experienced gifted for review
I often get very generous invites to come and review salons, spa’s and beauty treatments, which is of course a very nice (and welcome) perk of this job. But quite often they’re not offering a treatment I’m not looking to have (I get lots of emails about botox, fillers but I just know it’d go wrong if I ever dared to fake youth or plumpness etc) or they are an establishment that uses products known to be non cruelty-free. I was ecstatic to receive an invite to investigate GA Luxury Hair salons (with 100% Organic colour and treatment blends by Gennaro Dell’Aquila), and even more thrilled when I found out they have a salon in Wimbledon.
As you know I’ve just moved into my first home and life has been the most chaotic, unstructured, and expensive it has ever been, so it was a massive bonus that my journey would be a much easier half hour trip and saved me heading to the depths of London Underground and adding to the stress that is already overwhelming my body. For those who live in London or who are there a lot for work/pleasure there is a salon in picturesque Notting Hill too though.
For the last few months I’ve been looking to save money where possible, even a minuscule flat is expensive to do up, let alone run, so I have been getting my hair cut and coloured by some lovely trainees who are using my mane to hone their skills with the foils and scissors. I’ve been very grateful that this is something I can do to maintain my beachy hair and chin length bob, but I guess you do inevitably miss out a bit on that proper luxury ‘salon’ experience when you are there as a mannequin of sorts – it also takes a lot longer because they’re still learning of course.
As I headed to the GA salon a few days prior to my stint presenting for Download Festival I was hoping to get my roots touched up so that my overall look was a bright (rootless) beachy blonde. I wanted it look fresh on camera and give myself some extra confidence…I need all I can get ahead of scary work bookings like this.
When I arrived at the salon, nestled at the end of a row of shops in Wimbledon Park, I was surprised at how compact it was. I don’t mean this negatively either, it was wonderfully bijou and intimate and I was greeted by lots of smiles and beautiful lyrical accents. It wasn’t long before I could sense this was going to be a very different experience to other salons I’ve reviewed.
Over the years I’ve been lucky enough to have my hair done by Nicky Clarke, Daniel Galvin Jnr and Adam Read and once with the legendary Trevor Sorbie overseeing. Back then I was reviewing the experience from the angle of looking purely at the results – how happy I was with the finished look – and how luxurious the overall experience was. These days I am more focused on the process, and how I get to those ends results. Is it kind to the hair? Is it cruelty-free or natural? Do they care about their impact on the planet? Do I feel relaxed in the environment and confident in the salon’s expertise? Will it be easy and cost effective for me to maintain?
My original blonde before Sara calmed it down. First stage of cut done though.
Not long after sitting in the chair with Sara and discussing what I was hoping for from the end look, my initial plans were derailed. I have to admit that initially I felt a bit disappointed that I’d have to accept that I would be leaving the salon dissatisfied and without the bright blonde locks I was after. But the longer she explained and as soon as she kicked off the process I became confident I had made the right decision to say ‘I trust you’ and ‘do what you think’s right’. She had suggested that rather than get my hair highlighted blonde so that none of my root regrowth showed, we should instead add some of my base colour to the root in blended fashion. She said mine is naturally a lovely gold colour so it’’d be nice to showcase it. This would rid me of the existing harsh line of regrowth but also prevent it from showing itself a few months after my trip to GA. She said we’d check it further down the process, but that she didn’t think there would be any need to add any more bleach/highlights into the hair as this new technique and choppier cut would make the existing blonde pop more. Not only would my strands be celebrating the lack of chemicals and exist healthier as a result, it would take less time on thes occasion, and would mean I wouldn’t have to return to a salon for 3/4 months. Sara insisted that it would deliver a more natural and complimentary result and be far easier to maintain, particularly once she’s gadded in some helpful layers to the bob. This discussion with Sara really backed up the stated ethos of GA Salons who ‘believe in creating beauty through nature.’ On their website they express that their ‘sole aim is to guide our clients on a journey to rediscovering their natural beauty.’
Talking of the cut. I’ve absolutely loved going short since I dared to go for the chop last year. I have no desire to go back to my under-boob length hair. Even with my low maintenance approach to grooming it was a bit of a pain. I love that I can pretty much wake up and go, after I’ve sorted out my tired face of course. However, my hair can have a tendency to get big and boxy… a bit like lego hair. It’s thick so just loves to dart out from my head like a mushroom or lampshade, unless I tame it with my GHD’s and create my go-to beach waves. She knew straight she wanted to cut into it and give it some movement and take away some of that hefty weight. I said that’s absolutely fine as long as we can still achieve big hair. I’m a child of the eighties who grew up on Whitesnake videos, big hair is in my DNA!!
With a bob there is a danger as it can be ageing. It’s well known that a lot of people go shorter as they get older. I guess as responsibility increases and spare time reduces, people are looking for fuss-free hairstyles. But perhaps the long hair also represents a part of their life they feel distant from (or at least want to distance themselves from). Sometimes we go for cuts to signal a new era or display some sort of defiance and empowerment too. It can look a bit mummy or “teachery’ as my partner says if it just hangs rather than having a style, so Sara offered to turn it into an angled bob as well as putting in the much needed layers. This is something I’ve asked for previously at salons and for some reason it’s always ended up pretty much the same length so I was happy when Sara suggested we go quite far up the neck at the back so a noticeable slant would be created. I also know I find the back of women’s neck’s a very sexy area, so I was happy that I would be able to showcase mine even if it meant I’d have to be a bit more thorough with my shower scrubbing moving forward. No one wants to see a dirty neck, that would immediately distinguish any sexy points gained by it’s new exposure.
The first part of the process was applying that base gold brown colour to my roots. This was when Sara’s creativity was really showcased and I realised just how special this salon is. The way she applied this bespoke natural colour it was like I was sitting there as a blank or unfinished canvas or sculpture. It wasn’t like she was merely following the steps and the ‘how tos’, there was something very free and instinctive about the way she applied the dye. She appeared to be doing it using her artistic eye and not following ‘the rules’ , and although I’m sure she was still adhering to them, it didn’t feel like they were being followed in a way that meant there was no flair or individuality to the process. Even the way the foils were added was very different to what I’m used to. Usually it’s folded in regimented fashion – it always looks ridiculous of course – but this time I resembled someone that had been missing in the outback for six months who has met some aliens from space whilst lost in the wilderness.
While we waited for that colour to take (which wasn’t long) I was asked more than once if I needed refreshments and given some mags which enabled me to catch up on all the pointless celeb goss I love to absorb given the opportunity. Once it was tike to rinse off we were taken downstairs to the basin. The fantastic interior design carrying through to the lower level, with distressed concrete walls, statement industrial lighting and chic mid century chairs. If you’re lucky you can grab a cute view of the cat that often resides in the courtyard which is in full view from your reclining chair by the sinks.
I couldn’t tell at that point whether it was looking good, when it’s wet my hair looks pretty dark and I was worried that the applied gold base colour may have dulled my hair somewhat, but Sara already seemed very pleased with the results which gave me more confidence. Once it was dried I could see that she had delivered the promised natural beachy look, and I really did look like a natural blonde who had been travelling and achieved that effortless sun bleached look. That harsh regrowth line has been artfully blended too, so I no longer looked like someone that has to regularly sit in a salon chair to achieve this boho bleached look.
Next up I was treated to one of their herbal hair treatments. To create the unique concoction, that Sara felt my hair needed, she headed to the herb/spice kitchen area where the natural ingredients are displayed in a way you could imagine a chef would make an incredible curry if he was allowed access. I loved being able to see these hair witches ( I mean this is the nicest possible way) create their special magicl hair tonic just for me. When it went on I looked like I’d had a clumsy moment in the Download mud I’ve just flee’d from, but Sara attempted to make it prettier by placing a magenta flower in the centre of the swirled bun she had created with my hair that was smothered in this sticky herbal mud. The aroma radiating from my head was incredible, so I didn’t mind that it looked like I’d fallen into a foul smelling bog.
Once it was washed off and my hair dried I could see that it was gloriously shiny and looked like the moisture had been put back it. I could also see the new and improved colour in all it’s glory too. The more blended, less stark blonde really did suit me better and I’m so glad I listened to this particular expert because she was bang on with her advice. Sometimes it’s not as simple as brighter is better. It’s about doing it right. Past hair disasters have made me hesitant to listen advice offered at salon, but Sara seemed so knowledgeable and passionate about the craft of hair colouring that I was actually swayed fairly swiftly.
Once some final touches were done to the cut, using those thinning scissors which scare the life out of me (it always looks like they’re removing so much hair even when they’re not), I was feeling thrilled with my new look. Watching Sara during this part of the cut really reminded me of that scene in Edward Scissorhands when he’s shaping those bushes and all the fawning neighbours are watching his genius at work. Even before the waves were put it the bob was just hanging so much better. No teacher/mum vibes, but a cooler and edgier bob with some energy and movement to it.
The next revelation was the technique Sara used to create my trademark tousled finish. No damaging straightners or tongs, she just used a brush and a hairdryer. I’m aware people can create volume and tucked under tresses with a brush, but I didn’t know you could create such great waves like this. I felt like I was privy to quite the masterclass although I knew I’d struggle to do this myself and resort to my trusty GHD’s.
As I’ve already said, I was absolutely thrilled with the results of my colour reconstruction, bespoke hand mixed herbal treatment and angled bob cut, but it was so nice to see how much pleasure Sara got from her work too. You could tell this was a salon full of artists and creatives, who have a genuine passion for hair and beauty.
I feel like finding a salon like this is similar to that eureka moment when you finally find the elusive perfect pair of jeans. This was a great fit for me and these people feel like my ‘tribe’. The ethos of the salon aligns with everything I’m trying to do or adapt in my life and shows that you can have incredible results while having a conscious. Of course they do also offer a wide range of treatments to suit their clients desires, but will always encourage and help them to gradually move away from chemical processes, and embrace natural alternatives. For people who are pregnant undergoing treatments such as chemotherapy or have skin allergies/sensitive skin this place is a godsend. As someone who used to have very severe allergies to many things near my skin, I wish I had known about destinations like this years ago.
A week and a half one from my cut and some lovely compliments later I’m still just as chuffed with my new do. Even on those unwashed days, or trips out the house where I’m caught in drizzle, the hair manages to kinda work and do it’s thing. Having the longer length at the front and the addition of layers has meant that it finds a way of sitting okay even without any management on my part. Sara was right about the colour too. The blonde now stands out and the any new root coming through isn’t going to bother me for a while.
Next time I get to visit I might go for what the other, far fancier lady in the salon was having before a swanky event she was attending where she would be mingling with lots of celebs and supercars. While her hair was being coloured and cut by the award winning stylist and owner Gennaro Dell’Aquila, her nails were given a gold flourish by Inna.
I really hope this review has urged you to give this wonderful salon a try. I know the media and people like myself are talking a lot about cruelty-free, natural, and kinder alternatives right now and sometimes it can make everyday decisions feel a bit overwhelming (and occasionally judged) but little changes like this can really make a difference and they really doesn’t require you to make any sacrifices.
Thanks so much for having me GA Salons, I can’t wait to languish in your fresh herb and spice magic again.