How to Get Hair Like Norman Reedus on The Walking Dead

By | December 29, 2018

You might be surprised that a TV show about a zombie-infested post-apocalyptic world could be a source of grooming inspiration, but The Walking Dead never disappoints. Apart from a general sense of terror and foreboding, the biggest thing we take away from watching the show is how damn cool Norman Reedus looks as Daryl Dixon—and it mostly has to do with his hair.

The badass zombie hunter has the ultimate DGAF style: slightly disheveled and a little gritty whether it’s long or short, a type of bedhead that seems to say “I have bigger things to worry about than styling my hair,” which is a good attitude to have when you’re trying to stay alive.

It’s not just on the show, either. In real life, Reedus looks only slightly more together than his on-screen character. He is the male equivalent to “I woke up like this.” He never looks too polished, and his slightly-messy hair adds to a rebelliousness about his personality. It never looks styled, but always cool. Can you imagine him with a slick, sharp-parted fade? We can’t.

To find out what exactly is the secret to Reedus’s DGAF day-old hair, we spoke to Kristan Serafino, Reedus’s real-life groomer and the lady behind the coif. Turns out, it’s all about keeping it casual. “A lived-in style should look organic,” she says. “It’s never going to look the same day to day.” Here she lets us in on how anyone can get a cool, slept-in look to their hair, regardless of length, and with no zombies involved.

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Start With a Clean Scalp

“It’s easy to confuse this look with dirty hair if it’s not done right,” Serafino says. “The texture is created with product, not from lack of maintenance.” More on that later, but in order to create the best possible canvas for your product, you have to have clean hair.

“Square one: clean your hair and scrub the scalp,” she says. “Make sure you’re scrubbing and massaging in the shampoo, so it cleanses the scalp and removes any film or buildup.”

Depending on your hair type, you could use conditioner too, but make sure to focus on the hair itself and don’t massage it into the scalp like you do shampoo, as it can clog pores. If you have fine or thinner hair, skip conditioning to avoid weighing your hair down with excess oil.

Damp, But Not Dry

After you’ve shampooed and (maybe) conditioned your hair, don’t go straight for the pomade. “You want to start with damp to dry hair,” says Serafino. “You can blow dry it to where it’s almost dry, towel it, or just let it air dry.”

She recommends letting your hair get 80% dry before starting in with product, meaning that you can go about the rest of your routine and work on your hair last. Or if you’re in a rush, use a blow dryer but stop before it’s completely dry. The day-old Reedus look is about adding grit and texture to your hair, which is easier when it’s a little damp.

Have a Cocktail

Among hair stylists, the concept of using multiple products to achieve a certain look is called “cocktailing.” Think of it the way you mix a drink: sometimes to achieve something especially delicious, you have to pull out multiple bottles. The same goes for your hair. “Day old hair takes layering,” says Serafino. “It’s a day’s worth of wear that you’re creating in one go.”

This doesn’t mean that you need to spend an extra hour in front of the mirror. You can mix multiple products in your hands before applying to your hair or you can apply quickly one on top of the other in rapid succession. Just don’t expect to achieve the look with one product alone.

Know Your Sprays

The key to the texture and grit of day-old lived-in hair is in the spray. Using a spray in addition to a paste ensures that all the strands are coated with product to get maximum effect. What kind of spray you use depends on exactly what you’re going for.

“Texture sprays are great because they do just enough to let you manipulate your hair with your hands,” Serafino says. “A hair tonic will reinvigorate hair so you can still put your hands through it. A sea salt spray is a little heavier and will give you more of a just-back-from-the-beach look.”

She recommends spraying your tonic or sea salt spray first on damp hair, letting it dry and then adding another product if necessary.

Paste Vs. Pomade

The next product you use depends on just how gritty you want your hair to be. Serafino prefers matte pastes for a more natural, bed-head look. “If you’re looking for more of a fresh texture, use something that’s matte and doesn’t have much sheen to it,” she says. “It’s like you went out for a run or you’ve been driving with your windows open. It’s a little beat up, but natural.”

Using a pomade with shine will give you a slightly more lived-in look: less I-just-woke-up and more three-day-old disheveled. “It’s all about how light reflects off these products,” Serfino says, so when choosing which to use, think about just how shiny you want to be. The key with both of them is how much you use. “Never more than the size of a dime at first,” she warns.

Bless This Mess

Blend a dime-sized amount of product into your hands and makes sure your fingers are coated. “Your fingers should be what’s touching your hair, not your palms,” says Serafino. “Start at the back of your head and work your way forward. You’ll have just enough product to cover your whole head. Never start in the front or you’ll have too much on your hairline.”

Apply the product all over like you’re toweling your head and then use your fingers to comb it through and reshape your hair into the style you want. Avoid combs or brushes and don’t create a part. “This style is effortless and should never look over styled,” she says.

Contingency Plan

When adding grit to your hair, it can be easy to go too far. You want to look disheveled, not dirty. If you add too much product and cross the line into greaseball territory, getting back in the shower and starting from square one is the best thing you can do. But depending on how far gone you are, how oily your scalp is, or if you notice your hair gets oilier throughout the day, you could add a powder, dry shampoo to soak up excess oil. A splash of water may do the trick, too.

“Most products are water soluble, so you can mist it down or splash some water on your hair and towel it out,” says Serafino. “You can rework your hair with the right product in it.”

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