For a sleek red-carpet-ready look, pomade is the hairstyling product for you. But it doesn’t just give you a Mad Men-style 1950s side parting, new ingredients and styling techniques mean it’s a versatile hair product you can use every day.
What is hair pomade?
Hair pomade is a waxy substance used for hair styling purposes. Pomade, depending on if it's petroleum-based or water-based lasts longer than any other hair styling product. Hair pomade provides more shine but less hold, giving the flexibility to reshape throughout the day. Pomade doesn’t dry out and won’t harden on your head, pomade holds your style in place, but your hair remains supple.
Hair pomade is experiencing a real revival right now. You’d be forgiven for thinking of the shiny, slick look of early Elvis or the cool swagger of James Dean.
Types of Hair Pomade
There are two types of pomade: Petroleum-Based and Water-Based.
Petroleum-Based Hair Pomade
Petroleum-based pomades contain a more traditional formula typically containing petroleum, grease, paraffin, and other waxy materials. This type of pomade is harder to wash out, needing several washes with shampoo. Petroleum-based pomades provide the maximum shine and slickness.
Pros of petroleum-based pomades
- Re-style throughout the day
- Last longer than water-based pomade
- Delivers great moisture
- Provides strong hair hold
Cons of petroleum-based pomades
- Doesn't wash out easily
- Causes build-up
- Hair looks greasy
Water-Based Hair Pomade
Water-based pomades are easily washable and are a great choice to greasy and oily pomades, which cause buildup. Since this pomade is water-based, it dries up quickly, which requires using water to re-style throughout the day if needed.
Pros of water-based pomades
- Super easy to wash out
- Long-lasting hold
- Doesn't make hair greasy
- Less prone to cause acne
Cons of water-based pomades
- Less shine than oil-based pomades
- Dries hair and scalp
- Not easy to re-comb
The history of hair pomade
Pomades were first introduced in the 18th century. They were used by the aristocracy in Europe and were made from bear fat, the trend soon spread around the world. The 1930s were the glory days of pomade. The main ingredient had switched to petroleum, lard or beeswax, and pomade was manufactured for the masses. Stars of the silver screen like Clarke Gable and Carey Grant were dapper and dashing, with short neat styles with never a hair out of place thanks to their pomade.
It’s popularity continued into the 1940s, with big names such as Errol Flynn sporting slick side partings. As the 1940s gave way to the 1950s the emergence of the greasers and rock and roll moved pomade into new territory signified by new styles: the Pompadour, the Ducktail and the Quiff. Pomade fell out of fashion by the 1970s, as hairstyles reflected the natural, product-free look of the hippy movement.
The pros and cons of hair pomade
One of the main benefits of hair pomade is that it does not dry out, giving you flexible, supple hair that will look good for a long time. You can restyle your hair throughout the day too. You can also use pomade to style your mustache, sideburns, beard, or goatee, making it a great all-rounder.
Similarly, a petroleum-based pomade will last through several washes, giving you no-hassle style for days on end.
But if you’re looking for a quick style you can rub or brush out, this is not the product for you. Petroleum-based pomades are also quite heavy on the scalp, which might lead to clogged pores, which you should avoid if you have acne-prone skin.
Water-based pomades wash out quickly and are better for the overall health of your hair, but they don’t give the high shine look, with a more matte finish, so it depends on the style you want to achieve.
How to use hair pomade?
Most pomades should be applied to towel-dried, damp hair. To start styling your hair with pomade take a dime-sized blob on the tip of your finger, remember you can always add more but can’t take it away so take a small amount. The trick is to warm it up by rubbing it between your fingers to get it ready to use.
Then using both hands, massage the pomade throughout your hair, from back to front, and root to tip. Now you’re ready to style it. For added volume and hold you can blow dry it in place.
Is pomade the right product for me?
Pomade Vs. Hair Wax
These two products probably have the most crossover, particularly water-based pomade and hair wax, which both have a matte finish. Hair wax gives a looser, more texturized finish, so if you want a high shine finish, stick to pomade. Hair wax will also leave your hair feeling tacky to the touch which some guys don’t like.
Pomade Vs. Hair Gel
If you have thick, unruly hair, gel will give you the strongest hold all day, so if you’re interested in keeping your hair in place hair gel could be the product for you. It also washes out well, and it’s good for guys with thinner hair as it builds volume. When hair gel dries, it makes hair hard and stiff, which means you can’t restyle it, too. Also, some gels can make flakes once they’re dry, which can be a problem.
Pomade vs Hairspray
Hairspray is a finishing product that gives your style that little extra hold and shine, but it can also make it stiff. Hairspray can actually work well with pomade. Once you’ve styled with pomade, you spray it at the root to lift hairs for more volume or to give a sheen and hold on top.
What are the best pomade styles
Pomade lets you sculpt your hair into sleek, sharp looks that make a significant impact, but which style is right for you? Here’s our rundown of classic styles hair pomade can achieve.
- Slick Back
- Side Parting
- Ivy League
With the hair swept up from the face and worn high over the forehead with volume and high shine, the Pompadour is the most recognizable, iconic style. Think 1950s Elvis.
Similar to the Pompadour, the Quiff sweeps the forelock up and off the face, but is more relaxed at the sides and back. Think James Dean in Rebel Without A Cause.
The Slick Back
Hair is slicked back and down the head with a petroleum-based pomade to give a high shine, sleek look. Think Michael Douglas in ’80s classic Wall Street.
Hugely popular in the 90s, sharp spikes are made by working pomade through the hair from the root. Think Taylor Lautner in the Twilight movies.
Pomaded hair is combed back around the sides of the head, ending in a small point. Much like the Pompadour, the Ducktail had its heyday in the 50s with its high shine, sleek look. Think the Fonz.
A fade is a transition of lengths on the back and sides of the hair, generally being longer at the top and fading down to shaved at the neckline.
Side Parting Hairstyle
This classic look was popular with GIs who had cropped military haircuts in the 1940s. Think of ‘ole blue eyes Frank Sinatra in On The Town.
Ivy League Hairstyle
Similar to the Side Parting, the Ivy League has a classic crew cut and is long on top. Think Sean Connery in You Only Live Twice.
Pomade trends today
Hair Pomade is the go-to hair styling product for many celebrities to get their red carpet look. From Leonardo Dicaprio, Ryan Reynolds, and Zac Efron working a slick Side Parting, Ryan Gosling with his crisp Ivy League look, to Justin Timberlake and Jake Gyllenhall with volume and shine in a modern Pompadour or tousled Quiff. Women are getting in on the act too, with Alicia Keys and Jennifer Lopez rocking a modern Pompadour for the cameras.