long blonde hair
This has been such a bizarre month of beauty-related highs and lows for me. While I’ve discovered some absolute gems – especially in spa services (hashtag birthday month!) – I have also been dealing with the literal fallout of going to a hairdresser I didn’t know or trust last-minute while in America.

Thankfully, my poor ravaged baby hairs have found solace (and you’ll see how, below)!

Secret Spa
Before my last trip, I had been so busy and running so low on time to pack that I felt incredibly ill-prepared for all that travel entails. I needed to take a moment out. And found that moment with Secret Spa. The mobile beauty service (both available through their app and online) books appointments with elite beauty therapists in the comfort of your home, at a time that works for you, and takes mere seconds to do so.

I booked in with Charlotte – a hair stylist and nail tech – to give me a blow dry and beach-ready pedicure the second after I knew I would finish packing and was successfully prepped – mentally and physically – less than one hour later. With nail, waxing, massage, hair, makeup, facial, spray tan, and even lash treatments available, Secret Spa is a foolproof Uber for beauty junkies.

ChinUp Mask
Suggesting it would erase a double chin in 30 minutes, this product was simply too bizarre not to try. Essentially, ChinUp asks you to measure around your chin, apply a mask, secure it with a terrifying-looking band, wait 30 minutes of skin-tingles, and remove everything to reveal a 2cm loss in chin fat.

It sounds ridiculous…but it works. The mask’s serum boosts collagen (helping to contour), contains Q10 co-enzyme (a strong antioxidant to relief dry, dehydrated skin & stimulate cell renewal), and utilizes active ingredients to help all of its natural plant extracts to sink in and reduce the appearance of fat.

While I very much doubt this is a long-term solution for those of us with proper (non-water retention) double chins, it would be a dream to use in the lead up to a big event, photoshoot, wedding, or – like me – when you’re feeling sick and can’t face your puffy, dehydrated profile in the mirror.

The Moroccan Spa Limited Edition Detox Ritual in Urban Retreat at Harrods
During this treatment, I could not stop thinking I was living out some sort of Jasmine-in-Aladdin dream life.

I mean, Harrods and Urban Retreat tend to make me feel that way on their own but this was different.

In the spa’s hammam, I was sat down to relax and breathe in steam before being taken to my own hammam area for an incredibly indulgent wash and Kessa scrub by the practitioner. Different to a normal ‘spa scrub’, this process is incredibly meditative and thorough, allowing intense oxygenation of the skin, microcirculation of the blood, and a slough of dry skin that you can see and feel immediately.

Completely prepped, my full body was then wrapped – with a special focus on detoxifying energy points – in Rhassoul mud, organic honey, and peppermint oil. With the wrap hard at work, I was then treated to a short facial with the same products and eventually rinsed clean – top to tail – before taking some time to read and drink fresh mint tea in the relaxation area.

It was unadulterated bliss.

My current hair hero products:
Oh Bee Hive by Tigi –
This dry shampoo is my new (and convincingly all-time) favourite. As well as an adorable name and bottle, Oh Bee Hive soaks up excess oil within seconds, leaves no residue, boosts volume, and – most importantly – feels clean.

K-Pak Deep Penetrating Reconstructor by Joico –
Remember my aforementioned hair woes? This has been a lifesaver. This hair mask (‘Reconstructor’) actually uses a combination of amino acids and Joico’s Quadramine Complex (theirr famous protein-stocked repair formula) to genuinely rebuild and fortify damaged locks in as little as five minutes.

I was skeptical to begin with, especially as it smells like a useless bottle of sweet banana heaven, but the results speak for themselves. The longer it’s left, the less breakage I deal with. The more I use it, the less insane my hair texture becomes. I love it.

Toni & Guy Style Fix Curler
The new TONI&GUY Style Fix Stylers are handbag-sized professional styling tools and – unlike ones I’ve trialled previously – are genuinely as good as their full-sized counterparts.

Best of all? Each product (straightener, waver, and curler) is designed to protect your hair & colour as it smoothes with their Ceramic Tourmaline plates and boasts world-wide voltage (is there anything else more travel blogger friendly?). Whether you fancy a spruce up from your gym bag or carry-on, there will be a Style Fix styler perfect for you.

…and last but not least, Live True London (you can thank them for the hair porn, above)
Long-time readers will remember Gro as the salon that made me blonde over two years ago (how time flies!), but may not have yet to hear of Live True London.

The kicker? They’re the same salon.

After a rebrand, Live True have maintained seven kickass hair salons across London and seemed like the perfect place to fix the ongoing fried-hair disaster I was caused months prior in America. The order of the day? Tackle the roots, drown it in Olaplex, chop off the damage, and add a clip-in Lullabellz hair piece to style (don’t worry, you’ll be seeing much more of those in my upcoming 90s Get Ready With Me vlog).

Long story short, Paco Latorre (of Live True London Vauxhall) is a genius. He colour matched the extensions to perfection, added a tonne of life to my hair with Olaplex’s three-step molecular bond-builders, and chopped off enough hair to keep my extension-free mane in recovery without making me cry.

I could not be happier.

beauty favourites january 2017
coffee and hair

dance class london
Y’all know how I feel about dance classes. They are truly the one thing that I can drag myself into a sweat for, bar none, and I do a lot of them. In fact, I’ve spent over 20 hours dancing this month alone and have found so many incredible gems I had to share some of my favourites with you.

So, here they are: the current best dance classes in London

One Day Salsa Masterclass
I’m not sure I had properly considered how much dancing would be done in the seven-hour Salsa Rapido 1-Day Intensive Course, but it is – eponymously – intensive.

The point of the class is to leave with the ability to dance salsa anytime, anywhere – whether it’s your first or fiftieth time doing so. Hence the intensity (but don’t let me scare you off, it is fun as hell and there are two rest breaks in addition to a break for lunch).

The creator and expert of a dance teacher, Alastair Sadler, is a laugh-a-minute and keeps you on your toes from start to finish. Quite literally. These intensive workshops have been 15 years of salsa dancing in the making for him.

Though the spacious basement of Bar Salsa! may welcomes you as – let’s be honest – pretty hopeless, time flies before it bids you adieu when the bar opens to the public, somehow confident enough to dazzle anyone with your one-two-three step.

Do you need a partner? No. (Every leader and followers swaps around during the class to keep everyone learning).
Do you need to have dance experience? No. But it also wasn’t boring for someone with dance experience. There were even a few people who had done the class before and wanted to refine their skills.
Do you need to bring a change of shoes? Absolutely. You’ll thank me later.

Whether you’re prepping for a trip to Cuba or simply want to burn 2000 calories feeling sexy, Salsa Rapido is an absolute must.

Swing dance
If anyone knows anything about Swing Dance, it’s London’s Swing Patrol. The ever-expanding group of swing classes and socials have been the city’s calling card for all things hip and Lindy-hoppy for years; I could hardly pass up their Swing Dance Class for Two steal when I found it on Not On The High Street.

Having already done the salsa masterclass a week prior, the four hour masterclass seemed like a piece of cake. Until I was there. Sweating out of my eyeballs.

Despite its cuteness, swing dance is not a cakewalk. The session introduces you to the six-beat swing, the eight-beat (or Lindy Hop), and the Charleston but – even with fifteen minute breaks between each – takes no prisoners. It is deliriously fun and a HIIT workout for the musically inclined.

Grab your swishiest skirt, best pal, and head out on Swing Patrol. Quick. While you’re trying to secretly become Emma Stone in La La Land…

Last but not least Nonstop Dirty Dancing
…of the non-twerking variety. We’re talking O.G. Baby and Johnny Dirty Dancing. Now at Pineapple Dance Studio.

This was, by far, the most difficult and dancer-friendly class of the three. One for the guys and dolls working towards a body that makes ‘That Lift’ a possibility.

‘Non-stop Dirty Dancing’ is exactly what it says on the tin; constant movement, constant Swayze-worthy tunes, and constant access to the brilliant dance tutelage of Paul Kitson – the first British actor and dancing to play the leading role of Johnny Castle in the original London West-End musical.

Blending salsa (thank you, Alastair!), cha cha, mambo, Latin, jazz, and other iconic moves from the film itself, the class is a treat for superfans and dancers alike.

The class runs every Tuesday at 6pm and, if you feel so inclined, you even have the opportunity to practice The Lift of Dreams before you put yourself – crumpled – in the corner.

(Can you tell I’ve spent my entire life wanting to become Baby?)

budget ski trip
If your bank account isn’t completely cleaned out after Christmas, you might just be thinking of going on a ski trip this winter. Luckily, as the season ‘slows’, there are an abundance of resorts to choose from at the moment; skiers old and new can pick between luxury and basic ski holidays to suit your every need. Gone are the days when skiing was reserved for the super-rich – everyone can do it now that the wider ski holiday market is aware of brilliant but well-priced resorts in Poland, Czech Republic, and Bulgaria (to name only a few convenient to Londoners!).

Am I convincing you as much as I’m convincing myself? I hope so. Skiing is the most relaxing and rewarding sports available adjacent to hot tubs and hot toddys. That is, of course, as long as you remember the essentials…

Prescription Eyewear
If you’re skiing on a budget, you probably won’t be travelling with your own ski gear and will have to rent your equipment; ski boots, skis, helmets… perhaps even your snow-ready outerwear.

While this means great things for luggage space, rented ski goggles will almost definitely not be made for your prescription, so it’s always advisable to bring along your prescription glasses and pop them underneath. In fact,  a nice pair of prescription sunglasses will often become the one thing that make you feel snazzy or “dressed” behind layers of marshmallowed fabric. If you’re looking for something new, online retailers like Red Hot Sunglasses have special deals and sales in the winter to encourage customers, so have a look at their prescription sunglasses collection (I have been swooning over those freaking Clubmasters for about two years, haha). Ski trip or not, it’s a great idea to get your sunglasses in the winter as they’re so much cheaper (and a good pair will always last well through summertime!).

Snow Boots
You’ll obviously get ski boots when you rent your equipment, but you won’t get snow boots, which you’ll need to get around the place when you aren’t skiing. A good pair of hiking boots might do the trick if you already have them; otherwise, make sure to pick up a cheap pair from a trusted retailer (reviews can be a lifesaver in this sense!). If you’re budget focused, it is also a great idea to try on a pair of snow boots in a real-life store before ordering them for less from an online store.

Warm Clothing!
Does it need to be said? Yes. I’ve forgotten a few essentials almost every time I’ve hit the freeze. You should always bring warm clothing with you when you go skiing (and trust me when I tell you that you’ll need more than you think). It’s not enough to bring a few warm jumpers and a decent ski jacket; look to bring all or all of the following items…

– Long underwear
– Thermal base layers
– A tight scarf that is unlikely to blow off you or catch on anything when you’re skiing
– Gloves that will give you a good grip on the ski sticks
– A polo neck
– A back-up scarf when you inevitably lose the first one
– Thermal socks

Note: if you have the option, go for waterproof clothing as the snow will melt on you quicker than you think. The cold water will almost literally chill you to your core if you’re not careful! You’ll probably have a waterproof ski jacket, but waterproof ski trousers are almost more important.

A Smartphone Packed Full of Skiing Apps
There is a plethora of helpful apps built for skiers these days. While you can do a little research before you go and get the right one for you, a few of the best ski apps available include:

Avanet – a great iOS app that focuses on skiing and wilderness safety. It’s a crowd-sourced platform, so users all make an effort to include helpful information for other skiers and snowboarders in their area. The app uses your iPhone’s GPS to tell you if anyone has left advice for a particular area or ski slope.

Snocru – an Android and iOS app that allows you to keep in touch with other skiers at your resort, making it easier for you to keep in touch with other people you’re skiing or snowboarding with as well as meeting new people while you’re out there. The great thing about Snocru is that you can turn your day on the slopes into a competition where you can enter in a series of different statistics which will be compared against your pals.

Ski Tracks is a great app for both iOS and Android. It uses your phone’s GPS to track your skiing sessions and allows you to compare your times against your previous attempts and your friends’. It’s easy to use and it gives you a lot of different metrics about your ski session.

Cheap GoPro Alternatives
This is not an essential (hence its position on this list), but a tough, mounted, waterproof camera is a brilliant gadget to take on any ski trip and while a GoPro is notoriously the best in the bunch, it is by no means the only option out there. A few options that you’ll find below £100 include the Drift Stealth 2, Xiaoyi Yi Action Camera, and Mobius.

(Note: Videos might feel a tad excessive in addition to photos, but you’ll love looking back on them as the years go by!)

That’s all the advice I have time for today, but do send me a tweet if you have any questions (@lelalondon)! Otherwise, have a brilliant time skiing; stay safe, warm, and fill your Instagram feed with snow!

tootoomoo bottomless brunch london
There aren’t many things that can drag me out my negligee and into London’s bitter chill on a Sunday, but Tootoomoo‘s Bottomless Brunch managed to do just that.

In fact, I hauled myself across the river in anticipation of unlimited pan-asian feasting.

Real unlimited. Not asterisked unlimited. Over the weekend, Tootoomoo’s branches offer a bottomless brunch with nothing excluded from the menu. Not cocktails, not sashimi…all inclusive.

It was a dream come true in a city overflowing with bottomless syrupy-sweet ‘champagne’ brunches and sub-par eggs on breads.

At their Lilliputian Islington branch, I took advantage of their Malaysian/Chinese/Japanese/Thai/Vietnamese fusion without reservation; crispy hoisin duck rolls, Shichimi squid, Hamachi sashimi (with kizami wasabi), soft shell crab Maki (with gari, wasabi & soy), duck & watermelon salad, et al.

Though there were a number of authentic-looking noodle and curry dishes available, we couldn’t fathom a single plate more than the ‘nibbles’ we ordered ‘to start’. By the time two or three (or four, ahem) of their killer reposado gold Margaritas get down you, a mock liquid diet of natural frozen yogurt (with unnatural but tequila-demanded Oreo pieces) is about as much as you can handle.

And perhaps an Elderflower Tootoomoo (gin, sparkling elderflower & fresh mint).

If you’re looking for a good time and better-than-good brunching, Tootoomoo’s got you.

tootoomoo bottomless brunch 2
tootoomoo bottomless brunch london
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