‘Tis the season for a luxurious blow dry, and this salon is pure indulgence

Laura Kennedy: I floated out 30 minutes later with glossy, bouncy hair that held for three days

It’s been a while since we could engage in that amorphous concept of “festive atmosphere” without a certain measure of guilt and self-awareness. While the world has certainly spun less frantically on its axis than it seems to be doing at present, there are some comforts at this time of year. The joy of the fairy lights. The chilly evenings on Grafton Street during the annual trip up to Dublin (even though you’ll end up in a queue despairing the fact that you didn’t just buy the gifts online). Even the office Christmas party feels novel again; the act of donning sequins and leaving the house to find out if Christine and Dave from accounts actually are having that rumoured affair is lent a new and exciting freshness.

On top of all this is another of life’s softer pleasures – with going out comes ritualised beauty. Make-up ascends from a morning habit hastily executed, to the act of creating “a look”. Getting a blow dry becomes a delicious indulgence that makes sense under the circumstances. We immerse in the season, and it feels lovely.

Even though it has won awards, The Shelbourne Spa and Salon is a quiet gem on Stephen’s Green, nestled next door to the famous hotel. It is intimate and compact, giving it an old-school atmosphere of leisurely elegance. Services are efficient – there’s no sense of lagging or slowness, but they’re never rushed, without the revolving door fury of some of the larger inner city beauty hotspots where you might feel jostled in and out without a moment’s quiet to think or unwind at this time of year. Time is always made to ensure that the stylist knows exactly what style you want to achieve, and every detail is paid attention.

I rushed in at 1.45pm one afternoon with a very red, recently pierced ear and feeling slightly stressed, wittering about needing to catch a train at 3pm. I was promptly offered a glass of champagne and opted for a non-alcoholic alternative. The world slowed. I was confidently assured we’d be finished in very good time to catch the train, and that great care would be taken not to bash my quite ill-judged ear wound. That’s my phrasing, not Erin the stylist’s. She has the sort of gentle, non-judgemental demeanour that is calming when you’re embarrassed about your ear, your day is going slightly too quickly and you’re running to keep up. I floated out 30 minutes later with glossy, bouncy hair (the style held for three days, as I’d requested), internal voice no longer shrieking, piercing not once accidentally whacked with a brush. I was at the station with plenty of time to spare.


A good blow dry is an expensive indulgence these days. If you want to fit one in pre-Christmas or as part of your December party prep while avoiding the seasonal furore, The Shelbourne Spa and Salon is the place. Throughout December, they’re offering The Polar Express – a blow dry for those who have to catch a train (or are time-limited in some other way) but want optimal results. It costs €45, which is around standard at most salons and less than some, and comes with a glass of champagne, good people watching and a bit of priceless peace. For €45 more, you can make an event of it and add evening make-up artists. It’s beauty as it should be – restorative rather than a chore.

Laura Kennedy

Laura Kennedy

Laura Kennedy is a contributor to The Irish Times