I’m slightly embarrassed to admit that I’ve only ever let one person colour my hair. In my entire life. And she’s been doing it since I made the move to first get highlights aged 12. She’s wonderful and creates a really natural looking blonde every time (I’m naturally very dark blonde/mousey brown) however she’s also pregnant. In fact, she’s having her baby this month and so will be on maternity leave for the foreseeable future.
I’ve known this for a little while now and with my roots showing, I knew I needed to book up and try somewhere else. As silly as it sounds, it was a big step for me. After all, our hair is often what superficially defines us as women (well, one of the things) and we all have certain things we get used to and like. I booked at a salon in Central London last month but in the days running up, I chickened out. What if they turned my hair orange? Or made it too stripy? Silly worries I know but I bottled it and put up with the roots.
With Fashion Week on the horizon however, I knew I needed to take the plunge (first world problems, I know) and so decided to hunt out the best in the business. And luckily, a little research in the beauty circle revealed just who. Popular for his perfectly natural, yet shiny and expensive colour – Donald Black is known as the ‘Blonde Guru’ among the Chelsea elite. He’s responsible for the majority of the incredible swooshy, glossy highlights you’ll see strutting the streets of Knightsbridge – and has spent 16 years at the renowned Neville Hair and Beauty Salon on Pont Street.
I’d been to Neville Salon before, so it wasn’t completely alien to me – and I think this was a helping hand in encouraging me to go (in addition, of course – to Donald’s online reputation and clientele). Set in the heart of Chelsea, it’s a bustling hub for all things hair – with five floors of mirrors and chairs and a whole host of internationally recognised experts. Popular with magazine editors, celebrities and locals alike, it’s an amazing place to undergo a hair makeover – as you can be rest assured you’re in the best hands possible.
I visited last week for ‘The Chelsea Glow’ – a treatment tailored to each individual, combining highlights with a smudging technique around the hairline – to lift your face and create that shiny, glossy look that is just the ‘epitome of SW3 glamour’.
Upon arrival, I was whisked downstairs to meet Donald – who immediately picked up upon the same hair concerns I had (a little too ‘orange’ in places, which is the darker blonde dye I usually get fading) and set about creating a plan of action. Instantly, I felt reassured and in good hands – with the comfort that we were on completely the same wavelength. He agreed that we’d keep the blonde subtle and natural, with finer, more delicate highlights and a quick paint of the hairline to get all the baby hairs lighter and brighter. Not once did I feel nervous about the outcome, as I knew from the very beginning that we had the same vision (although the results – to follow – were better than I expected).
He worked quickly to disperse two different highlight colours through the roots – avoiding colouring what had already been dyed previously, to minimise damage. This in itself is a massive ‘must’ for me – as I’ve only recently got my hair to a condition I’m really happy with and going over the same parts with bleach can completely exhaust the ends.
All that was left to do was sip my peppermint tea and wait (with a huge pile of magazines). If I’m honest, it felt a bit like being whisked away on a spa weekend – as although the floor was teeming with stylists, everyone was so relaxed and so friendly. You’d imagine a salon in Chelsea to be a little pretentious, if not slightly intimidating – but honestly, everyone was smiling, chatty and totally down to earth, making for a lovely experience.
Soon, it was time for the foils to be taken out and a lighter blonde to be painted gently onto the hairline. Donald only left it on for a minute or two, just enough for it to ‘take’ and lift. Apparently this aspect is key in achieving the Chelsea glow – as it looks far gentler on your facial features and so much brighter and shinier.
My hair was then washed and treated with a masque – before being taken upstairs for my blow dry. The great thing about Neville is that every stylist there has a speciality – and so you’re moved to different chairs depending on what you’re having done. Although I’m sure everyone is fab at all aspects of hair, you’re sent to the expert for the specific treatment you’re having done – and so can be rest assured you’re in great hands each time.
My lovely blow-dry stylist (whose name I completely forgot – but she had GORGEOUS hair – which is always reassuring in itself) recommended I go for ‘beach waves’ almost immediately after stepping into her chair, which for me – was a relief, as I usually never know what sort of look I want to go for and end up asking for just ‘volume’. She made quick and easy work of creating tousled, volumised and shiny curls – showing off the new colour!
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I know to the outsider, it probably doesn’t look overly different (as my dad said – yes ‘it’s still blonde’) but to me, it’s amazing. The stripy-ness has almost completely disappeared and I feel the overall look is much brighter, glossier and more natural looking. The lighter blonde that I previously had running through has been lifted, especially the areas that frame my face – and altogether, this has made an immense amount of difference.
Here’s a little before picture to illustrate what I mean…
Overall, I am so (SO) happy with the result and can’t thank Donald and his team at Neville for recreating that perfect ‘Chelsea Blonde’ on my very own hair. I feel as though it sits a lot better with my skin tone and doesn’t look as harsh when I take my make-up off – which is a bonus on those days where you’re not doing much but still want to look presentable!
Best of all, as an all singing all dancing beauty palace, Neville Salon also offer in house brow, lash and nail treatment (in fact, they even do massages) – which can be done while you’re having your hair done, if you’re in a rush – or slotted in afterwards. I’ve been meaning to get my brows done for several weeks now (they were in that awkward growing out stage) and a quick trip downstairs for a drop-in appointment meant that they were tinted and threaded within 15 minutes.
I suppose the only down side to the whole experience, is the price. The Chelsea Glow starts at £250 and I have longer hair, so inevitably this takes up a little more time. It is expensive, I’m not going to deny that. We don’t all have £250 to splash out for highlights, as much as I’d love to pretend I do. With most Neville clients choosing to top theirs up every 7 or so weeks, it’s an expensive investment. But inevitably, there’s always a price associated with going to the best in the business – and I guess it depends how much you love it. When it comes to hair, I don’t think price should be something you compromise on, as often this can coincide with the quality. However we have to be realistic in terms of what’s feasible. If it’s something you want to look into, I’d wholeheartedly recommend it – especially if you struggle to achieve the ‘perfect blonde’ for you. Maintenance wise, Donald recommend a good conditioner – such as Philip Kingsley’s Elasticizer and regular Olaplex treatments (which I’ve reviewed here).
I left the salon and stepped out onto Pont Street, feeling as though (for the first time in my life) I belonged on the streets of Chelsea – with my new swooshy, glossy locks. After a short stroll however, I was greeted by Knightsbridge Underground Station and firmly brought back to reality. Oh well, a girl can dream. And as Coco Chanel once said, ‘a woman who changes her hair is about to change her life’. We shall see…