When oil and water don't mix- the great pomade debate

Posted by Jimmy Figg's on

So, last week we took you through the three main categories of mens hair products that you need to be aware of. Today, we are going to look at the most well known of these - pomades. These products are designed for shine. We'll cover matte products in the blog next week. 

Pomade (rhymes with lemonade and is just as sticky) is a term that is slowly being used in a wider sense to refer to any mens grooming product, but, the purists that we are, prefer to just use it in the sense of a thick hair product that gives a sleek and shiny finish.

Pomades have been around since the 20s but became really popular in the 50s with 'greasers' named for their use of grease, or oil based, pomade. As the name suggests, these are based on grease - usually petrolatum, mineral oil, petroleum or paraffin. 

While oil based pomades are still going strong, water based pomades are a more recent formulation that you might also want to consider. While their are some exceptions to the rule, both are going to give you a shiny look. Neither are superior to the other, it's really about your hair, lifestyle and preferences. While there are some exceptions to the rule, both are going to give you a shiny look. 

Let's break the oil based vs water based pomade debate down a little.

Oil based pomades have a lot more weight to them than the water based pomades and so are suited to dry and frizzy, or thicker hair. Oil based pomades will just weigh thin hair down- best to go for water based if this is you.

Both can have good strong hold but oil based pomade stays softer and is more malleable, water based goes firm and dry and stiff. This means that with oil based pomade you can rework or redo it during the day - if you are wearing a hat, if its windy or it gets bumped. With water based pomade you are going to need to wet your hair and redo it if it needs to be fixed.

Oil based pomades are harder to wash out, it can take a few shampoos (with strong shampoo) to get it out of your hair. This can frustrate some people but oil based pomades are designed to stay in your hair for a few days. The product breaks down a bit over the two days and is easier to wash out. In the mean time they look a lot better on Day 2 and 3 because it’s worked its way through the hair. When applying oil based pomade your hair needs to be mostly dry.

Water based pomades wash out very easily, in fact, even just wetting them in the shower can be enough, as they strip the oil out of your hair, leaving hair fresh and clean without a shampoo. Apply water based pomade while your hair is still a bit wet, dry hair will make it set too quickly. If it sets before you're done- just wet your hair again and rework it.

Keep in mind the seasons when choosing water vs oil. Oil based pomades can melt a little during the warmer months - forming a film of grease on the forehead which can lead to acne.

Both oil based and water based pomades are every bit as good as each other and both have as strong a hold as you need. Consider if your hair is thick or thin, how often you want to wash it and whether you want a soft or stiffer hold.

Check out our curated selection of pomades here.

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