Why it pays to follow your beauty therapist (even after they move)

On Saturday I caught the train to Margate. Nothing strange about that you might think. But when I tell you I FOLLOWED ONE OF MY FAVOURITE* HAIRSTYLISTS THERE from where she previously worked in Covent Garden? Ah ha, now there’s the look I was waiting for. Am I mad? Absolutely. Is there logic to my madness? I think so. Allow me to tell you why.

Have you ever taken a punt on a hair salon based entirely on its name (e.g. Aveda, Toni & Guy) only to leave utterly disappointed with the end result? Or perhaps you have had a great experience at a particular salon, returned to accept ‘the next available appointment’ thinking “Everyone who works here surely must work to a similar standard?” only to walk out kicking yourself for not having waited for the original person you saw?

Yup. I’ve experienced both scenarios and more times than I care to remember. Which is why I decided to follow my hairstylist to Margate.


Image of Margate beach featuring two beach huts
Margate Beach


To point out the obvious, the hair on our head is visible at all times (unless part of your ‘look’ is to permanently sport a hat, in which case, I doff my cap to you!).  So when we experience a bad cut or colour** invariably we have little choice but to live with it for several weeks before it can be altered. Nightmare.


Short bob haircut
Cropped bob by Sally circa 2014


I had been going to see Sally on and off at the Aveda Institute in Covent Garden for about five years before she left the salon last summer. It was she who first cut my hair ‘short short’ (a brave move for me at the time) and I was completely in love with the way she cut it.

I remember she gave me her card at my last appointment (which in hindsight was a hint at her forthcoming departure!) and when I was informed by the salon that she had left I immediately emailed her to find out where. She sent me a very sweet reply informing me she had relocated to Margate and was in the process of setting up her own salon (go Sally!). Having had so many great cuts with Sally the thought of never having my hair cut by her again was too much. No surprise then that I quickly found myself googling train fares to Margate.

As it turns out it would cost me the same as I was paying to have my hair cut by Sally at the Aveda institute (an eye watering £86 by the time she left), as it would to pay for a return train ticket to Margate (£30) plus a haircut at her new place (£55). The thought “Why the hell not?!” flashed through my mind and soon enough a return ticket to the seaside had been booked (there’s the madness I mentioned earlier).


Turner Contemporary sign outside the museum in Margate

Outside view of the Turner Contemporary Museum Margate
The Turner Contemporary Museum, Margate

Margate graffitti


What a day I had! Luckily it was gorgeous weather and I decided to catch the early train down. I even managed to do a bit of work on the train which was wonderfully quiet for a Saturday morning. First thing I did in Margate was to pop into the Turner Contemporary Museum en route to Margate Old Town. It is a marvellous building (so much natural light and overlooking the sea!) and the exhibitions are free. By 11:30am I was Hank Marvin’ so quickly convinced myself it would be rude not to have some takeaway fish and chips (‘when in Rome’).  A potter around town, a bit of people watching, some graffiti snapping and the most amazing turmeric smoothie later I arrived at Sally’s new salon slightly panicked that she would think it utterly bizarre of me to have traveled all that way to see her. She was lovely and welcoming and the comfort I had from knowing I would walk out feeling fabulous made me enjoy the experience all the more.

A good hair cut comprises many things, from the ambience inside the salon to the way they shampoo your hair to the crunch of the biscuit they serve with your coffee. But I would argue at least 90% of what defines a good hair cut is the cut itself. Of course a relaxing or enjoyable salon experience certainly makes a big difference but I find the experience soon dissipates into nothing if the cut isn’t good. I would much rather have a brilliant cut in a no-frills salon than leave an incredible salon with lack-lustre feelings for my new ‘do’. Haircuts generally aren’t cheap either and this is our hard-earned moolah we’re talking about so satisfaction of the cut is paramount.

As it turns out Sally was just as good as I remembered and her new salon Stirling Margate (do check out their instagram) a pleasure to visit. The salon is actually situated upstairs in a corner of a new hipster joint which also comprises a too-cool-for-school cafe, a vinyl record shop and a yoga studio (I did not feel cool enough to be there but loved hanging out among the hipsters!).


A sneaky peak inside Stirling Margate (I loved the fact the wall you see here is genuinely ‘distressed’ and has not been made to look like that)


Natalie James sporting a new hair cut and blonde colour
Smug selfie on the train home (standard)


Natalie James laughing in back of cab, delighted with new hair cut and colour
Laughing with the local cabbie on the way back to the station


And it is not just hair stylists I have stalked, ahem, followed after they have moved on. After Maria left Chantecaille to go work in the Health Spa at Claridge’s I tracked her down and ended up having the best facial of my life. I have also been known to follow brilliant manicurists and even refuse appointments unless I can be seen by a particular person (they must love it when I call 😉

Having said all of that, I also acknowledge there is a practical side to following someone who provides an excellent service and some moves make it simply impossible for us to follow our favourite therapists (flights to Australia, for example, are increasingly prohibitive). There is also something quite exciting about ‘trialling’ out a new person. Ah, the hope and expectation we feel as we sit in their chair/lie on their massage table, that they just might be brilliant and do exactly as we have asked, or better it! But it is a gamble and having spent a small fortune on treatments that were quite frankly under par, I suspect I shall be stalking the favourites in my Little Black Book for a long time to come.

A hair cut with Sally costs £55.00. I also had all over balayage with colourist Keziah (£100.00).


Instagram: @stirlingmargate


* When I am not having my hair cut with Sally I go to my other favourite hairstylist, the gorgeous William Hunt  (Will’s insta: @williamhunthair). You can book an appointment with Will at Gielly Green salon, George Street, Marylebone (the hair washing experience at Gielly Green is TO DIE FOR and Will never fails to make me feel utterly glam).

**Bad colour jobs can usually be rectified then and there. If the hair is too weak post colouring the colourist may advise you to wait a little before having it done again but in any case it very much depends on the salon, their policy and their ability to get you back in quickly!

Image credits: all my own, papped hurriedly on an iPhone 7.

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