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What is Bed Head?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 21, 2024
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The term “bed head” or “bedhead” is used to refer to hair which is tousled from sleep. Most people have hair which is less than immaculate after sleeping, because they have tossed and turned, building up static and tangles. Depending on the length of one's hair, bed head can look charming or rather terrifying; people with long hair sometimes tend to develop bedhead which can look closer to a rat's nest than hair, depending on their sleeping habits and how well they care for their hair.

In addition to being generally tousled, bed head is often easy to identify by a flattened area of hair, showing where the person's head rested on a pillow. It is also not uncommon for shorter strands of hair to stick out at weird angles from the head, thanks to being bent and held in place when the person slept. When combined with puffy eyes, bed head is a sure sign that someone has just woken up.

Some people attempt to create the bed head look deliberately, in a desire to make their hair look casual and fun. For people with short hair, this is typically accomplished by moussing or gelling the hair and then running one's fingers through it to pull it outwards, creating a ruffled, tousled look. People with longer hair may choose to deliberately style in tangles or pieces of hair which run in contrary directions to give themselves the bed head look.

Bed head also sometimes appears on fashion runways, where models often have outlandish hair to complement the clothes that they wear. For people who find bed head irritating, the thought of actually going out of one's way to create bed head might seem silly, but when done well, styled bed head can be quite attractive, especially on people with shorter hair.

For people who wake up with serious bed head, there are a few ways to reduce the effect of bed head. Some people apply leave in conditioner before bed to keep their hair soft and silky, making it easier to comb out in the morning. Long haired individuals can braid their hair before going to bed to keep it reasonably tidy, and some people find that wearing hair nets or soft caps to bed can help to keep hair under control.

BeautyAnswered is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a BeautyAnswered researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By wisdomseeker — On Jun 01, 2012

Bed head can be kind of fun, but not to go outside of your house with. There's a fun little app called the ownyourbedhead widget, but I'd recommend you don't get too carried away with it.

By OceanSwimmer — On Mar 17, 2011

@csmith10 -- I get the same problem. I usually brush my hair out really, really well, put just a bit of styling gel or oil -- not a lot at all -- on it, and then put it up in a ponytail. If I'm feeling really involved, then I'll use a detangler spray while I brush it. Hope that helps!

By cmsmith10 — On Mar 15, 2011

Does anybody have any other way to prevent bead head? I seem to always wake up with crazy hair, no matter how much I try to brush it or even braid it before I go to bed. Are there any other good tips for people with serious bed head problems?

By momothree — On Mar 13, 2011

I have to say I'm not the biggest fan of the bed head hair look -- I think that very few people can pull it off and not look ridiculous with it, frankly. I tried it a few times when I was in my teens, but I mostly just looked messy and sloppy, not fashionable.

If you do decide to try and do this hairstyle, take a word from the wise -- try it out at home first before you go out with it. You might find that you think again.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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