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Pomade vs Gel: Which is Better For Your Hair?

Pomade and gel are two commonplace hairstyling products used to control hair. Both products can be used for everyday styling, but it is most often used for everyday styling by men. 

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There are a few main differences between pomade and gel, notably how they hold, how they look, how they wash out of your hair, and how you should use them to create various hairstyles. 

Pomade vs. Gel at a Glance

First, let's look at the differences and similarities between pomade vs gel on a base level. In the 19th century, pomade became a popular hair styling tool.

The original versions consisted of bear fat, but since its inception, you will most likely find petroleum jelly, lard, and beeswax as the main ingredient. 

Hair Wax

The invention of hair gel is much harder to pinpoint. Archaeological evidence supports the theory that people used hair gel as far back as Ancient Egypt. It has been found on mummified bodies and might have been used in both life and burial to keep hair in its desired place. 

Modern hair gel as we know it did not hit the market until the 1960s. So, pomade is older than gel. Some would consider it the original hair hold product. 

As we go into more detail about the differences between the two, the main thing to note is pomade does not dry while gel does. Pomade allows the hair to stay flexible, and the stays in the hair longer. 

Whereas gel dries down to create a hardened effect which keeps the hair in place. 

Key Differences

Let's take an in-depth look at the key differences between pomade and gel. These differences include hold, look, washability, and styling options. 

Difference 1: Hold 

As mentioned, pomade does not dry down, while gel does. This quality creates a different hold effect. 

Pomade keeps the hair in place due to its texture, but it allows for flexibility, so you can reshape and restyle the hair if necessary without stripping pomade out of the hair.

Gel dries down to create a hardened effect. This result makes your hair look shiny but also stiffens the hair. Unlike pomade, you will need to wash gel out to create a new style, and once it is in its place, it isn’t easy to budge. 

Difference 2: Look 

Both pomade and gel give a shine to your hair, but the styles they allow are different.

The shine from gel comes from a hardening of the catatonic polymers, which allow the hair to become styled and textured. 

man styling his hair

With pomade, shine comes from the high wax content that coats hair and gives off a shine. Pomade is great for adding volume to your hair since it will keep the hair in place but allow you to move it around to style it. 

Difference 3: Washability 

Pomade used to be only an oil-based product. However, in more modern times, it is also available in water-based formulations. 

The oil-based product can last through several washes because it is a grease-based product that coats your hair. For these types of pomade, shampoos designed for oily hair or detergent-based shampoos are the best products to wash it out.

Water-based pomades are easier to wash out, which is a good option for those who want to use the pomade for daily styles. 

Gel products wash out of the hair quicker than pomades due to the chemical compounds used to create them. It does not contain grease, so regular shampoos will be fine to wash out the gel. 

Difference 4: Styling Options

Pomade and gel products offer different styling options as well. You can create slicked-back looks with pomade, but hair remains flexible and in place.

Those with a pompadour style often use pomade, and it is also perfect to hold down small, fine hair around your hairline.

pompadour style

Hair gel allows for a stronger hold. Therefore, hair gel might be the best option if you need to create hairstyles with height. Spiked or ultra-slicked back hair for example, work best with with gel. 

Which One is Better for Your Hairstyle?

Gel and pomade are excellent choices for hairstyles that need to stay put throughout the day. 

Use pomade for hairstyles that are longer on top, pompadours, comb-over side parts, and slicked-back hair. It provides volume whilst avoiding a wet look. 

For hairstyles on curly hair or long hair, use gel to get that all-day-hold. Apply it to the hair, blow dry, then style it to avoid crunchy hair. 

Pomade vs Gel: Curly Hair 

A gel is a better choice for curly hair. It will help define your curls and reduce frizz. However, you should use a pomade to reduce flyaways and let your curls gain their natural volume. 

Pomade vs Gel: Natural Hair 

Both pomade and gel are safe to use for natural hair. If you want volume, choose pomade. If you prefer to hold it all day, choose gel.

Pomade vs Gel: Black Hair 

For black hair, pomade is the best option. Gel often is not the best for textures that come with black hair -  pomade is actually better since black hair is often quite rigid it needs that flexibility that pomade allows. 

Pomade vs Gel: Straight Hair 

A gel is great for straight hair that has the potential to become frizzy, especially in humid weather.

On the other hand, pomade will add volume, so go for a pomade if the volume is preferred. 

Final Thoughts 

Gel and pomade are great products that achieve long-lasting hold depending on your hairstyling goals. If you are unsure how to use these products, you can ask your hairstylist for helpful tips, tricks, and tools to get your best hair look.

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Pomade vs Gel
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Born and raised in Austin, David is a dedicated writer and avid fragrance lover. When he's not trying out perfumes, he enjoys traveling and exploring new restaurants.