Don’t call it a comeback cause pomade has been a part of Americana for years. No longer regulated to the aesthetic history books the slick-hold substance has been reintroduced to the hair trade by young and hip, indie-minded barbers, who’re making old-school new again. Traditional pomades are oil-based, offering a unique combo of finish and hold with the wet look of a gel and flexibility of a wax. Their current popularity can be traced to “Mad Men,” which was based in the sixties (aka the Golden Age of pomades) when clean-cuts and slicked-back looks were in like Flynn. While traditional oil-based pomades give your dry hair shine, it can take some effort to manage and take multiple washes to remove, which does a number on your scalp. That’s why these days, many barbers favor newer water-based pomades have made their mark on the male hair care scene. They’re easier to clean off and lighter, while still offering a touch of sleek texture.
Best For: Thicker hair, slicked back looks and side parts.
Wax is great for holding a hairstyle and giving your hair that matte finish without the slicked back look. For those with naturally oily hair, wax offers a much better solution than pomade, giving you a subtle shine, but without making your hair look greasy or damaging your scalp. Wax often dries out after a few hours, but not before settling in, making it an ideal product for thicker hair or if you like a more spiky look. The one drawback with wax is that it’s hard to wash out. Be careful when you try to untangle the strands of hairs where it’s applied because you can easily end up pulling hair out. That, in turn, will make your locks thinner over time.
Best For: Shorter, spiky cuts, medium to thick hair.
Gel is a great all-around hair care product that works well no matter what style of hair you have. If you’re looking for a maximum hold, gel will cement your hairstyle and won’t budge or move in the wind and these days you’ll find gel available in both light and firm holds. Which to choose depends entirely on your hair type and the style you’re aiming for. As a general rule, the finer your hair, the lighter the gel you should use. Gel’s gift is how strong a hold it has. That is also its curse as your rock solid hair can often get flaky, which will make you look like you have dandruff. Not only is this not a good look, but can leave your locks looking like plastic, which makes it hard to the touch. The good news is that gel washes straight out, is easy to groom and is relatively inexpensive in comparison to the other hair applications.
Best For: Slicked looks requiring firm hold, longer hair.
If you have natural wavy, curly, or unruly hair, a cream product is the best choice for you. Cream creates movement so that your hair doesn’t feel sticky and making it an open invitation for flirty girls to run their hands through it. Whereas wax adds stiffness and gel offers hold, cream helps soften coarse hair and hold it in place. Cream gives off a nice sheen without making your hair look oily like with pomade. In fact, it works like a water-based pomade, but it lacks a strong hold. That should be of note for guys who like to mold their hair with their hands, comb or blow dryer (ain’t no shame in using one BTW). All you need is a dab of cream to get that stylishly natural look you desire. Cream is great to use because it’s so permeable and also lighter on the hair. An added benefit is that it locks in the natural moisture of your hair. If you’re looking for a light hold, cream is the way to go.
Best For: Long or curly hair requiring light hold.
So which hair product is right for you?
While we have our personal favorites, you shouldn’t avoid hair products because you’ve never used them. Try experimenting with different ones to see which one fits your hairstyle and hair types. Get some advice from a trained barber or stylist on the right type of product for the style you want and one that will work best with your hair type.