Leg Depilation Crème, £4.29, which then meant I got a box of Home Bikini Waxing totally free. I know. Bikini waxing at home. But come on, it was free. Total Home Spa outlay: £32.68.

The great night arrived. Mr Millard was out. The Junior Millards were asleep. I laid out my wares in the bathroom. Humming along to Radio 3 I mixed the Iced Meringue Couleur Experte, wearing what L'Oréal calls Expert Quality Gloves. It looked and smelt professional enough. If Joanna Lumley does this then there is no shame in it, I thought, slopping it over my head. While waiting for the Couleur to get going, I merrily slapped hair removal on my legs. Treating hair, whether removing it or enhancing it, is clearly the basis on which most beauty salons operate. But when you do it at home, working out which bit to colour and which bit to remove, and the bespoke timings therein, is a bit tortuous. You definitely need a clock in your Home Spa. So, off with Radio 3. And on with the Bikini Waxing Kit.

This kit, dear reader, sorts out the Truly Thrifty from the Fair-weather Thrifty. Are you, in essence, brave enough to do your own bikini line? It may well have been a freebie but the instructions on the box take no hostages. "Apply a strip directly onto the skin. Immediately pull strip back very quickly. Do not peel back cautiously." Well, all right then. Goodbye, skin.

After the torture of Boots Bikini Waxing the Couleur Experte "personalised" highlights, with a second pair of Expert Quality Gloves and a Special Precision Brush, was a doddle. I finished off my two-hour experience with a manicure and pedicure, courtesy of some ancient nail varnish discovered at the back of the bathroom cupboard. The Home Spa, I'll admit, now looks somewhat the worse for wear. Splashes of Couleur Experte decorate the walls. Strips of Home Wax litter the floor. Never mind. For a mere £30 my experiment has saved me about £200. As for Iced Meringue, it's a bit more "Warm Toast" than anything else, but frankly after a couple of swims my hair turns this colour anyway, no matter how much I spend on it courtesy of an afternoon in a fancy West End gaff.

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