Alaina Waller and Erik Pascarelli, via Instagram

#processporn is my new beauty asmr obsession

Few things are as satisfying as these hair dye photos.

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29 January 2019, 7:00am

Alaina Waller and Erik Pascarelli, via Instagram

The beauty world has sparked its fair share of ASMR phenomena. It’s given us pimple popping, lipstick crushing and comb flicking. It’s shown us the satiating pleasures of whispering make-up tutorials and the addictive repulsion that is the dandruff scraping fetish. There’s just something about the visceral nature of products and rituals that has made beauty prime real estate for these weirdly satisfying trends. However, as much as I love a good cyst excavation, there’s a new category of satisfying social posts doing it for me right now: hair dye photos.

I don’t mean shots of Nice’n Easy box kits, but rather the pictures of hair drenched in colourful, gungey hair dye that are currently doing the rounds on Instagram, like this:

Dubbed #processporn by some, these images have become a way for colourists to share the process behind their work. LA-based colourist Alaina Waller has been sharing her in-progress dye photos for a few years now as a way of conjuring up a visual mood with her work -- whether it’s the wispy pre-Raphaelite vibe of a bleach-job, or the defiant power of a fluoro pink ‘do. “I thought these images actually captured more of what the client was feeling at the time,” she says. “There is something rebellious and moody about the colour that you don’t see as much once the colour is processed and the hair is dry and styled. The texture is very different when the hair is wet too.”

Bleach London colourist Erik Pascarelli sees his #processporn photos as a way to connect his hair work with his artistic background. “My paintings have always been based around the process of the piece more than the final result, so it seems quite fitting to carry that on into hair,” he explains. “The final look is definitely is the most important part of doing someone’s hair, but when it comes to taking photos I always feel more inspired by weird sink pictures or close-ups than just a final picture. It’s the same when I paint -- a palette covered in paint is so much more eye-catching to me than a canvas.”

It’s hard to pinpoint exactly what makes these images so satisfying, even for an expert. “It may be that these pictures trigger ASMR in some people but they don’t appear to have many of the things that would usually induce an ASMR response, like soft-speaking, close personal attention,” explains Dr Giulia Poerio, psychologist and ASMR expert. “Perhaps satisfaction comes from other aesthetic aspects such as symmetry, form, colour.” #processporn photos are the perfect combination of pleasure and disgust. The rainbow of shades are simply nice to look at, but it’s the creepiness of wet hair seen away from the context of the entire face that makes them so wildly satisfying.

Pascarelli believes the popularity of hair dye photos also has something to do with our collective love of instructions. “We are definitely the generation of learning. With YouTube videos on ‘how to’ do basically anything, everyone wants to feel like they know how things work and I think process pictures and videos feed this want to understand.”

For Waller, it’s about documenting a very real experience amongst a heavily curated social feed. “I believe people like to see and feel something real. When I take these photos I think of my 15-year-old self in my bathroom colouring my hair with black box colour from Savon, making a huge mess, making a statement and having the time of my life. It wasn’t so much the result that made it, it was the experience.”

To be honest, whatever these photos are doing, I’m here for it.