The Future of Hair Color Gets Hyperreal

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Guido Palau is beholden to the scroll. “I follow a lot of colorists from Japan, China, and Korea,” the legendary hairstylist says, noting a recent affinity for a specific hair dye technique that has long been popular in Asia and that is beginning to proliferate in the U.S. “It’s a kind of color conceptualizing that feels computerized almost,” says Palau, who has built a beauty hypothesis around the pervasive influence of technology. After years of clinging to the idea of “realness”—no-makeup makeup, come-as-you-are hair—we are now verging on the “hyperreal,” he says, the result of our collective consumption of archivable inspo photos and avatar construction through the glitchy pixels of our smartphones.

“There is a sci-fi anime feeling to it for sure,” Lena Ott says of the specific quality Palau has latched onto. Ott, the New York–based colorist and frequent Palau collaborator who is responsible for his vivid chromatic vision here, has brought bright green bobs to Dolce & Gabbana’s Alta Moda show; a blue streak to Coach’s fall offering; and pink-, aqua-, and lime-spiked tips to Thom Browne’s spring fairy tale. As if on cue, clients at Ott’s popular Suite Caroline studio in SoHo are starting to ask for brightness that’s “a little less smoky,” she reports, and that leans toward applications that are “tacky, but rich.”

And what happens in the salon often spills onto the red carpet. Jodie Turner-Smith recently debuted a saturated fuchsia, buzz-cut fade at the New York Film Festival, and one can’t help but recall images of Tilda Swinton’s shade-shifting this summer in Venice. The Oscar-winning actor regularly treats her floppy-topped quiff to off-kilter colors. But for The Eternal Daughter premiere, she chose a striking shade of Big Bird yellow. (What the near-neon dye job lacked in subtlety, it made up for in social media impressions.)

You don’t have to go full Swinton to engage in the fantasy, though, says Palau. “Just take a wig to your colorist and dye it however you want,” he advises. “It’s another fun accessory for beauty experimentation.” 

Fashion Editor: Patrick Mackie. Hair, Guido Palau; Makeup, Diane Kendal.

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