Pomade basics 101.

Pomade. A small word, with lots of myths and mythology around it. In this post, I’m going to try break it all down into bitesize chunks, from my experience of using it and trying out different types for the last year. Now, I’ll be honest with you guys- I LOVE pomade. I love styling with it, experimenting with it, trying new ones, classics, different shines, different smells. At last count I had over 40 different types.

Pomades

My pomade collection a few months ago. It’s about triple this size now…

Yeah, FORTY. My girlfriend hates me. :p

Anyway, here are some things about pomade that you might have been wondering about- sometimes the pomade and vintage world can be a hard one to crack into, information-wise. While I love all the pomade and pomapadour appreciation groups out there, they are overwhelmingly dominated by guys, and so for some people that could be intimidating, or a bit nerve-wracking. Fear not! I’m here to answer questions. So if you have any that aren’t included in this post, PLEASE leave a message or email me. I’m lovely, I swear!!!

1) What exactly IS pomade????

Ok, so let’s get basic. According to Wikipedia (who of course we can totally trust!) pomade is;

 is a greasy and waxy substance that is used to style hair.

Pretty simple, right? Well, not really once you get into it. There are actually a couple of different types of pomade, depending on their ability to wash out. You could simplify this into ‘water-based pomade’ and ‘wax/ petroleum- based pomade’. Traditionally, all pomades were wax/ petro based, and made the hair slick and shiny.

Pomades really started to take off in the early 20th century; many of the big names like Murrays (1925), Black & White (1922), Royal Crown (1936), and Sweet Georgia Brown (late 1920’s) are still around and making pomade the same way today. So there’s history to it, which I personally really love.

2) Ok, so what’s the difference in pomade types? 

Well, as I said you have water-based, and wax/ petro based pomades, and while they both have the word ‘pomade’ in the title, that’s pretty much where to similarity ends. Now, before we go any further, I have to warn you that many guys in the pomade appreciation world get their knickers in a twist about water-based pomades, claiming them to be gel, and not pomade, and only for pansies, yadda yada yadda. BORING. I say fire ahead with whatever suits your lifestyle and hair best. But, I might as well let you know my opinions. Lucky you.

Wax based pomade doesn’t wash out. Water-based does. That’s the main crux of the issue. But there are other issues, and here you go:

Wax pomades (from now on I’m just going to call them pomade, and water-based will be abbreviated to WB. I can’t be arsed typing everything out…) have a list of ingredients like beeswax, petroleum, coconut oil, olive oil, almond oil, fragrance etc. Main ingredient will be wax or petroleum, depending on the product, and the hold etc. For example this is the full ingredient list of one of my favourite pomades, Bees Knees: 

Raw Lanolin
Beeswax
Tea Tree oil
Peppermint oil
Eucalyptus oil

Pic of Bees Knees pomade (c/o The Dapper Society)

In contrast, WB pomades have some serious chemicals in them- like Layrite (one of the most popular and widely available WB pomades), whose ingredients are;

Water (Aqua), Cetereth-25, PEG-7 Glyceryl Cocoate, Propylene Glycol, Polysorbate-20, PEG-7 Hydrogenated Caster Oil, PEG-8 Methicone, DMDM Hydantoin, Methylparaben, Fragrance (Parfum), Red4 (CI 14700) Yellow 5 (CI 19140).

Layrite original (from Layrite.com)

I don’t know about you, but I don’t like the idea of putting that many chemicals into my hair and onto my scalp on the regular. If I can’t pronounce it, I dunno if I want to rub it on me.

3) So if you can’t wash pomade out, isn’t that… gross?

Maybe. If you don’t ever let water or shampoo near your head. I wash my hair every day, I just don’t wash the pomade out. I know that might sound odd, and I know when I first started I found the idea weird too. How can your hair be clean if it always has product in it? Truth is most of us wash our hair WAY more than we should. It’s pretty much self cleaning. Washing with shampoo strips all the natural good stuff of our scalp. Rinsing your hair every day, and washing with shampoo every third or so day is one of the best ways to keep hair healthy.

It does take getting used to, and it’s not for everyone. But personally I’ve found my hair to be in far better condition since I started using pomades and washing my hair less. And I have ZERO dandruff. Most pomades I use have great essential oils in them like teatree, peppermint, jojoba… My barber even comments on the condition of my hair now. Plus I save a ton of money, because rather than have to use shampoo and conditioner and product every day, I use far less than I used to. And I save time- most mornings all I need to do is rinse my hair, put a small bit more product in (to replace what has come out overnight and in the shower) and comb my hair. Done in about 3 minutes. Whereas if I were to wash and shampoo and restyle from scratch every day… yeah, way longer.

But everyone has their limit. I know guys who don’t “degrease” for 2 or 3 weeks. Personally, I can’t go more than about 3 days without needing to completely cleanse my hair of all product. I just don’t like how my scalp feels (even though I do rinse it every day) and my hair is pretty fine, so build up for me isn’t great- it starts to weigh my hair down and it’s not good. I also know of people whose partners have a fit at the state of greasy pillows and ruined pillowcases- pomade does rub off at night!

4) I heard using pomade makes your hair fall out. 

Pomade doesn’t make your hair fall out. Improper care of your scalp can do that. And because you comb your hair a lot when you style with pomade, the hairs that naturally fall out during a day can come out all at once, making it look like chunks of hair are coming out. Yes, leaving petroleum and wax on your scalp for long periods without letting your scalp breathe can cause oxygen to stop getting to your pores, which causes problems like spots. But like I said above, if you do it right, this doesn’t occur. I usually have one day a week where I use no product or a light WB product to let my scalp breathe. I’ve been using pomades every day for a year now and if anything my hair is thicker and fuller than before!

5) But… how do you use pomade?

I wish someone had been available to answer this question for me a year ago! I had no clue what I was doing, ended up buying the completely wrong product and freaking out because my hair looked terrible and I had no idea how to fix it. My next post is going to be about how to choose the right pomade for you, but for now I’ll say this; pomade needs to go IN your hair. Not on top. You need to apply it right down to the roots, not just let it sit on top. You use your hands to apply it, a comb or brush to work it through, and a comb to style. Do it right and it’ll stay where you put it all day.  I will also make a few videos to go with my posts, but right now I’ve been sick in bed for a week and I am in no fit state to show myself off to the world!!!

So I hope this post has helped a few people with some questions that they were curious about. I am a huge fan of the slick, sharp styles that can be created pretty easily using pomade, and I’ve seen a few butches and dapper so-and-so’s that have everything down except the hair, which is a shame. The sheer number of products is astounding, and there are almost as many ways to style as there are people! So it can be a bit daunting to someone coming into this arena for the first time. If you guys have questions or comments, I’d LOVE to hear them. As always, you can follow me here, or on Twitter, Facebook and soon, Pinterest. (I do have a personal account but I need to set up one for my blog I reckon!!!)

‘Til next time, stay dapper!

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22 thoughts on “Pomade basics 101.

  1. My girlfriend is a pomade junkie-we’ve been on many a pomade hunt over the last ten years- so your blog made me laugh, we like to call it, “goo” but finding the perfect goo has been a decade long fiasco!

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  4. Okay, so I had this peppy long hair a day ago before I got a gentleman’s cut yesterday. I got an executive contour and I’m using a great beeswax based pomade for my hair. The only thing I’m having trouble with his combing it back the right way and getting my hair not to stand up in the back.

    If you could give me advice on styling my hair, it would be much appreciated, thanks!

    • Hey Tyler! I’m actually hoping to put up a video soon on how I comb my hair- I just got a fresh contour today, so it’s probably a oood time to do it!

      I found it hard to get rigt the first few times myself. The important bit is to get the part right, and once youget that right the hair will sit a lot better. I realised a while ago that I was combing my part ever so slightly wrong, which meant my hair would not lay right on the back of my head… Also, tight combs and boar brushes really help. In my daily style I use 2 brushes and 2 combs to get it all sitting right…

      What pomade you using, out of curiosity? :D

  5. Great read! I recently changed my style(faux hawk) to a pompadour comb over. So I am new to using pomade and I am not to familiar with any products. Right now I’m trying out crews pomade, I’m still not sure if I like it or not it’s only been a week. I am one of those people that wash my hair on a daily bases, but I am going to try to wash it less. I guess my question is what wax base pomades would you recommend I should try? I like the fact that there’s more natural ingredients in them (words i can pronounce) .

    thanks!

    • Hey, thanks for the comment!

      A few questions for you first- what is your hair type? Thick? Fine? Colour? I ask because if your hair is thick it’s very different from mine, so I’d be going on what I’ve heard from other guys! If it’s a light colour, sometimes the colours used in the waxes can stain blonde hair.

      Off the bat, I’d recommend trying the Dax line if pomades. They are generally very available, and range from light to heavy, so you can experiment without breaking the bank- most Dax tins are less than €5. Are you finding the American Crew has good or bad hold for you? These will all help figure out what types of pomades would work.

      If you do try out some if the Dax products, I’d recommend Neat Waves (orange tin) as a good place to start. If you’re not used to combing waxy pomades starting much heavier than that will freak you out- at least it did me!

      I’m currently working on a video overview of some of my personal favourites, should be going up before the end of the week, so feel free to check back. And ask any more questions you have.

      Thanks for reading!

      Zo.

      • I got thick hair pretty much black even though they says it looks brown. the american crew holds but not as good as I thought it would. I noticed especially today if i use to much it gets to shiny(greasy look) which I really don’t like. I like that semi shine look, After reading your other blogs I looked into the bee’s knees(medium hold) not sure how that compares to crew as far as holding the hair in place. But I will defenintly look into the dax products.

      • Well the Bees Knees is one of my faves but it can be tough to work with at first. It has some very good hold. If you like the semi shine look I’d advise looking into styling with a blow dryer and ‘finishing’ with your chosen product. Takes longer but will give you that look.

  6. Hi i’ve been using Imperial WB pomade and using it for a months now, i have thick straight hair ,its hard to make my hair stay slick like the way i first comb it , and when i sweat my hair style just be very messy ,

    so after reading this article you wrote , i think i want to change my pomade to oil base and try the heavy pomades one.
    but i’ve been trying to use oil pomades of my friend , i just dont get the idea of washing my hair is it when it’s still oily just wash it with water and shampoo or just wash it with water . and after washing, the hair stay very sticky and very hard to dry it then to comb it maybe any solution on how to maintain the oil based pomade stay +- 3 days

    thanks anyway i admire ur article!

    • Hey man,

      It can be hard to get used to, but keep going. You need to use the hottest water you can, and be prepared to put a little bit of pomade in fresh after each wash, even if not degreasing. Some will come out every night on your pillows, etc anyway. I would recommend getting a lighter pomade to use in the way each morning- because your heavy pomade will mostly stay in as a base, to give hold, and then using a lighter pomade and recombine after your rinse or wash will make it much easier to comb. Leave it as damp as you can when you comb it- dryer hair is much harder to comb.

  7. Hey, man.

    Great post. I recently started using pomade and although it took a few days to get used to, I really like it. I received a can of Cock Grease pomade from a friend just as a joke and, as a joke, decided to use it. Needless to say, I’m hooked and have decided to order some different brands. My problem is dandruff. At first glance my hair looks slick with a nice, subtle sheen, but if I look closer I can see those little pesky white bits. I’ve had pomade in my hair for about a week now, washing with just hot water, but today it was so annoying that I decided to use some Head & Shoulders, knowing full well that the pomade wouldn’t come out. As you probably guessed, the dandruff remained, my hair feels nasty now and I’m unsure what to do.

    I love using pomade, but if this dandruff problem persists, I’ll have to switch back to my old ways. I never had a problem with dandruff before using pomade. Any ideas as to what I can do to get rid of my little problem?

    • Hey man, thanks for the comment!

      Are you sure that what you’re seeing is dandruff? It may actually be flakes from the pomade- some of the waxier pomades can react like that in some peoples hair. If you never had a dandruff problem before I doubt that’s the issue, because pomade has some good oils etc to moisturize the scalp.

      If I were you I’d try a ‘softer’, more peroleum based pomade to see if there are these flakes with that. Something like Murrays Super Light or Dax Neat Waves. You won’t get as much height as you would with Cock Grease (which formula is it?) but if you don’t see any dandruff after FULLY degreasing and then using it for a day or two then I’d say your hair just needs pomades with less wax.

      Hope this helps, shoot me another message if it’s still a problem.

      • Huh. Never though about that. The Cock Grease I have is Cock Grease XX (XXtra Stiff), so I suppose that it could be wax flakes. I just wish I could have figured that out earlier. I just ordered some Murray’s Superior Hair Pomade along with some other miscellaneous stuff. The reason I kind of prefer the waxier and stiffer pomades is because I’m up at 4:40AM every morning and off to work (blue collar), so I can just run a comb through my hair anytime throughout the day and it’ll look fine.

        Anyway, thanks for the reply! You’re the shit!

      • Cheers man!

        If you are using the waxy stuff and are recombing a lot, that’ll contribute to flakes too. You can lessen that by wet combing instead of dry combing throughout the day (at least in my experience). What you want to find is a decent holding pomade that comes out of the tin in a soft scoop as opposed to needing your nail to dig it. You know what I mean?

        You could try some of the home brewing guys like j.c Hillhouse (brews Frankengrease) or Goon Grease by Lockhearts (all on Etsy).

        All petro pomades are recombable, the trick is to work with your hair type not against it, even if you think you know what your hair is like, you might have it wrong. I always thought I’d need super heavy stuff but I don’t.

  8. I’m using Bona Fide Pomade at the moment. It is supposed to hold my hair at its position throughout the whole day but it doesn’t. My hair falls 1 or 2 hour later. I’m sick of it. Can you please tell me what’s proper way of using pomade? Thank you.

    • Hey Vincent. Thanks for your comment.

      Couple of things: Bona Fide is a more medium hold pomade, so may be too weak for your hair type. What is your hair like dry with no product? Any curls or thick hair will cause a medium pomade to have problems.

      Also, how are you applying? To wet or dry? Applying to wet/ damp hair will cause the pomade to ‘set’, which will help it hold it’s shape. Are you making sure to apply to all sides of the hair and not just on top? That’s vital- run your pomade around your hair loads, pushing the pomade on the back and sides.

      What is the weather like where you are? Humidity will effect the hold of a water based pomade.

      If your hair is falling, I’d advise trying to apply to wetter hair, applying to every side of the hair rather than just on top.

      You might try stepping up to a heavier hold water based, like Sauvecito firme, Murrays Edgewax or Even Uppercut Deluxe.

      Hope that helps!!

  9. Your information is very helpful. I have been using Dax Wave & Groom which is a heavy hold. I only wash my hair with hot water and only use shampoo every 5 days. My morning routine is to run my fingers through my hair when it is dry to determine if and where I need to add more heavy pomade. Then I wet my hair slightly and comb in some Royal Crown Hair Dress which is very light and easy to comb in. Presto! I’m ready to style a slicked back pomp.

  10. Pingback: Getting pomade out of your hair. | Dapper, Irish & Butch

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