Grazia's Angela Buttolph, Tor Cardona and Zoe Beaty test the Blow LTD 'fast beauty' bar
Like a lot of great ideas, the fast beauty concept came from a genuine need. ‘Fast beauty bars: it’s about time. Or should I say it’s about lack of time?’ says Ruth Crilly model, beauty obsessive and founder of www.amodelrecommends.com. ‘Because who has four hours to sit and have a full-on pampering session these days? Crack the whip, that’s what I say – same results, tenth of the time. I can’t think why it has taken so long for this trend to emerge from the States but thank goodness it has.’
The whole trend for fast beauty bars is based on that irritation we’ve all felt trying to coordinate booking nail and hair appointments. And at as little as one hour for a wash and blow-dry, make-up and manicure, these bars are the answer to a busy woman’s prayers. Everything comes from the point of view: ‘What’s the fastest possible time to get ready?’ without compromising the quality. ‘We wanted to make beauty a convenience,’ says Fiona McIntosh, the woman behind Blow Ltd (and former Grazia editor and columnist).
What's on the menu?
Blow Ltd’s minimalist, monochrome space is set up like a New York cafe, only it’s fast beauty on offer, not fast food. The simple menu board on the wall is illustrated with photographs of the different looks available, allowing clients to personalise their order from the fixed-price services on offer. Like Hershesons, there’s a menu of hairstyles, from the Beach Blow: ‘tousled waves for girls who don’t want to look too done’; to the City Blow: ‘a sleek American classic, dried smooth, gently-curled under and immaculately finished’.
Each style takes 30 minutes and costs £25. Zoe Irwin, an award-winning session stylist with an A-list clientele from Little Mix to Missy Elliot, has been drafted in to train the team – so no matter how long or thick your hair is, you can still get a deluxe blow-dry in 30 minutes. There are three make-up looks, designed by Swedish beauty supremo Linda Andersson (known for her catwalk work for Oscar de la Renta and Richard Nicoll), to choose from: Day has ‘primed, radiant skin, a natural make-up’; Evening is ‘smoky eyes, polished skin, tinted lips’ and Party has ‘metallic eyes, photo-ready skin and a bold, statement lip’. Each look offers a modern take on what most women want, takes 15 minutes and costs £15. Finally, there are three nail looks, with polishes from Leighton Denny and Essie, costing £15 for 15 minutes. Natural will ‘find the perfect nude polish for your skin’, Party is 'a reverse French Mini with a sparkly tip', and On-Trend uses new season colours.
In keeping with the whole fast beauty trend, there’s also a ‘takeaway’ aspect to the concept with a selection of gorgeous beauty goodies to buy – all partly selected for their multi-tasking, time-saving benefits. Blow Ltd also has communal tables for friends to come in and try products ‘with no pressure to buy – in a fun, relaxed environment’. Their website offers the same products and more plus a blog featuring posts from industry experts and How To video clips so you can recreate the salon looks at home. All these new fast beauty bars offer an obvious lifeline for those tricky special occasions; the last-minute date, the super-stylish wedding, the Christmas party. But can they really deliver on the fast beauty promise?
‘This is about guaranteeing that we can get it done,’ insists Fiona, whose staff have just spent weeks at a beauty ‘boot camp’. ‘It’s just about practice; doing it well and to speed.’ Market research certainly shows why this trend is emerging – among 20-somethings in particular there is an extraordinary desire to look good, especially on the dating scene. But Fiona, who is now ‘well into my 40s’, says there’s always pressure of some kind. ‘Not just to look more youthful,’ she says, ‘but to look presentable for work. The good thing about this is it’s not about having horrible injections, it’s an instant shot of confidence.’
1. Zoe Beaty
Event: fashion party. ‘I’m hoping for a new look.’
Hair: Halo Blow ’n’ Braid.
‘My hair is always down.The menu made it easy to try something new. I’d never be able to do this, so it’s a treat – perfect for a party.’ Nails: ‘The shade is fun – green with a purple hue, almost metallic – and edgy, but it will still go with lots so I can change my outfit!’ Make-up: Party. ‘The statement lip is great, I love this matte bold shade by Lord & Berry. I wasn’t sure about glittery eye shadow but I trusted the make-up artist and it really worked.This would be a great look for Christmas parties.’
2. Tor Cardona
Event: date night. ‘I want to look chic for a dinner date at a cool new restaurant.’
Hair: Blow Up.
‘I always look at up-dos in magazines and on the red carpet, so it was brilliant to have this done in just 25 minutes. It’s really cool to have so many looks to choose from. It makes it easy to try something new out.’ Make-Up:Evening. ‘I like the smoky eye but wouldn’t be confident enough to do it myself, so this was great. The Laura Mercier tinted moisturiser was amazing – it gave good coverage and a dewy skin. And I loved the Eyeko mascara – it had a great brush which really helped create some serious lashes. I felt very sexy.’
3. Angela Buttolph
Event: ‘I’m hosting a beauty bloggers’ talk at the Apple store, so I want to look sleek but modern.’
Hair: Power Blow
‘Now I’ve got a baby, it’s impossible to give my hair this much attention at home, but I still need to look polished for work. I’d definitely use this service again.This is a classic blow-dry; super-shiny with a sexy side sweep; what’s not to like?’ Make-Up: Day. ‘I wanted something that looked understated and natural. I loved the unblended eyeliner for soft definition and matching coral cheeks and lips from the Ilia multi-stick (£30) that was used; I was really glowing.’
Book and buy the looks at blowltd.com or call 020 7240 7987 to book an appointment.