Growing up, I collected photos of my favorite blonde celebrities—Reese Witherspoon, Jennifer Aniston, Kate Hudson—and when it came time to visit my hairdresser, I marched right into the salon confident that the girl who would walk out would be ready to star in a hit rom-com. Never mind I was a preteen with mousy-brown hair or that my salon was in a strip mall on the side of a Nebraskan highway: I had mega star-sized dreams of grandeur.
Inevitably those golden blonde dreams did not pan out. Salon visits regularly resulted in shattered expectations and full-blown meltdowns in the back of my mom’s car. Here’s what stylist and colorist so often don’t tell you: It’s near impossible to copy the celebrity hairstyle de jour because celebrities have the best-of-the-best on call to primp and perfect each strand. They also have retouching and perfect lighting. They also have their own unique hair textures, skin tones, and bone structures, so what works on them won’t necessarily work on you. (Of course, that last one goes for anyone.)
@justinanderson and the crew at @dphue are my new faves. No other faves need apply.
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So fast forward to my life as a beauty editor in New York City, and I was still looking for hair that felt special. That’s when I met Justin Anderson, a celebrity colorist and co-owner of the haircare company dpHUE. (You’ve seen his work on Miley Cyrus, Kirsten Dunst, and, my preteen celeb crush, Jennifer Aniston.) I had a meeting with him to learn about the brand during which he introduced me to their latest project: a Los Angeles hair studio called dpHUE House.
Unlike every other salon in the world, the dpHUE House is an exclusive, private, VIP-only salon. They officially opened the doors in June, and I was lucky enough to score an invite. (Yes, I wrote that correctly: “lucky,” “score,” and “invite” are all apt words because not just anyone can call to schedule an appointment. You have to be on the guest list.) In my job, I’ve frequented some of the best salons that New York, Los Angeles, London, and Paris have to offer. But the dpHUE House? I had never seen anything like it.
The primary function of the house is hair color, but since it’s built out of a Hollywood Hills midcentury modern-styled home, it doesn’t look or feel like a salon. And it comes complete with all the amenities of one: a gated entrance, stocked kitchen, lush California-chic furniture, an abundance of natural light, a sprawling patio that overlooks West Hollywood—and a pool, because why not?
The actual salon necessities are tucked away throughout the house. Anderson’s main coloring chair is in a cozy cove off of the living room—I imagine it’s where a dining table or home office would have been in the home’s past life. Blowouts are done in one of two rooms that were probably old bedrooms. The washing station is a decked out bathroom. The old master bedroom was converted into a lavishly furnished VIP lounge, where Anderson takes meetings and lets his high-profile clients unwind. And while the hair dye sets, clients are encouraged to hang out basically anywhere (dipping your feet—not your hair—into the pool is encouraged.)
Anderson says that the chill, posh setting and total privacy is the main draw. “We wanted something that felt different; we wanted to create a place that people came to hang out and not have to worry about anything while they’re getting their hair done,” he says.
On the day of my appointment, Anderson greeted me at the door as if he as welcoming me to his, well, home. I was his first appointment of the day, and he sat me down to chat about my hair journey: how I styled it daily (air-dried curly), how regularly I keep up with appointments (literally couldn’t remember the last one), what I was willing to do (anything!). “I like to have a conversation with someone about what they want—I’m not a colorist who’s like ‘you’re in my chair, and I have this vision so you need to go along with it,” he says.
We decided on a low-maintenance golden blonde—the kind of shade I had always wanted as a child. It was going to be a few shades lighter than my current brown, but he’d add a darker gloss at the roots so I could get away with stretching out the time between salon visits. “It’s so old-school to be like ‘I need to see you in six weeks for a touch-up,’” he advises. “With a really natural color, it’s more about when you’re ready to come back in. If you’re still getting compliments four months later, that’s when I’ve done a good job.” He painted thin, ribbon-like highlights all across my head, so when I wore my natural texture, it would create dimension with my curl pattern.
I had gotten so accustomed to overcrowded New York salons, where colorists and stylists are so often over-scheduled, that I nearly forgot what it was like to have solid one-on-one time with a hair expert. “I love doing hair so much, it’s truly my passion,” says Anderson. “But you can get to a stage where you’re taking on just more and more clients, and you forget to have relationships with these people. It stressed me out—I wanted a calm, personable environment so we can, like, talk about dating.”
This isn’t to say the house wasn’t bustling. I was there on a Saturday, their busiest day of the week, so Anderson had a full roster of VIPs to attend to. On a typical day, he’ll take one an hour so it ends up being around eight clients. Celebrities, reality stars, TV hosts, and influencers stopped by for last-minute blowouts, touch-ups, and full-on makeovers. I’m not one to get star-struck, but I was raised in an SNL-obsessed family. So when the icon Molly Shannon walked through the front door—and greeted us with the most genuine and warm welcome I’ve ever seen—I had to actively fight the urge to jump out of my chair.
The whole coloring-to-blowout process took about three hours. As anyone who’s gone blonde before knows, this was actually very quick. Afterward, I was treated to a mini photo shoot so I could share my new look on social media. Of course I was also sent home with a bag dpHUE goodies to keep my hair looking shiny and healthy.
“As a hairdresser, we know all the secrets to making your hair look better for longer. But for clients it can feel like a secret,” he says. “I want to educate people as much as I can about color-care. For hairdressers, it’s like the longer your color looks good between visits, the more referrals you’re going to get.”
The company’s hero product is the ACV Hair Rinse, a gentle shampoo-and-conditioner alternative that balances and cleans the scalp, without stripping the hair’s oils or color. He also included their Cool Blonde Shampoo and Conditioner, so every week or so I could tone and color-correct my strands with the lilac-tinted combo (purple pulls out any brassiness that often develops in blonde hair due to oxidation). Finally, he instructed me to load up on oil daily as my bleached hair is going to need moisture; their Argan Oil Therapy is great, he says, because it’s loaded with color-protecting antioxidants and the juice is clear so it won’t deposit color, like amber-colored oils might.
“Color can change so easily from the environment, the minerals in water, pollution, and products,” he added. “And often people will think they need to go back to the salon to get it re-done, but with at-home products you can really bring vibrancy back to the color without having to go back to get it ‘fixed.’”
What was life before blonde?
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The next day I returned to New York and was able to extend my impeccable blowout for two more days after that. My coworkers and friends all commented on my newly-minted blondeness—how it suited me and really brightened up my face. But it wasn’t until I washed it (with the ACV Rinse, of course) that I really got to test-drive my celebrity hair.
My waves and curls sprang to life. With the lightning-colored streaks, my hair went from natural and soft to a major beauty statement. It’s big, bold, wild, and in-your-face; I’ve lovingly started referring to it as my lion’s mane. It’s also become something of a signature. I even received a note from an intern saying that “she loved meeting me and all my hair.” Recently I went out with a guy who commented that “it’s going to eat me alive.”
The best part? I’m not trying to copy anyone else, celebrity or otherwise. It’s a very uniquely me look that suits my hair texture and lifestyle. Turns out the real secret to celebrity hair is simply finding a colorist you can trust and who listens to your needs. Although, it doesn’t hurt if they work with celebrities, too.
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