From laser scissors to pills that make hair grow instantly to robots controlled by hairstylists remotely, in 50 years, our neighborhood hairstylists may be a humanoid decked out with ultra-high-tech tools. From fantasy to reality, hairstyling remains a career that looks to the future.
Hairstyling: a career safe from the technological revolution?
Many hairstylists still swear by traditional methods and emphasize the quality of personal service. What kind of robot could ever replace the advice and aesthetic vision of a hairstylist? Hairstyling at first seems like a hands-on job that could never be impacted by new technology. Could it be that hairstylists and their clients are backward? “It’s very surprising,” affirms Anne-Caroline Paucot. “Nearly 70% of people would be willing to be operated on by a robot, but only 10% would agree to having their hair styled by a robot.”
Hairstylists in lab coats
As it is taking shape, it is probable that the future belongs increasingly to specialized salons at the expense of general artisans. With hair bun bars and blow-dry bars, colorists have already carved out a nice segment of the market. Aaron Dorn sees this trend taking hold and images extension bars and salons focused only on hair health.
As far as scientific and biological research, the expectations of hairstylists and their clients is indeed enormous. Aaron Dorn admits freely of dreaming of a pill that will make hair grow instantly, which would give the opportunity to change hair color with a wave of a wand and solve hair-loss issues. “Organic locks of hair grown in laboratories or perhaps 3D-printed? I wonder how long it will take to have an application for this,” jokes the British hairstylist. Aaron has set up a “hair condition scale” that takes into account the pH, hydration, etc. in order to offer clients the most suitable treatment. In London and New York, Philip Kingsley is entirely committed to this way of thinking. His job title is “trichologist”. In hair clinics, the one they call the “Hair Doctor” offers health reports and a full dietary approach for healthy scalp and head of hair.
Anne-Caroline Paucot confirms the interest that hairstylists as well as researchers have about these hair health and aging issues. “In the future, one might imagine that hairstylists will offer basic treatments to fight whitening and alopecia and that they will have a more scientific, biological approach as well as take on a preventative role.” In 2050, will our ordinary salon transform into a laboratory where our hairstylists will greet us in a white coat? Will they farm stem cells to treat our scaly, worn-out mop of hair?
My hairstylist’s name is R2D2
When we think of the future, we inevitably come up with images of a world inhabited by Robocops driving flying cars. Where does our hairstylist fit into this dehumanized life? Robot hairstylists have already appeared. In Japan, Panasonic has presented a prototype robot that can reproduce a human touch thanks to its 24 tiny fingers, adapt to any head shape, shampooing, massaging and rinsing hair in less than three minutes. In the United States, Intelligent Automation has created a robot, this time able to shave a man’s head with no nicks.
Starting from the thought that our hairstylist will be replaced by an automaton, is this a bottomless pit? “Technologically speaking, this is possible,” confirms Anne-Caroline Paucot. “Medical robots have shown us that they are sufficiently accurate for highly technical interventions. We might very well imagine booths where you can choose your hairstyle from a smart mirror, then program the robot. Or even, why not imagine some sort of new-generation remote controlled hairstyling helmet?”
Still, Aaron Dorn doesn’t fear an army of robots taking over his salon. “People come to their hairstylists for much more than just a cut and dye job. They come for the atmosphere a salon gives, the personality of the hairstylist and for the social experience.” Anne-Caroline Paucot thinks the same way. She acknowledges that the generalization of hairstyling robots is more of a fantasy than a probable future because “a profession evolves if it is truly necessary. However, what goes for medicine doesn’t go for hairstyling. It wouldn’t have any real economic advantage.”
In 2050, when we’ll all be sporting a Nicki Minaj-style rainbow layered cut, a futuristic notched bun or a cyborg-silver dye job for the office, our hairstylist will still be able to give us informed advice with a dose of expertise to boot, and by online appointment only.