Parabens - do you really know the truth?

You're looking to purchase some skincare products and it's down to two - one states that it is "Paraben Free!"...the other, does not.

Which one do you buy?

Like most people, you're probably more likely to buy the first one - the one that contains no parabens whatsoever.  But do you know why?

I know a lot of people who stay away from these ingredients but when I ask them why, they can't give me an answer - "because they're bad for you, right?"  But do you even know what parabens are?

Firstly, let's answer that question -

Dr Philippa Darbre

Dr Philippa Darbre

Parabens are preservatives used in different cosmetic, pharmaceutical and even some food products to inhibit the growth of fungus and moulds, keeping the product stable and giving it a good shelf life.  The four most common parabens used in cosmetic products are methylparaben, ethylparaben, butylparaben, and propylparaben.

So what's the big deal?

Back in 2004, a report was published by a Dr Philippa Darbre (in the Journal of Applied Toxicology), which examined breast tumour tissue in 20 (yes, only 20) people - and parabens were seen to be present.  This started a huge media frenzy in which people took it out of context, and started claiming that parabens had oestrogenic properties (increased amounts of oestrogen has been shown to play a part in the development of breast cancer) and should be avoided as "parabens cause breast cancer".

This information got back to Dr Darbre who, just a few months later, published a report stating that nowhere did she infer this - she simply stated the presence of parabens in the tissue, but had never inferred that this was in fact the cause of the breast tumours.  In fact, she said the parabens could have been present from a number of things (like I said before, some foods contain it, and even some toothpastes) and could not be linked to the cause of the tumours themselves.  It simply had not been proven that the tumours were present due to the parabens in the underarm deodorant.

In fact, in a peer review (a review in which scientists determine if it is legitimate science) of the original study by Dr Darbre, they found that the sample size was too small and there was no control group.

So, DO parabens have oestrogenic properties?

Dr Diana Howard of Dermalogica

Dr Diana Howard of Dermalogica

In a review of the oestrogen-like activity of parabens, (Golden et al., in Critical Reviews in Toxicology, 2005) the authors concluded that based on daily exposure estimates, "it is biologically implausible that parabens could increase the risk of any oestrogen-mediated endpoint, including effects on the male reproductive tract or breast cancer".

Interesting, right?

Dr Diana Howard is the vice president of research and development at Dermalogica, and in her position not only researches and develops all of Dermalogica's products, but her and her team also research for Dermalogica's curriculum for training skin therapists - I've had the pleasure of meeting her a couple of times (and a very nice lady she is!).

Dr Howard says "I still think parabens are one of the best preservatives that can be used - they are the least toxic.  The amount used in cosmetics is so low and small."  It's kind of like avoiding going outside in case you get hit by a car!

However, because of such a huge backlash from the media and such a bad name that parabens now have, consumers are looking to avoid these ingredients, and so more and more companies are finding ways to remove parabens from their formulations, whilst keeping the product preserved and safe to use.  So whilst back in the day Dermalogica did use parabens in their products, over the years they have fazed them out, and to date only TWO of their priducts still contain parabens - Soothing Eye Make Up Remover and Special Cleansing Gel.  According to Dermalogica, it is an "ongoing reformulation of the line to make it completely paraben-free", which is in a "progressive stage". we use parabens at Utopia?

Quite simply, not if we don't have to.

Because it is such a sore topic with consumers, we do look to use products in the salon which do not contain them.  Apart from the two products listed above, none of the other products we use in our treatments contain them.  Consumers these days are led so fiercely by the media that it is important to us to use ingredients and products that our clients want.

So there you have it - a bigger picture, but one that we understand people still have concerns over.  I hope I've helped to shed some light on the subject!  I am a self-confessed product snob (anyone who knows me will tell you that!) so I find these things super interesting - after all, we want to know what we're putting on our skin, right?

Nikki x

Baby Boom

It's March and I haven't written on here in a while...oops.  We have been busy at the salon and it has simply slipped my mind (we'll blame the baby brain!).

As most of you by now know, I am expecting my first baby in May (only 9 weeks to go!), which is incredibly exciting - if not a little daunting.  And it seems there's a bit of a baby boom at the moment, as I know of a lot of women also expecting, due to pop around May and June! 

So with this in mind, I thought it would be a good opportunity to talk through which treatments are suitable during pregnancy, and those that are not.  I'll talk about how treatments can be adapted, at what times they are suitable to have, and if not suitable at all...the reasons why!

Before I start, I would like to point out that the following advice is based purely on the training we have received for the treatments on offer at Utopia, and what our insurance company stipulates in our policy with them.  So please be aware that this may differ from salon to salon (or spa to spa!).

So we'll start with a popular one:  Waxing.

We often get asked by clients if waxing is suitable during pregnancy, and the simple answer is YES!  Right from day one of your pregnancy waxing is completely safe to carry out, and can be done right up until the birth.  Some may feel more comfortable waiting until the first 12 weeks have passed, when you reach the so-called 'safe zone', but that is purely a decision for you to make.

We are insured to carry out these treatments all the way through, and can tell you it is perfectly safe to do so.  As your pregnancy progresses there may be some changes we have to make to the way the treatment is carried out to ensure a comfortable and safe treatment for you both, and all of the wax and products used in these treatments are safe to use when pregnant.

As the bump grows, certain positions won't be possible - for example lifting the legs to the chest for a bikini wax, or laying on your front for us to get to the back of the legs.  But rest assured, we know all the correct and safe positions to assist you in to enable us to reach all the same areas as normal.  And once we know you are pregnant, we will also lift the back of the couch up so you never lay flat (as per recommendations).

The same all applies to threading!

Skin Treatments

These can be safe to have, depending on the type you are looking at having.

Our DermaCo Pro treatments (think Microdermabrasion and Bio-Lift) are a big no-no throughout the whole of pregnancy, as not only does this include micro-current (so a tiny electrical current), the skin during pregnancy can become much more sensitised, so this simply would not be suitable.  We may only be treating the face, but that tiny electrical current will also affect the body slightly, so we don't want to harm baby in any way!

However, our Dermalogica Skin Treatments are a different matter - perfectly safe to have throughout all stages of pregnancy, just perhaps slightly modified if need be.  All of our therapists who perform these treatments on clients have undergone intensive training with Dermalogica and are either Dermalogica Certified, Specialist or Expert level.  We are all trained to know which ingredients are best to avoid when pregnant and nursing, and therefore what products should be avoided during these treatments.  We can also advise you on what to use at home, so you know everything is safe to use.

We know how to Face Map (analyse) the skin and what to look out for, so to avoid causing any sensitivity during the treatment - as mentioned above, the skin can become more sensitised throughout pregnancy and nursing.

Our Hydrotherm cushions (which we use for all Dermalogica Skin Treatments) are set only to body temperature, and no higher, and the back of the couch raised to avoid you laying flat on your back.  We also have a comfortable bolster under the knees, so your lower back is fully supported throughout.

Body Treatments

Although the products used in these treatments are safe to use whilst pregnant, due to the nature of the treatments and the client having to turn and lay on their front, we wouldn't advise these throughout.  It's not the same laying on your side, and we can't treat the skin in the same way we would be able to with you on your back!


Now this is a yes, and a no.

We offer the Hydrotherm during pregnancy massage, which is perfectly safe to have from 12 weeks.  Because the treatment is stimulating (10x more than a standard Swedish, in fact), we wouldn't advise this before the 12 week period is up (and our insurance wouldn't cover us for this either, for the same reason) - however, really this is just a precaution.  The treatment would probably be safe to have right from the start, but we feel it's best to wait until that 'safe period' before performing any massage treatments on a pregnant client.

All therapists who carry out this treatment have undergone training in the Hydrotherm system, and have worked their way up to the level in which they can be trained in pregnancy massage (either completing both the foundation and tranquil sea training, or the foundation, advanced training and tranquil sea training first, completing either 12 or 24 case studies). 

We will ask you to fill out a specialised consultation form for this one (rather than our more standard ones) so we can be sure everything is safe to proceed with treatment, and are able to advise if we need further consent from a GP or midwife if there is a medical complication we feel needs checking.

As with the skin treatments, the Hydrotherm cushions are heated only to body temperature - and no higher - and the back of the couch raised slightly so you're not laying flat on your back, and no essential oils will be used.  We also use the bolster under the knees, to support the lower back.

The warm water (which feels amazing, by the way!) not only supports the body in every way, but provides the perfect setting for the therapist to slide their hands under and around the body, reaching all the same places we would in a standard Swedish massage, without the need for you to lay on your front at all.  It's incredibly comfortable, nurturing, and very supportive for the body.

Just remember to specifically book for a pregnancy massage, as not all of our therapists are currently trained.

As for Indian Head massage, this is also suitable from 12 weeks of pregnancy, however the treatment would be much more gentle and not so vigorous, and no essential oils would be used.  The couch will be set up in exactly the same way (if you opt for the adapted version!).

As for our other massage treatments - La Stone, and all Germaine De Capuccini Spa Rituals - these would not be advisable during pregnancy, due to the ingredients used in the products, the need for you to lay on your front, and the heat used (higher than body temperature).

Lash and Brow Treatments

Now these differ, depending on which one you have, so we'll answer this separately:

Lash and Brow Tinting:  at Utopia, our insurance allows us to carry out tinting on pregnant clients, providing an up-to-date patch test has been carried out before every tinting treatment. We would also recommend this patch test be carried out no sooner than 48hours beforehand, to keep it as close to the treatment as possible.  Some clients feel they would rather wait until baby arrives, and that is fine - whatever you feel comfortable with.

LVL Enhance:  This, however, is not suitable during pregnancy (or nursing), as there are many more products used in which could cause a potential reaction.  The manufacturer's guidelines are to avoid having this done, which means our insurance will not cover us to carry this out on a pregnant client. Boo!

HD Brows:  This one can be done, but without the tint - the manufacturer's guidelines are to avoid the tinting stage, so we have to stick by that rule.  But there are plenty of other options regarding the finishing of the treatment and home products to get that freshly tinted look!


Although the piercing itself causes no harm to the baby, the general rule is to avoid anything like this whilst pregnant or nursing - the main reason being that if any infection were to set in, you'd be restricted with what medications you could take to help clear it up.  The manufacturer does not advise it, and so we are not insured to carry it out.

Nail Treatments

At Utopia, all of our nail treatments are perfectly safe to have right through the 9 months of pregnancy - at any stage.

All of our products are 10-free (meaning no harmful or nasty chemicals), and contain no parabens.  Our lacquering gel is also TPO free, so you can be sure to know that everything is completely safe to use and gentle on the nails too!


So there you have it - a round up of what's suitable and what's not - so get booking, and enjoy!

Nikki x

Another New Year

Well...2016 is now over and it's the start of a brand new year.  Didn't it go quickly!

I have been a little quiet on here recently, as there have been many business and personal things going on in my life that quite simply, have taken over!  But firstly I would like to say 'Happy New Year' to everyone and hopefully, you all had a lovely relaxing Christmas, as I did?

As you know we always shut down over Christmas and New Year, re-opening on 4th Jan.  To me, this is important to give our girls the well deserved rest they need after a flippin' busy month running up to Christmas!  This job can be very tiring and I feel a complete shut down is necessary for everyone to re-charge and be ready for the new year!

Christmas for me was filled with quality family time and basically doing...nothing.  Lie-ins, good food, a few films and plenty of board games.  Perfect!  I hope you all did something similar?!  New Year was much quieter - seeing it in with family and enjoying spending time together. 

Now that, sadly, all that is over - it's back to normal and back to work.

January and February are usually a little quieter for us, but provides us with the perfect time to brush up on any training.  With Georgina and Jasmine newer to the Utopia team, they've a little to catch up on, so expect to see some offers coming your way while they perfect their new skills.  Sammy has just completed her pregnancy massage training, which will certainly help us keep on top of those mums'-to-be!

And talking of expectant case you hadn't yet heard, I am expecting a little one of my own :)  So now that my bump has finally started to emerge (perhaps the Christmas food helped a little....), I will be starting to wind down on my treatments to get everything in place for when I start my maternity leave in April/May time.  I have a lot to get ready in the salon, and lots of training to sort out for the girls so that everything is taken care of when I go, so you may see me downstairs a little more than usual!

January kicked off to a good start with the launch of the new Dermalogica Daily Superfoliant - an amazing new exfoliator designed to help smooth away skin-ageing pollution.  We are all in love, and if you like the Daily Microfoliant, I can guarantee you will LOVE the Superfoliant even more!  If you haven't heard about this fantastic new product yet, you can catch up here.

This year will also see a few products being discontinued from the Dermalogica line, to make way for all the exciting things they have lined up for the coming months....but don't fret, we can let you know which ones we'll be losing and which alternative products you can use instead. Michelle is set to become a Dermalogica Expert in February, and Sammy is well on her way!  Georgina and Jasmine will be completing their initial training with Dermalogica in the next couple of months, so they'll have a bit of catching up to do - but it's a good place to start.

So I will leave it there for now - keep your eye out for any promotions and I will continue to update you all on everything Utopia .

Nikki x

Maintaining the 'Brow' Factor

When asked by a University student if I would consider writing an article on brow maintenance, I jumped at the chance.

I had been uploading photographs to Utopia's Instagram Page of the recent HD Brow Session I had held at Abingdon and Witney College, when Zoe contacted me.

A student of Liverpool University, she was putting together a magazine for her final year dissertation, wanting to feature an article on the best way of maintaining brows between appointments. 

The questions set to me were these:

  • First of all, what is the process you go through? Waxing, threading etc?
  • How often should we leave between appointments? And should we pluck any strays in-between or leave them be?
  • In the first week, I try to use as little product on the brows in order to keep the tint lasting as long as possible - is this right?
  • What products do you think are best for filling in brows? And what is the most effective way to fill them in neatly and evenly? (powder, pencil, gel etc)
  • What are your top three tips when it comes to brows?
  • Is there anything else we should know?

The answers came very easily to me - and I thought it would be a great opportunity to share my advice with my own clients!

So if it's advice on how to use brow make-up, whether or not to tackle them at home or generally what is involved in the HD Brow on:


HD Brows is more than just your average eyebrow tidy. It is a completely bespoke treatment that will help to create the perfect brows for your individual face shape - whether that be in one single treatment, or, more commonly a series of treatments.  A consultation at the start of your treatment will determine what you, as a client, would like to get out of the treatment, as well as what is practical and achievable in each.  While talking about your likes and dislikes, what you normally do at home and what products you currently use, your HD Brows stylist is looking at your face shape, hair colour, skin colouring and tone, working out what will compliment you the most.  And all of this within a few minutes!

Once determined, and you are happy with the treatment plan discussed, your therapist will start by tinting the brows - mixing the tints together to create a bespoke colour.  Once happy with the colouring, the tint is removed and the shaping begins.

The shaping is largely done with waxing.  The brows are waxed both underneath and on top, as well as in the middle, to create the optimal shape for your face.  Occasionally, some trimming may be required to neaten the brow and ensure only the correct hairs are removed.  Threading is then carried out to blend all those fluffy, fair hairs that surround the brows, leaving a beautifully clean, sharp finish.  But it doesn't end there - tweezing is then carried out to further tidy and shape the brows. First, the therapist will remove any stubborn hairs that weren't removed with the wax or thread, and then apply a powder around the brows that matches your skin tone(much like a powder foundation), to cover any redness that may have occurred during the treatment.  This powder also helps the redness to calm down much quicker.

Make-up is then applied to define the brows and finish to the look of your choice - natural, or glamorous. Your therapist will choose which of the make-up products will work best for you and guide you through the colours used, as well as where and how to apply each product, marking everything down on your aftercare sheet.  You now have your very own personalised guide to use at home!

Often, there will be areas that will need to be grown in, in order to achieve the optimal brow shape.  Your therapist can start you onto a regrowth programme to help you achieve this, guiding you on where to grow in, and how often to come back for treatments.

On average, the treatment will need to be done approximately every 4-6 weeks.  If on a regrowth programme, your therapist may suggest you come in sooner - or maybe, even longer, to enable those pesky hairs to grow in.  Of course this isn't always possible, but the Lash and Brow Booster can work wonders at stimulating hair growth - again, your therapist will advise you on whether this would be good for you to use, or whether it is unlikely to help.

Ideally, the brows should be left between treatments - it is easy to get a little carried away with our own brows!  It only takes a couple of wrongly-removed hairs to set you back on your brow journey.  However, we all have occasions when leaving them is simply not an option.  My advice would be to remove only those hairs that are out of the general shape.  Darker, single hairs that grow way beneath the brow can be removed - but avoid going too close to the shape or you risk affecting the shape your therapist is trying to achieve.  Similarly, hairs between the brow and the hair line (usually more visible around the temples) can be removed, but again, avoid going too close to the brow.

Trimming the hairs can also quickly neaten the brows - if you find the hairs are a little too long, simply brush them all up with a brow comb (think Grouch from Sesame Street!) and trim to the edge of the brow only.  You can do this the other way if needed, by brushing the hairs down.  Be careful to only go to the edge of the brow line, and always brush up or down, to avoid snipping little gaps into the brows.

If you don't have any special occasions coming up - leave them be.  Your therapist will re-shape and tidy the brows in your next treatment.  And anyway, you'll notice more of a difference this way!

Obviously the tint will be darkest straight after your treatment.  This will fade over time, and depending on the colour used, you may find it fading a little quicker than your next appointment.  To avoid fading the colour even sooner, it is best to avoid exfoliating products and anti-ageing products around the brow area, as these will strip the colour more quickly (anti-ageing products generally contain exfoliating ingredients).  Similarly, I would advise you avoid tanning products in this area as it may affect the colour and change it slightly.  It is best to avoid these sorts of products for at least 3-4 days either side of your treatment, but be careful in between appointments in general.  The HD Brows Colourfix is a great way of bringing back that freshly tinted look to the brows, and is as easy as applying mascara (only, to the brows instead of lashes!) - your therapist can guide you on which colour is best.

There are a few different make-up products available to help define the shape and fill in any sparse areas.  HD Brows have a range including pencils (of different thicknesses), powders, waxes and mascara-like liquids, of which you therapist can guide you on.  I find that pencils can be great for defining the shape - generally around the brow itself, almost like an outline - used lightly and only in areas needed.  Avoid outlining completely as this can look a little unnatural.  Powders are great for filling in - generally a lot softer looking, they can fill in sparse areas of the brow but keep it looking natural.  Avoid 'colouring in' the brow with pencil as this creates a block-colour, again looking a little unnatural.  If you only have a pencil to hand, light, feathery strokes in sparser areas to mimic hairs can do the same job.  Serums and waxes are great for keeping the brows where you want them to be - neatly sitting in line.  A little wax mixed with powder and teamed with a tapered, thin brush can also be used to mimic individual hairs, particularly in the middle, where brows can often fall short.  As previously mentioned, mascara-like liquids are great for defining colour.

Powder and stencil sets are pretty big business at the moment too - but be careful of using the wrong shaped stencil, or over-powdering - this will look unnatural and too heavy.  If the stencil shape matches your own brows, then this can be a really quick, simple way of defining the brows.  Christian Eyebrow have a range of 8 different coloured powders, including several stencils in different shapes.

In any case, be careful not to overload the start of the brow (where the bridge of the nose is), as naturally the brows are a little sparser here.  If using powder, apply to the rest of the brow first and use the remaining left on the brush to fill in this area.

All in all, my top three tips for great brows are:

1 - Listen to your therapist.  They are trained to know what suits different face shapes etc and although it may not be what you were initially thinking, those amazing brows on the picture you tore out of the magazine are on a different person, with different features and different colouring.

2 - Put the tweezers away.  It is easy to get tweezer happy with your own brows (I, too, have done this many times) and you can find them getting thinner and thinner before you even realise it...

3 - Less is more.  It is no longer fashionable, nor is it natural, to have pencil thin eyebrows.  If you're not sure whether to remove a hair or not - don't.  Leave it where it is.  You can find all too easily that eyebrows can give up growing at the click of a finger.  And then you're really stuck.  While brow make-up is great, no one wants to rely on it.

A positive reaction to a patch test carried out at Utopia

A positive reaction to a patch test carried out at Utopia

Finally, I would like to talk about patch testing.  It bothers me the amount of clients who come to my salon, having had tinting previously elsewhere just by walking into a salon/brow bar and having had no patch test.  Patch testing is really important, as it can be pretty nasty if a reaction occurs - not only unsightly, but painful, uncomfortable, and can even affect the hair growth in the future.  In really nasty cases, it can even affect your eyesight. If your therapist has not offered you a patch test, do not go ahead with the treatment.  Patch tests should be carried out frequently, even from the same salon/brow bar, as reactions can occur at ay time.  If you are pregnant or lactating, I would advise a patch test every time you have a treatment.  Hormonal changes can mean that our bodies are far more sensitive than normal, and reactions can easily occur.  If you have not had a patch test since having a baby, or going through a hormonal change (think menopause, or illnesses) make sure you have another test.  Not only is it vital for your health and safety, but if anything nasty did occur, your therapist's insurance will not be valid - leaving you nowhere to turn and no compensation.  Trust me - it is not worth the risk.


Nikki x

The Desperate Client

It's been a little longer than usual for my latest blog post, and for that I apologise - it's just been so full on!  The Summer months bring school proms, weddings and holidays galore, so you can image how busy we have been.

So with this in mind, let me introduce you to our new FREE mobile app.

We're busy.  Really busy.  And while that is great for us, we understand how frustrating that can be when you need a last minute appointment (let's face it, we all run out of time to schedule these kind of things...)  And yes, our waiting list works wonders - in case you weren't aware (although we always offer to add you if we can't squeeze you in!) we have a great waiting list system that literally 'pops up' on our computer screen when a client either cancels or re-schedules, to alert of us of those clients on our waiting list we can now fit in. Perfect!  So we can easily call you back to schedule the appointment you were waiting for. 

But we often get asked, "How many people are on the list already?"

or "How long is the list currently?"

Well to be perfectly honest, the answer to those questions is irrelevant.  There may be 10 clients on there already - but that doesn't mean you won't get an appointment.

All treatments have their own requisites - whether that be particular equipment needed, a certain room, length of time free or even therapist available.  Whatever it is, if the treatment you are waiting for can be fitted in and the others still cannot, then you will be called and offered the appointment - even if you were the last to call.

Of course, if several 'pop up' in one go then we will call whoever was added first.  But it's always a good idea to go on if we can't fit you in, as you never know - clients often need to reschedule for one reason or another!


Our online booking is also extremely popular - accessible 24/7, you can log on and book any treatments you like in advance with us, confirmed by an automated email. Many clients think this is a new feature of ours - in fact we have had this since day one of the salon opening (nearly 6 yeas ago!).  This is easy to use - simply register first (if you've been before, click on 'Existing Client' - if not, then 'New Client').  This will then find your details on our computer system, and you're good to go.  Just tell it what treatment you would like, who you'd like it with (or whether you do not mind) and what date you would like to have it on.  You can even select 'morning', 'afternoon' or 'evening'.  It will then show you the next available appointment.  Simple!  You can even submit an 'Unsuccessful Search' if we are fully booked, so we can add you to our waiting list.  There is one drawback though - you can only book one treatment at a time.  But hey, if you remember at 1am that you were meant to call us, at least you can do it whilst you remember!

And now for the really clever bit.

If that wasn't enough, we now have our own app.  Hooray!  Free to download, the main purpose of this app is for late availability and cancellations.  Yes the online booking is great - but you need to tell it what you want and when you want it.  And the waiting list is perfect - but what if you are unable to take a call at that moment?

The app will show you any late availability for the current day, and the next two working days from there.  So if you're looking at it on Wednesday, it will show you any late availability for Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.

Not only this, but it will also tell you exactly what treatments are available at those specific times - just select the one you want from the drop down list.  Be aware that some will state 'Single Service Only' - this just means that only one treatment can be selected because of the time available.

And if it tells you we are fully booked, then do not fret - upon downloading, it will prompt you to choose your preferred therapists.  You can select one, two, three or even all therapists if you don't mind who you have!  And don't worry, this can be changed later.

So, once a therapist has a cancellation, and an appointment becomes available in their column, the app will notify you straight to your phone - just like Facebook does when someone comments or tags you in something.  Now you can see what time is available, who it is with and what treatments they can fit in for you.  Want to grab it?  Simply tap the appointment, enter your name and number, and Submit.  Easy as pie.

So what happens next?

Once you have submitted your request, it will 'pop up' on our computer at reception.  We can then book it in for you and confirm the appointment via text message.  Probably the easiest and quickest way to book last minute appointments with us - all without lifting the phone or logging in!

So in a nutshell, the app will tell you what times are free, which treatments are available and who they are with!

Download our app here

Could I not just book by email?

Well of course that is always an option.  But it has it's drawbacks. 

Emailing takes time.  And if you're at work, it may be some time before you can read our reply.  So those appointments we have offered you may well have been taken by the time you respond.  After all, there are a lot of different ways clients can book with us!  So whilst we are happy for you to email us to book your appointment, please be aware that it is not the most efficient, and often one which takes time.

We're updating our training to help out, too.

Our two newest therapists (although now been here a while!) have been on tonnes of training since joining us full time to expand their treatment skills, allowing for us to be able to offer more appointments.  Since joining Utopia with their NVQ Level 2 and Level 3 Beauty qualifications, they have both trained in Hydrotherm Massage, Lycon Hot Waxing (including Advanced Level for those more intimate areas), threading (soon to be let loose!) and Bonnie has also completed her HD Brow training.  This way we have more appointments available at more times, since we work shifts to cater for the longer opening hours.  We have all updated our Dermalogica training also, with both Bonnie and Michelle gaining their Specialist Certificates.


So don't worry if you've forgotten to call and you're feeling desperate - where there's a will, there's a way!


See you soon for some Summer prep!

Nikki x

The Truth about your Gel Manicure

It's probably one of the most popular treatments available in the beauty and nail industry at the moment, with high numbers of clients returning time and time again to have their gel manicure re-done and looking fab once again.  In fact, research from Mintel reveals that requests for a gel polish manicure increased by 35% between 2013 and 2015!

However poor media reporting has stirred the notion that gel polish damages the natural nail and that UV lamps are dangerous, posing concerns for skin cancer.  Something that aggravates probably every expertly trained nail technician out there!

So we decided to answer some of those myths you often hear surrounding this popular treatment, starting with those mentioned above...

Are UV lamps safe?

Yes.  Even when operating at the highest wattage, the level of risk posed by UV lamps is very low - and far less than the risk of using a sunbed.  Trust me - anyone who knows me knows how I feel about sunbeds, so if there were any risk by using a UV lamp, we certainly would not be using them at Utopia. 

I looked into this a few years ago when the media first brought it up.  I wanted to know that what we were using on our clients was completely safe, because if it wasn't, then quite frankly I would have stopped offering those services.  But after testing a huge amount of lamps at all levels of wattage used, a study found that using a UV lamp for a gel polish treatment once a month (the average time a client would have this done), amounted to the same amount of UV exposure as standing outside for just a few extra minutes a day - something we would never even think about. 

However, if it really does concern you, just pop an spf50 on the back of your hands before coming to your appointment.

At Utopia, we actually rarely use a UV lamp, instead opting for the quicker LED lamp to cure our Gelicure gel varnish.  LED lamps actually emit a lot less UV than a UV lamp will - and that is because the amount that is produced is converted to white light by the phosphors inside the lamp.

will gel polish damage my nails?

No.  Gel polish itself will not damage the nails - the damage occurs by improper application and/or removal, or even negligent care of the nails whilst the gel is on.  When applied and removed correctly, gel polish can actually assist in the growth of the nails and enable them to grow healthily and strongly.  It is very rare that I come across someone who's nails simply just don't like the product, although I have known this in the past - as I have with nail varnish.  But really, very rare.  Always listen to the advice given to you by your nail technician on how to look after your gel manicure, and how to remove them.

It is very important that your gel polish is removed correctly according to the manufacturer's instructions, and this is why we do ask you to return to us when it comes to take them off.  This is also one of the many reasons we will never remove any nail enhancements that we have not applied at Utopia, as we may not know the correct procedure to safely remove the product without causing damage.

It is also just as important to prepare the nail properly before application.  Sadly there is no governing body in the beauty industry, which shockingly means that any person can choose to open a beauty business and start treating clients with absolutely no training and no knowledge of the correct way of carrying out that treatment.  This is an absolutely huge frustration of mine and all the girls at Utopia, as well as every other trained therapist I know!!  So just to be on the safe side, please make sure the therapist you are visiting is properly trained and - just as importantly - correctly insured.

You can rest in the knowledge that every therapist is Utopia is fully trained in every treatment they offer - never trained in house and always at the correct training academy - and everyone is appropriately insured for every treatment.

is it safe to have gel polish treatments constantly?

Absolutely!  Nails don't - and can't - breathe, so there should be no reason to 'rest' in between services unless damage has occurred to the nails by either the nail technician or the client through carelessness.  Carry on!

my nail technician mixes different brands - is this ok?

No.  Different brands should never be mixed - the base coat, colour and top coat used in a treatment should be of the same manufacturer, as well as any prep products used.  Mixing brands can result in a poor finish, and it is likely that the gel can start to lift from the nail and chip.  The lamps used in the treatment should also be of the manufacturer's recommendation.

can I have just a 'file and polish' with gel?

No.  I am always amazed at the amount of services advertised as just a file and polish with a gel treatment.  All gel nail treatments require proper preparation of the nail plate before application to ensure a professional and long lasting finish.  I have trained in many different brands over the years, and have never come across one that recommends a simple file and polish.  Without the correct preparation, the end result can look bumpy and the lack of prep' will cause peeling and lifting. 

At Utopia, our Gelicure treatments always include correct preparation of the nail plate, and we will never perform a gel treatment without doing so.  It may take a little longer, but trust me - the end result will be far better, and the results will last a lot longer.

can I have a full pedicure with gel application?

Of course!  There's just a few points we need to consider when doing this.

When soaking the nail plate, it will start to expand - ok, you won't notice it, but it does.  Applying gel over a freshly soaked nail will result in the gel lifting from the nail plate and peeling once the nail plate starts to shrink back to normal.

With this in mind, at Utopia we do a sort of...backward pedicure.  The nail plate and cuticles will be correctly prepared, and the gel polish applied.  After this, we will then soak the feet and proceed with the rest of the pedicure.  Just remember that this all takes extra time and the gel is a more expensive product, so expect to pay a little more for this service.

what's the difference between hard gel, soak-off gel, gel polish and gel polish hybrid?

Ok, so this can get confusing.  There are many products out there that have the word 'gel' in, but all are actually different.

Hard Gel is (I think) the original gel product and consists of a gel in a pot - coloured or not - that is applied with a special brush and cured in a UV lamp.  These are often better for building up a broken nail or adding length to a nail plate, and require buffing into shape to get the smooth finish.  They also do not soak off, and so have to be buffed off the nail to be removed.  This can also be a lengthy way of removal.  When I first trained at college, this was all that was available, and so we were trained in this - LCN to be exact.

UV Soak off Gel was created as an alternative to hard gel, but is a self-levelling version which is applied in the same way and cured under a UV lamp.  Think Bio Sculpture.

UV Soak off LED/UV Gel Polish is what we use at Utopia.  These are self-levelling products, applied like a standard nail varnish but that wear like a gel.  Depending on the product and manufacturer, these products can be cured under either a UV or LED lamp - sometimes both - and are all soaked off.  A much quicker removal process.

Gel Polish Hybrid is a product that claims to have the fast dry time, glossy finish and long lasting wear of a gel, with no UV or LED lamp required.  They are removed easily like a standard nail varnish and work by a natural light-activated top coat that blocks light exposure. While it dries on it's own, the top coat hardens top protect the colour underneath.

can I not do this myself at home?

Well technically, yes.  These days there are many home versions of the gel polish and UV/LED lamp kits available but personally, I am not a fan.  As mentioned before, correct application and preparation is paramount for these type of treatments and so simply applying it at home will not give the same finish and lasting effect.  These lamps generally use a much lower wattage than professional lamps also, and incorrect application can not only cause damage to the nails, but even cause infections to grow on the nail plate.  I have seen this many times and sadly, we are unable to help if this is present.

The ease of purchasing these kits for home use has also seen an increase in the amount of unqualified people offering these services to clients - another reason to check if they are properly trained and insured.  Remember, if your 'nail technician' is not trained, and damage or infection occurs, they also will not have valid insurance - so please think twice.

can you guarantee the life of my gel varnish?

Unfortunately not.  Yes, all products will have an average length of time that the gel will last, but this will not be the case for every client.  Most products can last 2 weeks, some 3 and occasionally even up to 4 weeks or more - but every client is different and every lifestyle choice and natural nail will have an effect on the product. 

Naturally very oily nails can find that the gel polish doesn't last as long and can start to chip - equally, very dry and peeling  nails can find that the gel will not adhere properly and can also start to peel or chip a little quicker.

Heavy-handed jobs and lifestyles can also affect the length of time a gel varnish will last, as will the products used whilst wearing the gel.  Prolonged use of chemicals can start to soften the gel, causing it to lift and peel from the nail, and being very heavy handed can also affect how long it lasts.  Even some products such as sunscreens can affect the gel.

So to put it simply - everyone is different, and while we can say to you that on average our Gelicure treatment will last between 2-3 weeks, we cannot guarantee this.  So just because your Mother's nails lasted 4 weeks, doesn't mean yours will!

So there you go - a few myths dispelled and a bit of interesting info.  Enjoy your Gel Manicure!

Nikki x


Why so many questions?

It always amazes me the amount of new clients we have in the salon who are surprised at having to fill in a consultation card because they have "never had to fill one in before".

Now don't get me wrong - I am not surprised at the clients themselves, but at the salons they have previously been to.  Before training in the beauty industry I too would have had no idea of the importance of filling one of these in.  Had I gone to a salon and not been asked, it would not have entered my mind as unreasonable.

But the simple fact is, these are VERY important indeed.

At first glance it may seem a little personal - but rest assured all information given to us is strictly confidential and would never be sold to another company. And the main objective: to find any contraindications or contra-actions to a treatment.

So what is a contraindication?  Well, put simply, a contraindication is a 'reason' (ie condition or factor) a treatment cannot be performed at that time.  And a contra-action is a 'reason' a treatment might have to be adapted.

As a professional beauty therapist, our main objective is to ensure the safety of each and every client that enters our doors; and once established, to provide the best treatment we can. The consultation process not only provides the best opportunity to do this, but also ensures our insurance is valid and covers both the client and the salon during the time they are with us.  And I'm sure you will agree, valid insurance is also very important.

What a lot of people do not realise, is that every treatment has it's own contraindications and contra-actions.  There are a lot of things that can affect a client's health and wellbeing if the consultation process or treatment is not carried out correctly.

Usually medical, contraindications can range from medical conditions, medication and even recent medical procedures.  Other contraindications include being under the influence of drugs or alcohol, or even another treatment (some treatments will contraindicate others if done within a certain time frame of each other).  Contra-actions can include things like pregnancy (this may contraindicate in some circumstances), cuts/bruises/abrasions, or broken bones - these do not necessarily mean a treatment cannot be performed, but it will have to be adapted to work around these factors.

Establishing contraindications before a treatment can commence not only ensures the safety of yourself, but also our therapists and all other clients coming to the salon.  Some treatments may aggravate a condition making it worse, or even spread an infection.

And while we know it can be frustrating if your chosen treatment cannot be performed on the day, please be assured that it is for your own safety.  We will deal with the situation professionally and calmly, and always offer an alternative treatment where possible.

Please remember that we are NOT doctors.  If we are not sure a treatment is safe to carry out, we will not go ahead until we have confirmation it is.  If we find something that we need to double check, we will ask you to check with your GP first.  We will explain exactly what we need you to obtain from them, and can even give you information or a letter to hand to them, to ensure your GP knows the full extent of the treatment itself.

So I ask of you this:  please do not be offended when we ask you to fill out a medical form.  It is all relevant, very necessary, and extremely important.  Failure to fill out and sign a medical form with us means that we are unable to carry out any treatments on you.  Yes we will keep these on file, but we will never share this information with anyone other than Utopia employees.

And please remember the importance of filling one of these in - would you really want to go to a salon who did not take this seriously?  :) 






A journey of High Definition

Ok, I'll admit it.  If there's one thing I've ever been hugely sceptical about in my time within the beauty industry, it was HD Brows.  

I had been for years.  This is what I knew: a treatment involving waxing, tinting, threading and tweezing.  Ok - well I did all those things already.  So why did I need to go on a course and learn a set order in which to do them?

And then there was the price - probably the most expensive training I have come across for a treatment that involves no big machinery - just a few small products, and a wax pot.

In a nutshell, I didn't get it.

"Do you do HD Brows?"

"Are you going to offer HD Brows?"

"Where can I get HD Brows?"

This was what I was hearing from clients - regular and new. For years I had been asked this question, and it got me thinking.  Whether I offered these treatments separately or not, it was not the HD Brow treatment.  And clearly, that was what my clients wanted.

So I set about learning a little more about it - I spoke to other therapists who were offering the service, and went along to the Excel Trade Show to speak to the brand themselves.

And before I knew it, I was handing over my debit card and booking a date.  This was it.  I was finally going to become an HD Brow Stylist.

I'm not going to lie - I was still just as sceptical as ever.  Driving over to Milton Keynes for the first of my 2 day training course (2 days?!), I couldn't quite believe I had given in.  Intrigued, excited, nervous...I was going through the motions.

The training centre, DermaSpa, is amazing.  I was wowed as soon as I arrived.  The people are lovely, extremely friendly...and there was cake.  Bonus!

So I signed in, took my place next to the friendliest looking student I could see, and listened.

And then I realised - I was the only beauty therapist on the course.  The only  one.  No other students had any background in beauty at all - and neither did a lot of the trainers, it seemed.  My heart did a little nervous flip - my brows were going to waxed, tweezed, threaded....all by someone who has never shaped an eyebrow before (except on their own brows, perhaps).  This makes me nervous - no one has touched my eyebrows in about 7 years.  I've always done my own.  What was I going to look like at the end of the day?!

I try not to think about it as the lady speaks:

"So we're going to teach you waxing today.."  Oh god.  Waxing?  I've been waxing for 12 years...

"And don't be scared about the threading - it's easy!"  I know.  I've been threading for years, too.  This is going to be tedious, a really long 2 days of learning everything I've known for years.  And I'd spent a fortune on this too.

After a little chatter and some pretty impressive before and after shots, we head downstairs to the lash and brow bar to watch a demonstration.

She starts with the tint.  Wait...she's applied no barrier cream.  And she's wiped it off with a dry cotton pad?!  Ok, so the tint's a little different to normal...

Now she's going to wax.  Hang on...she's pulled out an orange stick.  An orange stick?!!  There's no spatula in sight.  She applies the tiniest amount of wax I have ever seen in a quick, perfect motion and produces a beautiful shape. maybe I am going to learn something, after all.

Well at least I can thread. That can't be any different.

And then she does it.  She ties a knot in the thread to form a big loop and begins to twist and wrap the thread around her fingers in some sort of art form.  There's no thread anywhere near her mouth.  She's holding it in a completely alien way to me and she's super-fast.  And I begin to realise I'm not so much the know-it-all I thought I was this morning.  I am a novice, like everyone else in this room.

Of course, everyone else picks it up straight away.  After a few goes, they're threading in the same way as the lady did this morning - ok, not as quick, but they get it.

And me?  Not a chance.  I've been threading my way for 4 years, and this I cannot get.  My hand is facing the wrong way, the thread is going in the wrong direction and my thumb is slicing open from the thread so much, I need to wrap it up to keep it covered and prevent myself from bleeding all over the poor client.  Thank GOD they tell me that I can go back to my way of threading when I get back to the salon. My thumb is saved.

But to put it simply, it was as if I've never seen a brow in my life - and I've picked up a few bad habits along my 13 year career that simply won't do on this course.

To my relief, my first set of HD Brows go well - she loves them, I Iove them and thankfully, so does the trainer.  Phew.  I can do this.

And luckily the founder herself - Nilam Patel - has popped in randomly and is personally giving me tips!  This is pretty cool.  Who better to give me advice than the lady herself? She even shows me some before shots of the beautiful models they recently used for their marketing campaign.  And trust is amazing what a bit of make-up and photo-shopping can do.  There is hope, after all.

So that's it - over the next 2 days I do a few sets of HD Brows and I've finally got it.  And I'm going to say it....I am hooked.  I'm converted.  I get it.  HD Brows are amazing - they are different, beautiful, and completely bespoke.  I have officially eaten my hat.

And I don't mind admitting it because to be honest, I love this treatment.  I had heard someone say previously that they always thought they were good at shaping brows until they did the HD Brow course - and I totally agree. 

I'm so much better than I ever was, and we have a huge list of clients coming in for the treatment now.

What is the saying?  The customer is always right!

Wedding Talk

As a beauty salon, we get lots of clients asking what sort of treatments are suitable for weddings and what would we advise to have.

So, having married recently myself, I thought I would talk about the treatments I had in the lead up to my wedding and the best way to time them correctly.

Because timing is key with a wedding - never leave treatments to the last few weeks before The Big Day.  You really need to start thinking about them a good six to twelve months before (yes, really!) to make sure you are looking your best and more importantly, feeling your best!

So, what did I have?  Well I won't beat around the bush...owning a beauty salon does give me amazing access to the best treatments around, some of which I can even do on myself, so perhaps I had more than some people could afford, and I do appreciate that.  But hopefully it will give you some inspiration on what you might want to go for and when to start thinking about them.

Skin Treatments

Now for me, this was a big one.  Having a genetically sensitive skin type, my skin has always been a little on the red side, and always very dehydrated, causing it to produce excess oil to compensate. Breakouts caused by immunogenic and neurogenic inflammation are something I have had to battle with throughout my 20s and I know that if one occurs, it's going to leave a little red mark that will last for a fair few months before disappearing altogether.  Having an underactive thyroid, I also have very dry skin, meaning I can end up with an oily t-zone from the dehydration, with flaky patches from the dryness.  Throw in a few breakouts and you've got a very annoying skin condition!

Now I do have a great skin care routine - I have used Dermalogica continuously for over 9 years and it has made an immense difference to my skin.  But work is pretty hectic and rarely do I get the chance to have any treatments.  So I made sure I made the time for them - for me, I opted for Active Resurface 35 Treatments (more recently changed to the PowerBright TRx Treatment) weekly leading up to the wedding, to speed up the cell turnover and resurface my skin gently.  This really helped calm any breakouts and prevent any new ones occurring, while deeply nourishing the skin leaving it hydrated, supple and dewy.  The perfect base for make-up application!

Now there are several skin treatments on offer at Utopia, and knowing which one is best for your skin is difficult - but don't fret...we can help you find the best treatment and products for your individual skin, and advise you on a personalised skin care and treatment regimen. This is one of those treatments that typically, you'll want to start thinking about 6 months before the wedding, so make sure you book a consultation well in advance to ensure picture-perfect skin.


Nails are one thing that the majority of brides-to-be will want to focus on (not forgetting the groom, bridesmaids and mother-of-the-bride, of course!).  On average, a cell on the nail plate can take around 6 months to grow from the Matrix (where it is formed, underneath the cuticle), to the free edge, so again start thinking well in advance about monthly maintenance treatments to keep nails in tip top condition.  You don't have to go all out - just a mini manicure will ensure nails stay healthy and grow strong.

Now I am very lucky with my nails - they rarely break, and grow very quickly when they do, so I knew I didn't need to worry too much in the lead up to the wedding.  But lots of hand cream to keep skin healthy and nourished, plus even more cuticle oil will keep the nails from dehydrating (especially in the winter) and looking healthy.

I went for the Gelicure treatment - personally, I think this is an ideal treatment for a wedding for many reasons:

Strength:  Gel is strong yet flexible, so protects the nail from breakages without weakening them.

It's dry:  This is a big one for me - you don't need to wait for gel to dry as the LED light will do this for you, meaning smudging is not a worry.  You don't need to have it on the day of the wedding, or even the day before (let's face it, there's enough to worry about) so you can have this on a day to suit you (preferably not too early though....we don't want any re-growth showing!) and be safe in the knowledge that you will not smudge or chip them before The Big Day.

It lasts:  Now I know not everyone goes away on a honeymoon straight away, but if you do, you can be rest assured your Gelicure nails are going to last you the whole holiday (unless, of course, you're super lucky and going for weeks on end).  No one wants chipped nails when they are away, nor do they want to be faffing about and re-doing them either.

We also get many Grooms in the salon having a manicure a few days before the wedding - we won't paint them (unless you want us to!) but nails will look healthy and tidy, ready for the photos.

Spray Tan

Anyone who knows me knows that I do not agree with sunbeds - now I won't go on a rant, because that's not why you are reading - but the fact is, spray tanning for me is THE safe way to tan.

So with that said, Sienna-X is the leading false tanning brand on the market, and have been for a number of years (why else would we sell it at Utopia?!) - they look very natural and pose NO health problems whatsoever.  Completely safe to use, there are several shades available so your therapist can ensure your tan looks right for you.

I am naturally pretty pale, and like a number of women, I do feel better with a tan.  So for me, a spray tan was a no brainer for my wedding day.  Now it's always a good idea to have at least one trial for this - you'll want to ensure you are 100% happy with the shade, and it also provides a great opportunity to determine when to have the treatment before the wedding. For me, I always prefer my spray tan the day after it has been done.  I have friends who prefer the look of it a couple of days after, so having a trial will enable you to decide what day you prefer the look of it, and so how well in advance you need to book it. It also provides an opportunity for you to get to grips with the preparation and aftercare of a spray tan (this really is vital, so best to know what you're getting involved in!).

It's also a good idea to tie in these trials with other occasions.  You may as well make the most of it!  Perhaps book your first when you're having a hen party.  And when you know you're happy with the shade, book another trial to coincide with your make-up trial.  This will ensure your make-up matches the shade of your skin correctly, and allow you to see exactly how you will look on The Big Day.

I used the Sienna-X products in the week before my wedding to ensure an even base for the tan to work with, but you could think about having an exfoliation treatment to kick start it off, and carry on the exfoliation process in the days that follow, before the spray tan itself.

But if you're keen on faking it without having it sprayed on, there is always the option of home-tanning.  Sienna-X's home products are excellent, and they have a wide range - from instant tanning gels that will wash off at the end of the day, to gradual cream tanners, 360 degree spray mists and even a mousse.  Simply take your pick!  One word of advice when using creams or mousse - always use a tanning mitt.  Sienna-X's Deluxe Self Tanning Mitt makes application quick and easy, ensuring an even coverage.  The best way to use it is with long, circular movements over the body.  Buy Sienna-X home products here.

Lash and Brow

Now I have to say, when it comes to lashes, I'm pretty lucky.  They're really quite long naturally, and generally look pretty good with a few coats of mascara. However, we can all do with a little help, no?  And as for my brows - well, that's been a long process for me trying to get them back into a natural shape from a little mishap back when I was training (oh the joys of practising on each other!).  I also wanted to fill them out a little.

Lash and brow treatments are big business at the moment - they really help to frame the face and make the most of your features.  Now I didn't have HD Brows for my wedding, simply because I didn't train in this particular treatment until after The Big Day.  For me, I opted for Christian Faye Eyebrows - a clay based powder that adheres to the skin as well as hairs, giving a natural shape that helps to fill in sparse brows, and even gaps.  With 8 natural colours to choose from, and each kit containing 3 stencils, it really is a quick and easy way to apply your brow make-up each morning!  I was lucky - the 'natural' stencil was a very similar shape to my brows, just a little fuller - so I applied my make-up using the kit, shaped around them and over time my brows filled out to the same shape.  Et voila!  And don't fret about which colour to choose - simply book in with us for your free demonstration!

Of course we now have the luxury of offering the High Definition treatment (the new, re-branded name for HD Brows).  This treatment is great - much better at looking at the bigger picture and the long term effect, and we start you on a re-growth programme if needed.  If you're lucky enough to have full, even brows to start with, then you may only need one treatment - however if, like most people, a little help is needed, then you may want to think about having monthly treatments about 6-12 months before The Big Day.  Of course we can advise you on this! 

And now for my favourite part - the lashes.  As I mentioned before, I'm pretty lucky generally.  However, I do love long lashes - so LVL Enhance was the perfect choice for me for my wedding!  A natural enhancement for the natural lashes, there is no need for glue, extensions, maintenance or mascara.  The treatment simply lifts the lashes at the roots, giving the appearance of longer, fuller, darker lashes.  Perfect!  And lasting 6-8 weeks with absolutely NO maintenance treatments needed, it really is the perfect choice for a wedding, especially if you're going off on honeymoon afterwards!  You can swim without ruining the effect and simply just enjoy the beautiful lashes for what they are.  And best of all - NO damage to the natural lashes.  This can be done as close to the day as you like - and the beauty of it lasting so long is that you don't have to wait right up until the day before, either.  Mine were done roughly a week before the wedding.  Check out this before and after picture of my lashes (and yes, there really is NO make-up on here!):


Personally, this wins hands down over lash extensions - but if you're after the really full, false effect, this may not be for you.

However, if you're short on time or happy with the lift your lashes have naturally - or indeed suffer from claustrophobia, then a simple eyelash tint should do the job.  A 20 minute treatment to colour the lashes and will last 4-6 weeks, you'll still be able to swim and more importantly, cry on the day without running mascara!!


This goes without saying - no one wants to be hairy on The Big Day!  As I opted for a spray tan, I had all my waxing done 2 days before the wedding - giving a good 24 hours between the two treatments to enable all the pores to shrink back to normal and avoid any unsightly 'pitting' from the tan.  My advice would always be to have any hair removal as close to the day as you can - to ensure longer lasting results for the day itself, as well as any honeymoon you may be going on.

Now many will say that waxing will last about 4-6 weeks....and yes, it can - provided you've been having waxing regularly for a while.  I would never want to over-promise on something I know won't be the case, so just a little piece of knowledge to keep you going - this is why you'll need to be having it regularly for a while to achieve these results:

Hair grows in three stages - Anagen, Catagen and Telogen.  I won't go into detail on what each of these stages are, however I will let you know that all hair grows at different stages - so there will be roughly a third of all hair growing in each stage at any one time.  Now think of a wax - this will remove any hair at follicle level that is showing above the surface of the skin, but what about those that have started to grow and yet haven't quite made it past the skin's surface yet?  These are going to come through as they would normally - so it is normal to get a little regrowth within the first week of a wax if it is you first (or first in a while).  Waxing every 4-6 weeks (so within that time frame of the hair's full cycle) will encourage the hairs to grow at the same stage, eventually leaving you with a nice 4-6 week gap hair free between treatments.  The follicles generally also start to become deformed - meaning softer, finer hairs (and in some cases, will stop producing hair altogether!)

So with this in mind, ideally you would want to start a regular waxing routine quite early on if  you're wanting to make the most of the wedding and honeymoon period.  As everyone is different, maybe think about this 6-12 months in advance.  And don't worry if you're on a budget (you are planning a wedding, afterall) - if you just want a one off, leave it as close as you possibly can to the day.  Afterall, the initial regrowth is minimal.


So that's it - a lot to think about but hey, it's a wedding!  Don't forget your hair and make-up too, and trials for both as well.  If you need any recommendations I know an EXCELLENT hairdresser and make-up artist (naturally I booked them both for my wedding!) - both able to come to location too so much easier for the day itself.  

And most importantly, ENJOY!



The Turning Point

When carrying out treatments and getting to know new clients, there is probably one question I get asked the most -  "Did you always want to be a beauty therapist?"

Well the simple answer is: No.

And to be perfectly honest, it had never entered my mind for one second.  Actually I always wanted to be a teacher; probably of art or music, as these were my favourite subjects at school, or maybe even English...I was always pretty good at English, too.

I was going to teach in a Secondary School (ha) and although I never had any ambition to go to University, I was always going to go simply because to be a teacher, I had no choice.

So although I wouldn't say I hated school (I did meet my husband there after all!), I was certainly ready to move on when it came to choosing which A-Levels to do.

And so the decision making of which college to go to commenced.  I had guessed I would end up at Abingdon & Witney College as this was much closer, but I wanted to see for myself which college I preferred.

The first open day I went to was Oxford and Cherwell Valley College.  I went with a couple of male friends (one of which would end up becoming my husband), and who should I bump into first thing but a female friend of mine that I had known for a very long time.

Initially just stopping for a chat, my friend was waiting to talk to someone about the Beauty Therapy course they offered.  And listening in, I began to think that this course sounded a LOT more interesting than A-Levels...

Nevertheless, I carried on looking around the college - but the seed had been sewn.  And to be honest, I wasn't overly keen on the college anyway. Plus I hadn't had the chance to see the salon, as everything was set up in the main hall.

So when the time came to nosey around Abingdon College at their open day, I went with the same 2 male friends and dragged them straight to the Beauty Department, where I met Sian - the head of the department.  And after some lengthy discussions with her, I realised that yes - this was what I wanted to do.

The only question was: What would my parents think?

I have 3 older sisters - one of which went to University (3 times, in the end!), the other 2 both doing A-Levels (or so I thought at the time - one did a B-tech in childcare). And to be honest, until that point of bumping into my friend at Oxford College, I hadn't even realised you could do this kind of thing at my mind, College was for A-Levels.

So one day I carefully broached the subject with my Mum, wondering what she might say...

"If that is what you want to do, then of course that is fine!"  Oh!  Great!  The only condition was that I really had to work hard at the course - it was pretty damn expensive to do, as there was a LOT of kit to buy. Plus the uniform. Plus the books. And of course normal fees for exams etc..

But I vowed that I would, and hoped that I would enjoy the course as much as I thought I would.  And so ended my 'teaching career'.

The funny thing is that, although I always had support from my family and close friends, there were quite a few people who tried to put me off doing the course - school teachers thought it wasn't good enough (I was lucky to get pretty decent GCSE grades, without really revising), my employer at the time had the same view and even some friends thought it was a bad idea.  A lot of people thought beauty therapy was an easy option, a course to just sit around all day and paint nails (and although this was never the reason I took the course, even I was surprised at the amount of theory involved - it's actually a pretty hard course to do!).  I even remember Sian - the head of the department who I had met at the open day - asking me in my interview "Are you sure you really want to do this?"  She could see I had good grades which were well above what was required.  But I was adamant - I knew I would enjoy it, and I would prove everyone wrong.

When the kit arrived through the post, it was so exciting - a HUGE box of goodies, although most of which I had NO idea what they were for, and the ugliest uniform you could imagine (actually I lie - we were pretty lucky compared to the years before us) - but I was so proud to wear it anyway!  And even better was that 2 of my best friends were taking the course with me.  I couldn't have been more excited.

And (luckily!) I quickly learned that I really did in fact LOVE the course, and it soon became apparent that this was EXACTLY what I wanted to do.

And so that was that.  A bit of a whim really - but definitely a risk worth taking and something that I will now do for the rest of my working life.  It is not only my job, but my career, my passion and my life.  I simply love the industry, and am determined to succeed and be the best therapist and business woman I can be.  I am still learning as I go along, and I will never be satisfied - there is always something more I want to do...

And didn't I prove them wrong!

A Better Utopia

Welcome to the new website, and the start of a better salon!

As many of you know, we have had a lot of changes recently to Utopia, and all very much needed.  By Summer of last year, we had a daily waiting list of up to 20 clients and a 2-3 week wait for appointments. This escalated at the start of this year with the waiting list creeping up to 30 clients on a daily basis, and a 3-4 week wait for appointments - in some cases even longer.

And with only 3 treatment rooms, one of which really only used for tanning, we knew we had to do something to keep up with demand.  And so the changes began!

So, what exactly has changed at Utopia?

1.  The biggest thing by far has to be the physical alterations to the building.  Up until April of this year we had the salon upstairs - a separate building with its own reception and waiting area - with the retail shop downstairs.  Two separate entrances, two separate buildings but one business. Although many would think it was two!

So in April we closed entirely for two weeks, to join the two buildings together and expand our treatment room space.

A doorway was created at the foot of the stairwell, meaning anyone in the downstairs 'shop' could go straight upstairs into the salon without exiting first.  This meant we were able to move our reception and waiting area downstairs - moving all retail stock forward to create a cosy waiting area at the back of the building. The original reception area was then divided into two, to create an extra two treatment rooms upstairs.  This meant that we only needed one entrance to the building, and kept all the treatments upstairs with all waiting clients downstairs - providing an even quieter, more relaxing atmosphere in our treatment rooms.

And now with five treatment rooms instead of three, we were able to take on more staff to accommodate even more clients.

2.  Our number of full time therapists increased from two to four, and we took on a sixth member of our team to run reception on a Saturday, freeing up all available therapists to do treatments.

3.  If that wasn't enough, we also increased our opening hours to ensure longer days and more evening appointments were available.  All in all, we now have a much smaller waiting list!

4.  Our gift vouchers were updated from paper, hand written ones to more modern gift cards - all individually barcoded so they scan into our computer system.  Any amount or treatment can still be added, but they have a more contemporary feel to them.

5.  We also upgraded our uniforms for a much more professional look - matching trousers and tunics from one of the most prestigious ranges available.

6.  Wanting to bring something extra special to our treatment menu, we invested in a new product house, Germaine De Capuccini. All four therapists went on training and we launched the stunning new spa treatments and gorgeous retail range at our Pre-Christmas open evening at the start of November.  Read more about these beautiful rituals here.

7.  On the subject of training, we also became one of the FIRST salons in the whole of the UK to join the Amethyst Trust and have all four of our therapists trained in the new massage technique aimed at clients with cancer.  The Tranquil Sea massage  technique enables us to have 100% the correct insurance to be able to treat patients currently going through or recently having treatment for cancer without the need to obtain medical permission first. How amazing to be able to make a difference!

8.  And then there's the website - a completely new site built from scratch to incorporate online selling of all our retail products and gift cards. Information is much easier to navigate, buying is made easy and online booking still available.

So there you have it - quite a few changes taking place but all making for a better, bigger salon.

Enjoy the new website and look out for some truly stunning NEW treatments coming your way very soon!

Nikki x