Of all the myriad of hair styling products, this one can be the most confusing. Even its name can be up for debate and just for the record it’s “po-mayd” as in“made”, not “pom-ard” as in “try hard”. The reason for much of the lack of clarity – ironic since these formulations are generally translucent – is that the word has become a generic catch-all for all sorts of products that really aren’t pomades at all!
Perhaps it’s best to break it all down by use. Pomades are generally used for hairstyles that are neat, clean and formed by using a comb. They usually have a high shine element. Think your classic side part. But isn’t that a gel? Nope. Pomades don’t dry to a brittle crust and they can be restyled throughout the day.
The first pomades were made using animal fat like lard and scented with apples but by the 1950s, they were often oil based. These fatty pomades are still around, and although they offer long hold and an enviable gloss, they can be tough to wash out. Especially where petroleum derivatives are involved. They can also irritate sensitive scalps and even cause skin problems around the forehead.
Water-based pomades sidestep these issues. They are easier to wash out but don’t quite offer the same degree of hold. But it’s worth it. The wash factor is crucial when discussing pomades as they can build up quickly cause hair to look dull. It’s best to always start with a clean slate. Use no more than a dab the size of a 20c coin and emulsify well between the hands to ensure it goes through the hair evenly.