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.
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:
Tea Tree 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!