Wax or water-based hair pomade – what’s the difference?
Everything you ever needed to know about pomade
It’s a simple fact that none of us wake up looking our best in the morning. Plenty of work goes into the suave hairstyles and epic beards guys are sporting these days. For many men, though, it’s what’s up top that matters most. Because of that, you’ve probably got a few questions about pomade and other hair styling products.
While there’s no doubt a never-ending supply of hair products for men out there, we’re going to focus on pomades here. Why? Well, because they’re more awesome than other styling options. Obviously.
A real man, though, wouldn’t just take my word for it. After reading this and learning everything there is to know about pomade, you can rest assured that we’ll be in complete agreement. Then you can be right just like me!
What is pomade?
The easiest way to describe pomade is to call it a hairstyling product, but that doesn’t really distinguish it from a million other products. I certainly holds your hair in place, but unlike hair gel and other modern products, pomade has been around since at least the Roman Empire.
If potentially being used by gladiators in the Coliseum wasn’t cool enough, pomade was also made from bear fat back in the 19th century. In more recent times, you’ll find ingredients like petroleum jelly and beeswax have replaced Winnie the Pooh’s great-great-great-great-grandfather’s lard.
The whole point of pomade is to provide a slick hairstyle with a high shine finish. Everyone from Elvis to the “greasers” in West Side Story used the product. The amount of shine in your style will depend largely on how much pomade you actually use. This means you can have your hair stay in place without looking like you just replaced an engine.
Although you can use pomade with any hairstyle – especially if the product serves other purposes – it works best with combed styles. Unlike hairspray or mouse products, you can also adjust and correct your style throughout the day without having to wash your hair or reapply other products.
The simple truth of the matter is that humanity has had a really, really long time to get pomade right. This is why it’s changed so much over the centuries. Modern pomades provide stellar hold for whatever style you’re trying to support without the mandatory greasy look of the early 20th century.
Of course, there are countless other hairstyling products out there. When sifting through the most popular or quality choices out there, though, it really comes down to just three options. These are pomade, wax and gel. You’re not Farrah Fawcett, so toss the Aquanet in the trash.
Wax, pomade, or gel for your hair?
We’ve gathered droves of information related to pomades, waxes and hair gels. We could publish the volumes of this information and, after making you read for three hours, tell you which you should choose and why. To save time, though, we’ll go ahead and spoil the ending for you.
Pomades are the best option.
It’s obviously not fair to make such a general statement and provide no proof, so we’ll dig a bit deeper. Instead of going through the life story of each product type, here’s a comparison of each with pomade. This will give you an idea of just why pomades are the go-to choice for men who take haircare seriously.
Wax vs pomade
If we’re being completely honest here, wax isn’t a terrible option for styling your hair. In fact, waxes may be ideal for individuals with naturally oily hair. This is because it avoids adding any additional greasy appearance. On top of this, it can add texture to your “do” that nature deprived you of at birth.
The great thing about pomade is that it also provides the texture that so many covet. In fact, celebrity stylist Harry Josh describes pomades as the best option to add texture like a wax – but with a touch of shine. This might leave you wondering why we’d choose pomade over wax at all.
It all comes down to staying power.
With pomade – even those that contain wax – you’ll have a hairstyle that’s pliable throughout the day. You can comb it right back into position or make a midday change if the urge hits you. You can also make changes with wax, but it’s going to dry out just a few hours after it’s applied.
Once that happens, your restyling dreams are finished. Moral of the story? If you’re going to use wax instead of pomade, make sure your hairstyle is set for the day. Because if you run a comb through your “do” after a few hours, you’ll probably look like you just rolled out of bed.
Gel vs pomade
If I was going to break the entire section about gel down into three words, those words would undoubtedly be “don’t do it.” If you’re looking for maximum hold regardless of hairstyle, gel can certainly get the job done. The promise of an all-day style, however, is nothing more than a beautiful lie.
A broken promise. A mirage in the desert. Twenty other metaphors you can think of.
The fact is that gels work by binding your hairs and holding them in place. There’s no option to restyle throughout the day. And even if you don’t make a habit of messing with your style throughout the day, gels still have an abundance of downfalls. Take these into account:
- Hair gels have harsh chemicals that can damage hair.
- They also contain alcohol, which will dry your hair out.
- Dry hair leads to dry scalp. This leads to flakes and dandruff.
- Soreness, itchiness and pain can result.
- Hair follicles become clogged and can lead to hair loss.
To be completely honest, there’s not many great things to say about hair gel. It essentially looks like you cemented your hair in place, and even its low cost doesn’t make up for the damage it inflicts upon your mane.
Have you settled on pomade yet? If so, go ahead and slow your roll. We know this is a lot of study material for the first test, but there are different types of pomade as well. Choosing the right one is imperative to achieving the style you are aiming for.
Different types of pomade
A quick search of any hair product site will return at least 100 different types of pomade. Even with all of these choices, they all fall into two different categories. Pomades are either water-based or oil-based. Even comparisons of wax pomade vs water-based pomade are referring to oil and water.
When you compare the two you’ll notice similarities in style and hold. Make no mistake, though, that there are a few important differences. It’s these differences that lead most men to opt for water-based pomades.
If you’ve ever seen the “greaser” hairstyles of the past, then you’ve seen oil-based pomades in action. Either grease or petroleum goes into these products, and this makes them great for molding your hair and long-lasting shine.
Another benefit of oil-based pomades is that they typically cost less than water-based products. Of course, you get what you pay for. The problem with this type of pomade is that its ingredients are insoluble in water. This means you’ll need something harsh to wash it out.
Unfortunately, anything strong enough to remove oil-based pomade will remove your hair’s natural oils. For those who opt-out of hardened chemicals that can remove the product, clogged pores will become a problem. Do you know what clogged pores lead to?
Acne. Is that really going to help you attract the girls? Pimples will tend to show up on your forehead and scalp when you don’t fully wash this product out. In the end, saving a few bucks doesn’t seem like an incentive enough for this hassle.
You won’t get the same hold provided by oil-based pomades by using water-based products. Fortunately, you’ll get pretty damned close. In fact, simply using more of the product or experimenting with wet and dry hair can help you achieve all the same benefits. Yes, this includes shine and hold.
The great thing about water-based pomades is that they easily wash out. And since they don’t hold as firm as petroleum in your hair (yeah, that sounds bad), you can re-sculpt or change your “do” throughout the day.
It’s important to remember that every guy is different when it comes to hairstyles. Some fellas actually like the buildup they get over several days with oil-based products. If this is you, more power to you. That petroleum goo might just be the best option for you.
Extra credit: clay pomade
The words clay, pomade, paste, and cream are often used interchangeably. Yes, this is even the case with professional products. That’s why clay pomade falls in a gray area. Is it just clay? Is it pomade infused with clay? Will this vary by brand?
So many questions!
Either way, it does much of what pomades do with a few added bonuses for some guys. The clay actually expands when it touches water, so this creates more volume for those who want it. It also provides hold without the high shine.
Each of these are attributes some men desire, so clay pomade – whatever the heck it’s actually classified as – is definitely worth mentioning.
Things to avoid in pomade products
Gas stations are the best place in the world to buy gas, but there are some things you want to avoid while you’re there. This includes – but is not limited to – gas station sushi. Where am I going with this? Even if pomade is the best product for your hair, there are still a few things you’ll want to avoid.
Hopefully, that analogy played over well, but even if it didn’t, many pomades have ingredients that you don’t want in a hair product. Here are a few of those additives and why you should avoid them.
SLS/SLES: Sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) and sodium laureth sulfate (SLES) are found in countless hair and body products. This doesn’t mean they’re safe. Not only can they dry out your hair and skin, but the EPA has actually recommended companies stop using the ingredient.
Sulfates: This ingredient strips the natural protective oils from your hair and scalp.
Parabens: Studies have shown that this can decrease male fertility. Seriously, why would they even put this in hair products?!?
Phthalates: It’s a difficult word to pronounce, but the dangers are easily recognizable. Just like parabens, this can reduce the number of little guys in your love juice.
These ingredients are absent from Barber Surgeons Guild’s HCO1 pomade. This makes it ideal for guys who don’t want to dry out their scalps or murder their sperm count. Check out this pomade and other hair-friendly products at BSG.
Pomades that go the extra mile
The aforementioned ingredients can be detrimental to your health, but even pomades that avoid all of these additives aren’t equal. If you’re a socially conscious guy – or just pretending to be for the ladies – you should be more meticulous when picking your hair products. Here are a few tips to help you out.
No animal testing
Did you know that playing with your pet can help you stay in shape when you can’t make it to the gym? Even if you don’t have a furry friend, though, you should care about animals. No one likes animal-tested products, so make sure your pomade meets this requirement.
Think about the environment
Another thing the ladies love is environmental friendliness. Just think of how bright those eyes will light up if she knows you avoid products with sulfates and mineral oils? That’s because these additives contaminate natural waters and are resource-intensive, respectively.
Do more than hold hair
There are also pomades out there that do more than help you style your hair. BSG’s HCO1 pomade, for instance, contains ingredients that promote hair growth and health. This means you can make your hair look great while helping it stick around longer.
Spoiler alert: BSG’s HCO1 pomade also uses no animal testing and avoids environmentally damaging additives. Of course, you probably already guessed that that’s where we were heading, right?
Choosing the right pomade for your hair
If you work with just about any pomade, there’s a good chance you’ll get the look you want. Eventually. Instead, you should take the time to figure out which products will work best for your hair. Your natural hair type and desired style are important considerations in choosing the best pomade.
Pomade for straight hair
If you’ve got straight hair, you’re in luck. It’s the easiest to style with pomade. In fact, a simple side-part is achievable with just about any pomade. Just make sure to go easy on the high-hold products. They’ll work just fine, but you don’t want to overdo it.
Of course, you might want a slick back or high pompadour. Most pomades will still work in these instances. Depending on how high you want that pompadour, though, you might have to move up to the high-hold arena or use more of another product.
If you’re going for a particularly difficult hairstyle, consider letting your hair dry a bit more before application. This increases the holding power while reducing shine.
Pomade for curly hair
There are two types of guys with curly hair out there:
Those who love it.
Those who hate it.
If you’re in the former category, you’ll likely need a strong-holding pomade – or at least another product, such as hairspray, to back it up – to defeat those curls and get the style you want. If you’re not trying to go too extreme, though, letting the hair dry a bit more before applying will also work here.
For the guys who want to keep some of the curls, a light or medium-hold pomade should do the trick. This will ensure you’re able to sculpt out the style you want while still maintaining a bit of “au naturale” flair. You can also accomplish a bed-head look with a light pomade and blow dryer.
Unless you are trying to completely punch Mother Nature in the jaw by getting rid of your curls entirely, a light or medium-hold pomade should do the trick.
Sleek hair and high shine pomade
If you want to go for the greaser look – or anything even close to it – you’ve got two options at your disposal. Applying light, medium, or high-hold pomade while your hair is a bit damper will pull the look off. You can also restyle your hair throughout the day.
If you want your hair to simply stay put while still achieving sleek hair with a high shine, a wax or oil-based pomade might be the way to go. This takes away from your styling options and can be damaging to your mane, but it’ll get the job done.
Messy and textured hair
Is your hair always flat or laying straight over? Is this a little too boring for your exciting lifestyle? If so, opting for a clay pomade might be the right move. You can use your fingertips to massage this product throughout your hair and add as much texture as you want.
If you just want a messy look, a high-hold pomade will do the trick. You’ll have the option of changing up things throughout the day, and if you opt for a water-based formula, you’ll get many of the benefits of clay without any of the damage.
Pomade for textured with no shine
If you’re looking for a textured appearance without the shine, you’re in luck. This can be accomplished without going all out with clay or wax. As with more difficult styles, you can just let your hair dry a bit longer before applying a traditional pomade.
To achieve the textured look, though, you might want to consider a high-hold pomade. This will be necessary to keep a textured appearance while still avoiding a high-shine appearance.
Smooth hair minus the shine
If you’re trying to avoid a textured look and still want to dodge the shine, cream pomades will give you exactly what you’re looking for. It can be applied to damp or dryer hair, and it will quickly knock out any bedhead or cowlicks you might have going.
Keep in mind that if you’re using a pomade with a secondary purpose – such as those that promote hair health – you may need to follow the label directions for the most benefit. For BSG’s HCO1 pomade, this means applying to damp hair to ensure effectiveness.
How to properly use pomade
Even after you’ve decided to try pomade for the first time, you need to how to apply pomade for your desired style. After all, the best hammer in the world means nothing if you’re trying to remove a sheetrock screw. Here’s the proper way to use one of the most important tools in your hair care regimen, your pomade.
Make sure your hair is still damp: It should feel as if it’ll dry any minute – but simply hasn’t yet.
Rub pomade into your palm: Celebrity hairstylist Chris McMillan recommends starting with a dime-sized dab. You can always add more if necessary.
Go crazy rubbing it all in: Rub your hands throughout your hair as if you’re trying to spike the whole damned mane up. This ensures full coverage.
Mind the gap: If you’re parting your hair with a comb, apply a bit of pomade down the crease to keep everything in line.
Get the wave: Push the sides of your hair back, comb the top over and comb your bangs back. You can move everything around as needed.
Don’t forget the back: Make sure you get some pomade on the back of your head too. No one will be impressed with a slick look if you look dried out and frizzy from behind.
This isn’t rocket science once you get the basics down. Remember to start off with a small amount and engage in a little trial and error. Giving just a few extra minutes your first time around will guarantee that you love your look.
You know everything about pomade, now what?
Guys have always wanted to look great when out and about, but you can tell from vintage photos that the definition of “great” has changed over time. We now live in a world where many desire to look rugged yet maintained, disheveled yet put-together or primitive yet professional. Luckily, pomade can help.
No, it won’t help you pick out the perfect outfit or learn to properly sculpt your beard. Check out our Barber Surgeons Guild Dispatch to learn more about those necessities. Pomade will, however, help you create the perfect hairstyle to complement everything else. And if your chosen product has a few extra benefits – like BSG’s – that’s all the better!