What Are Pomades for Hair: The Styling Secret Your Grandfather Used

What are pomades for hair?

Pomades are hair styling products that have been used by men for decades to style and groom their hair. Unlike gels or hairsprays which often contain alcohol, pomades are made from natural ingredients like beeswax, petroleum jelly but often now with vegan options and botanical oils. This gives them a thicker, waxier texture compared to other styling products.

The main difference between pomades, gels, waxes, and creams is in their hold strength and shine. Pomades can provide anything from no hold to a strong hold with a natural to high shine finish. They are ideal for achieving slick, polished styles like the pompadour or slicked back undercut. 

Gels tend to have a harder hold and can look wet or crunchy in the hair. Waxes are matte finish products with light to medium hold for texture. Creams are lightweight and give a natural finish.

Pomades allow you to style, sculpt, and rework the hair throughout the day. The greasy or waxy texture helps hair stay in place while retaining a soft, natural look. Compared to gels and sprays, pomades don't flake or become crunchy as they don't dry out in the hair.

Modern water-based pomades can be washed out easily with water. Traditional oil-based pomades may require several washes to remove entirely. But both provide excellent control and shine for achieving classic men's hairstyles.

Types of Pomades

Pomades can be categorized into 3 main types based on their ingredients:

Oil-Based Pomades 

Oil-based pomades historically contained petroleum jelly or mineral oil as their primary ingredient. They have a greasy texture and provide a medium to high shine finish. Oil-based pomades offer various amounts of hold. Scalp Rescue Pomade is a great gloss imparting pomade, and while it has no hold on its own it can easily be complemented with another Scalp Rescue styling product to impart the correct look for your style.

Water-Based Pomades

As the name suggests, water-based pomades use water as their main ingredient. They have a creamy, smooth texture that rinses out easily with just water. Water-based pomades provide light to medium hold and low to medium shine. They contain fewer chemicals compared to oil-based ones.

Hybrid Pomades 

Hybrid pomades combine aspects of both oil-based and water-based formulas. They offer flexibility in restyling throughout the day. Hybrids provide medium hold and medium shine. They are easier to wash out than oil-based pomades but can require a clarifying shampoo.

Benefits of Using Pomades 

Pomades offer several benefits for styling and caring for hair. One of the main advantages is that they provide hold and shine to hair. The waxes and oils in pomade coat the hair strands to keep them in place while also imparting a sleek, glossy look. This makes pomades ideal for achieving slick, polished styles like the pompadour. 

Pomades also help smooth and style hair. The viscosity of pomade allows you to mold and shape hair into the desired form. Whether you want a neatly combed look or a textured, messy style, pomades give you control over styling your hair. The pliability of pomade enables shaping hair into place rather than just stiffening it.

In addition, pomades add texture to hair. While other products like gel and hairspray can make hair crunchy or flaky, pomades provide a soft, pliable hold. This allows hair to retain its natural texture while also having definition and flow. The emollients in pomades condition hair and enhance its texture. Using pomade can make hair look fuller and more manageable.

So in summary, the advantages of using pomade include providing hold, shine, shaping, and texture for hair. Pomades offer versatility for achieving different finished looks with your hairstyle.

How to Apply Pomades

Applying pomade to your hair is easy with just a few steps:

- Scoop a small amount of pomade out of the container using your fingers. Start with about a dime-sized amount and add more as needed. Using too much pomade can make hair look greasy.

- Warm the pomade between your palms to soften it up before applying it to hair. The friction helps melt the pomade so it glides onto hair smoothly. 

- Work the pomade evenly through damp or dry hair. Apply it to your palms first and then distribute through hair, focusing on the ends. Run your fingers through hair to coat strands.

- Style your hair as desired, using your fingers or a comb to shape and sculpt it. Pomade allows you to create sleek, shiny styles with flexible hold. Reapply pomade as needed if your style loses its shape during the day.

The key is applying just enough pomade to style and lightly hold hair in place without making it stiff or sticky. Go for an even, lightweight coating on strands. With the right technique, pomades allow you to achieve versatile hairstyles with a natural, touchable finish.

Choosing the Right Pomade for Hair 

Choosing the right pomade depends on several factors like your hair type, desired level of shine, strength of hold needed, and ingredients you want to avoid or prefer.

Hair Type

The texture and thickness of your hair is key in selecting a pomade. Fine, thin hair does best with lightweight, water-based pomades that won't weigh hair down. Thick, coarse hair can handle heavier oil- or wax-based pomades with a stronger hold. Curly and wavy hair may prefer pomades without too much grease to avoid weighing down the curls. 

Level of Shine

Do you want a glossy wet look or a more matte, natural finish? Oil-based pomades offer the most shine while wax-based ones provide a low to medium shine. Water-based pomades can range from shiny to matte depending on the formula. 

Strength of Hold

Lightweight pomades provide flexible hold for easy restyling throughout the day. Medium hold pomades shape hair nicely while allowing some movement. Strong hold pomades keep hair firmly in place all day, good for slicked styles that won't budge. Heavier pomades like petroleum jell offer the strongest hold.


Look at the ingredients to find options free of certain chemicals, oils, or fragrances if you have sensitivities or preferences. Water-based pomades often use natural ingredients while oil- and wax-based varieties can contain petroleum products. Some pomades include essential oils, coconut oil, shea butter, and beeswax for different benefits.

Using pomades for different styles

Pomades are versatile hair products that can be used to create a variety of classic hairstyles for men. Here are some of the most popular styles achieved with pomade:


The pompadour is a retro style where the hair is swept up and backwards away from the forehead. Pomade adds shine and hold to help sculpt the pompadour shape. Apply pomade to towel-dried hair and brush the front section straight up and back. Use a comb to smooth and shape into a wave.


The quiff has hair brushed up and away from the forehead into a short pomp at the front. Pomade gives the quiff height and definition. Work pomade through damp hair and blow dry while brushing the quiff section upwards. Finish by combing it backwards.

Slick Backs

Slick backs involve brushing the hair straight back for a smooth, shiny look. Apply pomade evenly through dry hair and use a comb to brush everything directly back. Go for a tight, firm slick back or a looser brushed back style.

Side Parts 

Adding pomade to a side part creates a clean, polished finish. Comb damp hair into a side part first. Then distribute pomade through the hair, brushing the heavier side away from the part line. Add more pomade to slick down flyaways.

Potential Downsides of Using Pomades

Pomades can be a great styling product for many people, but they do come with some potential downsides to be aware of.

Can Look Greasy If Overapplied

One of the most common complaints about pomades is that they can make hair look greasy or wet if too much product is used. Pomades have a slick, shiny finish, so applying too much can lead to a heavy, overly greasy look. Using pomade sparingly and evenly distributing it through the hair is key to avoiding this greasy appearance. It's better to start with a little bit of pomade and layer on more as needed.

Requires Washing Out

Unlike some hair products that can be reactivated with water, pomades need to be washed out with shampoo once the hair is ready to be restyled. The waxy, oily nature of pomades means they can lead to significant buildup if not washed out regularly. Plan to use a clarifying shampoo once or twice a week if using pomade daily.

Can Be Difficult to Restyle Throughout the Day

The hold and control pomades offer come at the expense of reworkability. Once pomade is applied and the hair is styled, it can be difficult to restyle the hair or modify the look later in the day. The hair may retain the original shape. For easy styling flexibility throughout the day, pomades may not be the best choice.

Knowing the potential downsides of pomades allows you to use them effectively while avoiding some of the common frustrations people can experience. Using pomade properly and washing regularly helps maximize the benefits while minimizing greasiness and buildup.

Maintenance tips

Using pomade can build up in your hair over time, so it's important to properly maintain your hairstyle. Here are some tips:

- Use a clarifying shampoo once a week. Clarifying shampoos are formulated to deeply cleanse hair and remove product buildup. Using one regularly will help strip away any excess grease or waxy residue.

- Don't overapply pomade. Using too much product will lead to a heavy, greasy look. Only use a small amount and add more as needed. The general rule is to start with a dime-sized dollop and build up from there.

- Fingerstyle for touch-ups. Throughout the day, you may need to restyle certain sections of your hair. Rather than reapplying pomade, simply use your fingers to reshape and tame flyaways. This will refresh your hairstyle without weighing it down.

Properly maintaining your pomade hairstyle will help it look its best while preventing greasiness and buildup. Follow these simple tips for keeping hair healthy and under control.

Homemade pomade recipes

Making your own pomade at home can be a fun DIY project that allows you to customize the ingredients and get exactly the hold and shine you want. Here are some recipes to try for popular homemade pomade types:


Beeswax gives pomade a firm yet pliable hold and also contributes to shine. 


- 1 oz beeswax

- 2 oz coconut oil (extra virgin, unrefined)

- 10 drops essential oil for fragrance (optional)


1. Using a double boiler, melt the beeswax and coconut oil together over medium heat, stirring frequently. 

2. Once melted and combined, remove from heat and allow to slightly cool.

3. Add essential oil if desired and stir to incorporate.

4. Pour into a small jar or tin container and allow to fully set before using.

Coconut oil-based

Coconut oil serves as an emollient to condition hair and scalp. This recipe has a medium hold.


- 3 tbsp coconut oil (extra virgin, unrefined)

- 1 tbsp shea butter

- 1 tbsp Castor oil

- 10 drops essential oil (optional)


1. Melt the coconut oil, shea butter, and castor oil together in a double boiler over low heat. 

2. Once melted, remove from heat and allow to slightly cool.

3. Add essential oil if desired and stir thoroughly to incorporate. 

4. Pour into a container and allow to fully harden before using.


Clay pomades offer a matte finish and strong hold.


- 2 tbsp bentonite clay

- 1 tbsp beeswax

- 1 tsp jojoba oil

- 1 tsp castor oil

- 10 drops essential oil (optional)


1. Using a double boiler, melt the beeswax over low heat.

2. In a separate bowl, combine the bentonite clay and oils. 

3. Remove the beeswax from heat and allow to slightly cool. 

4. Add the beeswax to the clay and oil mixture and stir thoroughly until fully incorporated.

5. Add essential oil if desired for fragrance. 

6. Transfer to a container and allow to set fully before use.

Frequently Asked Questions

Pomades are versatile hair products but do come with some common questions. Here are answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about pomades:

How do I apply pomade?

- Scoop a fingernail-sized amount of pomade out of the container. Rub it between your palms to warm and soften. 

- Apply pomade to dry or slightly damp hair, running it through from roots to ends. Use a comb to distribute evenly and style as desired.

- Start with a small amount and layer on more pomade as needed for your hairstyle. It's easier to add more than take away excess.

What ingredients are in pomades?

- Traditional pomades contain beeswax, petroleum jelly, and mineral oil to provide shine and hold but more recently vegan alternatives like shea butter, jojoba oil and carnauba wax are used.

- Water-based pomades use waxes and gels for texture. Some contain oils like olive, coconut, or argan oil.

- Ingredients like shea butter, lanolin, and glycerin help condition and moisturize hair.

- Pomades are free of harsh chemicals like sulfates and alcohol that can dry out hair.

How do I wash pomade out of my hair?

- Use a clarifying shampoo to cut through the oils and waxes. Let it soak for a few minutes before rinsing thoroughly.

- Repeat shampooing if needed to fully remove pomade residue. 

- Using conditioner helps restore moisture and manageability after clarifying.

- For water-based pomades, a regular shampoo should suffice to wash out.

What's the difference between oil-based and water-based pomades?

- Oil-based pomades contain petroleum, beeswax, and mineral oil so they offer high shine and no to strong hold. But they can be difficult to wash out.

- Water-based pomades use waxes and gels to sculpt hair. They wash out easily with water but have a lighter hold.

- Choose oil-based for slick, retro styles. Use water-based for natural texture and re-styleability during the day.

How should I store pomade?

- Store in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight and heat to prevent the formula from separating or melting. 

- Make sure the lid is secure when not in use. For jars, you can wipe excess pomade from the rim before replacing the lid.

- Don't store pomade in the bathroom where hot showers can create steam and moisture.

- Check the expiration or best-by date and discard if a pomade is past it. Unopened, it should last around 2 years.

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