Jason Momoa’s Aquaman is not your typical superhero. His physique is covered in tattoos, his wardrobe is more at home in a biker bar than the Hall of Justice, and even his monosyllabic catchphrase (“Yeah!”) is more of a heavy metal cheer than a heroic rallying cry.
But, like Samson or Gretchen Weiners (Mean Girls reference!-Editors), his hair is where his power lies. It cements his outsider status and dares you to say something. It’s surf rat hair, not Little Mermaid hair, and it looks damn cool under water.
I’m not ashamed to admit that I would give just about anything to look like Jason Momoa. Which is impossible. In order to look like Jason Momoa, you need to be Jason Momoa. But seeing him on screen in Justice League and now Aquaman made me think: maybe I could have the hair. So I called up Jen Stanfield, Momoa’s hair and makeup artist who worked with him on Aquaman (and in real life), to find out how I, a non-Meta Human, could get King of the Sea hair. According to her, “the recipe is pretty simple.” Turns out I don’t even need to grow my hair out to use these tips.
To get the flow, you have to let it grow. But that doesn’t mean you should lose your barber’s phone number. Getting regular trims keeps the ends from getting too dry and helps lighten the load of hair during awkward phases. “Keeping hair trimmed even when it’s long is important,” says Stanfield. “If you’re at a point where you’re over it and you don’t think you take it anymore, seek some professional help so they can adjust the shape. It helps hair grow out more easily.” Trims can be especially helpful if you have naturally curly hair like Momoa. “When growing curly hair, there’s a stage where it grows out before it starts to grow down and hairdressers can take out weight without removing too much length,” she says.
For someone who spends so much time in the water, Aquaman rarely washes his hair. “We didn’t wash his hair more than once a week and we didn’t use shampoo,” says Stanfield. “It was rinsed and conditioned often, but washing it too much and having it too clean makes it fluffy. We used a conditioning wash.” The concept is that, especially for hair that is prone to dryness like naturally curly or long hair, using foaming shampoos strip hair of its natural oils and can make even a hair god like Jason Momoa’s strands frizzy. Cut down your washing to only once a week and use a conditioner or co-washing product to clean it but still keep it moisturized. It will still do the job and if it’s good enough for Aquaman, it’s good enough for you.
The biggest reason Momoa’s hair looks so great isn’t the length, it’s the texture, and the secret is (of course) sea salt. “Sea salt spray gives that authentic surfy, lived-in look,” says Stanfield, who used her own mix of sea salt, rock salt and water to give Momoa’s hair texture and emphasize his natural curl. When sprayed on wet hair, the sea salt helps to activate natural wave and body as hair dries. It works on all lengths of hair for a tousled, textured look and is especially good for thin hair to add volume without the weight of cream or gel. Don’t sweat it if you’re not a DIY-guy. Stanfield recommends Bumble & Bumble Surf Spray, which she also uses on Momoa.
Speaking of that texture, what you do once you get out of the water is equally important. “We try to let it naturally air dry as much as we can,” says Stanfield, speaking of Momoa’s routine. “Especially if you’ve got naturally curly hair, one of the best things you can do is to let it be.” Air drying will help the salt spray work better and won’t create the crispy, dry strands you might get with a blow dryer. But depending on how long your hair is, air drying can take a really freaking long time. If you’re in a rush and need to use a hair dryer, always use a diffuser, an attachment that mimics the effects of air drying. “Diffusers gently blow air so the hair doesn’t move around too much - it’s basically sped up natural hair drying,” she says.
As hair (especially naturally curly or wavy hair) gets longer, it can become brittle, frizzy or puffy. Keeping hair moisturized makes all the difference. “We used coconut oil to condition and keep the frizziness of his natural curly hair in control,” says Stanfield. “It makes it look more lived-in rather than freshly groomed.” If you’re not into using something more commonly found in your kitchen than your bathroom on your hair, Stanfield recommends using a moisturizing cream or leave-in conditioner, especially on the ends as they start to get dry more quickly
We can’t talk about Aquaman’s hair without mentioning the color. Mamoa has said himself that the blond color in his naturally dark hair is a nod to Aquaman’s original comic book origins. But his modern look takes more inspiration from sun-drenched California surfers and uses straight-up bleach to mimic the effects of solar rays. “We wanted it to look natural because he’s in and out of the ocean all the time,” says Stanfield. “It’s a hand-painted freehand technique that is similar to what would happen if his hair was bleached by the sun.” It’s what your girlfriend calls “ombre,” which means that it starts dark at the roots and gradually becomes lighter toward the ends. Ask a colorist to paint with bleach, instead of using foils or toners, and make sure your hair is long enough that you have the space to spread out the effect.
When you’re not shampooing as much and using a lot of conditioning products, your hair can go from good oily to bad oily in a flash. When this happens, Stanfield recommends using a texturizing powder. “Dry shampoos are generally quite fragrant so they might not be a go-to product for guys, but a powder works in a similar way,” she says. “The dust absorbs some of the oil, so it will help if you’re getting too oily.” Texturizing powder will also help pump up thinning hair and make it seem more full. Sprinkle some on your scalp and use a comb or brush to work it through your hair. Combing it back will help distribute the powder and build volume in the process.
We’re not saying Aquaman’s long hair wouldn’t be cool without his beard, but it definitely helps. The secret is the shape, which is maintained by regular beard trims. “It’s a slightly pointy shape, that’s longer on the chin,” says Stanfield. The point isn’t Khal Drogo extreme, but elongates and chisels his face and offsets the wildness of his hair. Stanfield recommends using a beard balm or wax to shape and condition the beard and a beard trimmer, like the Wahl both she and Momoa use, to trim away any stray hairs or flyaways. Make sure to keep the lines sharp. “Seeing the difference next to skin accentuates the shape,” she says. “Keep the side areas [like cheeks and neck] tight to prevent it from looking too wispy or wooly.”