Pomade and wax are popular and effective hair styling products. Learn the differences between them, and figure out which one will work best for you.
Editor’s note: This post was originally published in October 2019. It has been updated with new pictures and commentary on February 1, 2020.
Finding an alternative to gel is important because you should be using a product specifically made for your hairstyle and type of hair.
Related: Best hairstyles for men
The biggest problems with using gel are the build-up of the product, flakes, and greasiness. To avoid the results of gel, opt for pomade or wax, depending on the hairstyle you want to achieve.
If you still want to use gel, thoroughly wash your hair beforehand and start with a small amount. Consider using another product because alternatives to gel can make your hair look better and do a better job of holding your hairstyle throughout the day.
Pomade vs. wax
Pomade and wax are similar hair products but they differ in several ways. Therefore, understanding the differences will help you choose between the two.
Pomade gives you a shiny and slick look with a high hold. It’s great for slick and neat hairstyles such as comb-overs, pompadours, slick back styles, and quiffs.
Traditionally, pomade is oil-based and now, water-based pomades have become a popular choice.
Oil-based pomades provide a strong hold while being shinier than water-based pomades. It’s also important to note that oil and water don’t mix very well, which means it’ll take more effort to wash out the hair product.
Water-based pomade has less shine than an oil-based pomade while still offering a holding the hairstyle with strength. When it comes to washing your hair, water-based pomades are easier to wash out without leaving any residue.
Take the following steps to use pomade to damp or dry hair:
- Blow-dry your hair into the shape that you want to style.
- Apply a small amount to the palm of your hands.
- Rub your hands together to warm up the product.
- Run your hands through your hair, starting at the back of your head.
- If you need to use more pomade, repeat steps 2 to 4.
Applying pomade to damp hair will result in more shine and less hold while applying to dry hair results in less shine with a stronger hold.
Wax gives you a medium shine look with a medium hold. Due to the natural medium shine, hair wax is a versatile product that can be used for a candid look or a pompadour.
It works best if you shave oily and short or medium hair. Wax also doesn’t last as long as pomade which means you may need to apply more throughout the day.
Note: For best results, use wax when your hair is dry instead of wet or damp hair.
Take the following steps to apply wax to your hair:
- Blow-dry your hair.
- Apply a small amount to your palms.
- Warm-up the wax by rubbing your hands together.
- Style your hair by starting in the back. For a better hold, start at the bottom of your hair and work your way to the ends.
The result of using wax is a matte appearance. It’s also great for adding texture and making your hair look thicker.
The biggest differences between the two are that pomades have a stronger hold and more shine than wax. The best way to choose is to consider how long you need your hair to be shaped in a specific style.
Additional grooming resources
Want to learn more about hair care or grooming? The following are a few more resources:
Featured photo by Nico Villanueva/Next Level Gents.