You’ve heard of pomade before - even if you’ve never used it. Pomade is a classic styling product, that feels a little like creamy wax that gives guys plenty of shine and control over hair styles. Though the original pomades were very oily, we’ve come a long way over the years. Today, this styling aid is absolutely indispensable for certain styles - and it works on more hair types than you might suspect.
Are there different types of hair pomades?
Absolutely. Indeed, you’re unlikely to find another styling product that offers such a range. You’ll find differences in hold and shine levels. There are plenty of hybrid products (that include wax or clay for a different finish and hold). But, even when you just consider pomades, you’ll find major differences in composition and ingredients.
The first pomades are the sort of products used to create the slicked looks you’d expect to find on Mad Men. Made with a mineral oil base, men have been using these pomades for a long time to get the shiny, groomed look. And, it shouldn’t surprise you that there are still plenty of these products on the market.
But, oil-based pomades aren’t the only ones you’ll find on the market. There are also water-based pomades that offer the same range of hold and shine that you can find in oil-based products.
So, what is the difference between the two major types of pomades?
Besides the obvious difference of the foundational ingredients between the two types of hair pomades, there are a few more distinctions between them.
Pomades with an oil base are usually way less expensive than their water-based counterparts. But, oil pomades can clog pores while stripping the natural oils from the hair. You’re also going to find that they’re way more difficult to wash out of your hair than water-based products. (Which is the case with every styling product out there; a water base is always easier to wash.)
On the other hand, you’ll need to work harder to find a water-based pomade that holds as firmly as an oil-based one. However, some guys prefer that as it allows them to restyle their do throughout the day. You’ll pay more, of course, but these are usually less prone to leaving your hair looking greasy (though you’ll certainly get the shine you want).
What kind of hold do hair pomades offer?
Pomades fall somewhere along a range of holds. There are definitely those that provide a high hold similar to gels, though you should expect your hair to feel crunchy as you’ll get with a gel. You will always have some flexibility to move and restyle your hair when you’re using a pomade.
However, there are also pomades that provide medium-to-low hold. These are usually water-based and more expensive, but are absolutely the right choice for some men. That said, the majority of pomades offer a medium to medium-high hold. Your hair won’t be stiff, but it shouldn’t move unless you want it to (or you chase tornadoes for fun - in which case, which styling product to use is likely not high on your priority list during those moments).
What kind of shine do hair pomades offer?
There’s no doubt about it; pomades offer plenty of sleek shine. Some give low shines, some give high shines - but you’re always going to find it in a pomade. If you’re not a fan of your hair glistening in the sun, you want to stay away from this product. You’re better off with a clay - and perhaps some hairspray if you need a serious hold to go with it.
You may need to do some personal testing when it comes to the shine you want. One reason is the type of hair you have (and the speed at which the natural scalp oils travel from the roots along the shaft of your hair). Another is the amount of moisture on your hair when you apply it. If your hair is a little more damp, the final product will appear wetter and shinier.
What types of styles benefit from hair pomades?
The new classic example of styles that make the most of hair pomade can be found on David Beckham. It is a slick, neat appearance that you’ll find with this product. (If you’re looking for a truly classic example, look no further than Bing Crosby.)
Of course, you’ve seen pomades on the likes of the Hemsworth brothers and Justin Timberlake in the past as well. If you’re thinking about Zac Efron whenever your mind considers pomade, then you’re totally on the right track. And, if you’re rocking a tamed afro, a small amount of pomade scrunched into the ends can make a big impact.
Basically, when it comes to slick, sleek, super-groomed styles, you want a pomade. And you’re in the right place to find the right one for you.
What types of hair can make the most of hair pomades?
Pomades may not be for every style, but they work really well with a wide range of hair types. There are even a few of you that breathe a sigh of relief when you realize a pomade falls on your go-to list. That said, given the range of pomades on the market, you many need to spend some time finding the right product for you.
And, we’re just going to warn you now (though we’ll do it again a little later) - using too much pomade isn’t good for anyone’s style. A fingernail scratching of product could make the difference between your well-groomed power style and looking like a stoner in any 1990s movie.
- Straight hair. It shouldn’t be a surprise that hair pomade will work for you - just about everything does. But, you might find that most pomades don’t offer as much lift and volume as you might like. If you’re after that, you may want to consider a clay or wax.
- Wavy hair. Hair pomades offer the moisture that your hair needs to continue looking radiantly healthy. While pomades are probably your best choice, you may not get as much hold as you like for some styles and you may want to finish off with a touch of hairspray. If your waves are longer, or you want a more natural style, opt for a styling cream instead.
- Kinky hair. Argh, your quest for the perfect hair product doesn’t end here. But really, you shouldn’t expect a lot from a pomade. Use it as a finishing product to add a little shine and to keep strays in place - and you may want to avoid pomade if your hair is longer.
- Curly hair. Yay! You’ve just scored a styling product you can work with. Pomades offer moisture, which is super important when it comes to ensuring your hair looks textured instead of frizzy. Expect an appealing glow - as long as you don’t use too much product - especially at the roots.
- Short hair. If you’re keen on a slick, combed style, a hair pomade is exactly what you want. If you’re hoping to create a more textured look, move along.
- Thick hair. You can absolutely make the most of a pomade, but you need to be careful that you don’t over-apply it or you may find that it looks a little greasy - and look for a strong hold. (Still, keep in mind that every man with thinning hair is wildly jealous of every hair on your head.)
What types of hair may not find a hair pomade works for them?
And, for the men that may shed a few tears…
- Long hair. Okay, the jury remains out on this one - in part because it’s difficult to say what long is. If your hair is long enough for a ponytail, you probably just need a leave-in conditioner. But, if long to you means a sizeable pompadour, your hair is likely to be short enough for a pomade - except you won’t get the style you actually want from this product if that’s the style you’re after (choose a wax or a clay instead).
- Thin hair. You probably want to stay as far away from pomades as you can. They will not add the volume you want and will likely be too heavy for you to achieve the style you want - even if it’s a combed style. Additionally, you’re likely to run into clumping issues. Nothing is more embarrassing (even the bald spot that you spend hours worrying about).
What sort of texture should you expect from a hair pomade?
If you’ve been using a wax that really makes you work for it, you’re going to be really happy with the texture of pomades. They’re ever so much creamier.
But (and please pay attention here), that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t expect to warm pomade between the palms of your hands. Not only are these products not creams, but you’ll find it’s easier to disperse throughout your hair when you do; plus, the heat activates the holding ability.
What’s the deal with hybrid pomades?
There are a couple of really terrific pomades (such as the Baxter of California Clay Pomade) that use a mixture of ingredients, so it’s difficult to classify them as specifically one type of product. Most often, you’ll find clay and wax mixes, though there are a few gel hybrids floating around.
If you want a little more texture with your shine, we strongly suggest working with a clay or wax pomade hybrid; it’ll give you the best of both worlds.
How much hair pomade do you need?
As with any styling product, it’s way easier to add more than it is to take some away. When it comes to using too much pomade, taking it out could mean that you’re forced back into the shower to wash it all off. And, as you can’t have sopping wet hair when you apply pomade, you’ll also need your hair dryer.
So how much? Start with a fingernail’s worth of product as you would with a wax. Even if the instructions call for a dollop of pomade, you don’t want a quarter-sized dollop, merely a dime-sized one. Remember, you can add more. And, you can always increase the amount you grab when you become more familiar with the product.
In case you want a warning, we’ll give it to you: use too much pomade and your hair will look greasy. Even if you’re going for a super-slicked look, you don’t need that much.
Does hair pomade work best with dry, damp, or wet hair?
There are enough products on the market that we don’t want to be too prescriptive here; you can (and should) check the manufacturer’s instructions before using a new pomade. But, we can give you some general tips that will make your life a little easier.
Pomade works best with damp to dry hair; perhaps more on the dry side. (Really, double check that you haven’t been told to use a particular product only on dry locks, though; there are a few of those.) The wetter your hair is, the less likely you’ll get the hold you want, even if it’s way easier to apply. That said, most men with curly or wavy hair will find the best finish and application happens with damp hair, rather than dry hair.
How is hair pomade applied?
As long as you’re using the recommended small amount of product and your hair is clean, primed, and ready to go, you shouldn’t experience that much difficulty applying pomade to your hair. It’s one of the easier products to apply - as long as you don’t rush it.
Take your fingernail-sized dollop of hair pomade and rub it between your fingers and palms. Although it doesn’t need it as much as wax, a little heat helps the process along. Yes, that’s both application and the final finish. So, rub vigorously, even if you don’t love the texture.
Pomade is best applied from roots, working out to the tips of your hair. To do this, you’ll want to work as though you are washing your hair. Feel free to spike your hair out so you can reach lower pieces of hair and to be certain it’s applied everywhere. (Please gents, don’t miss the back of your head; with pomade, it’s totally noticeable when that happens.) Work until you’ve got the product distributed and you’re certain there aren’t any clumps of product in your hair.
When it comes to styling, there are a couple of different approaches. For pompadours, begin slicking back your hair on the sides, then push up your bangs and begin combing it all into place.
For side parts, draw a line from the crown to your forehead using a point on your comb. It’ll be obvious which hairs should go up and which should go down. Use your comb to get everything into the right spot. If you need a dab more hold, use what’s left on your hands - or warm a sliver of product on your hand. If you just apply product from the tub, you will regret it immediately.
You’ll probably need to spend some time perfecting your look - as you would with any styling product - but, this video should help you with some visual reference if you need the help.
Is it difficult to wash out hair pomades?
Yes and no. It really depends on the formulation here as some pomades are made with oil and some with water. If you’re very concerned about the difficulty of washing, go for a water-based formula. That said, regardless of the formula, you shouldn’t need to spend hours scrubbing this product out of your hair.
What counts in a hair pomade? When should you turn away?
- Hold. Most pomades offer a medium hold. Some provide a little more than that. Most, but not all, pomades accurately portray their hold (as far as the majority of users are concerned). If you want a styling product without the hold, take a look at creams instead.
- Reshapeable. Many pomades are water-based, so you'll have some ability to reshape your styles during the day. But... that's not always true. Some of these products do a better job than others, but most guys turn to pomade for the hold with restyling ability as more of a bonus than a requirement.
- Texturing ability. This isn't a strong point of most pomades. If you love the shine and hold of a pomade, but want some volume and texture, you’ll need to look a little harder for the right product (perhaps a clay hybrid will do you). But, they are definitely out there.
- Shine. Generally speaking, pomades are shiny, but not nearly as strong as gels. But, there is a big range in this category. Some appear totally natural, others add just a glisten, and there are those that make you look a little drenched. But, since hold is a big deal for guys with thicker (and often more oily) hair, the few pomades on our list with a matte finish are a real plus.
- Smell. You want your grooming products to smell manly. At the very least, they should smell clean. There's nothing with a strong odor on this list - and a few pomades that are delicious enough that women want to get a little closer.
- Washability. Water-based pomades are usually easy to wash out; oil-based products require more effort usually. But it’s never that black and white; the level of ease depends on composition of the product itself.