From “Grease” to “Mad Men,” many of us know pomade as the greasy hair product responsible for many quiffs and pompadours over the years. Pomade traditionally refers to oil-based products with a medium hold and nice level of shine.

Today, modern pomade can have an oil or water base and can achieve a variety of holds and shine. You can use pomade to hold your hair in place and create more volume and texture. It’s more lightweight than gel and has a stronger hold compared to mousse. Pomade is often used to refer to many men’s hair products, though pomade is not exclusive to men.

Although it seems simple, there’s a lot more to pomade than just working it into your hair or whatever else you might’ve heard. For starters, most pomades should be applied on slightly damp hair — not fully dry or wet hair. Take a look at our guide below so you can learn more tips on how to use pomade the right way.

1. Pick a pomade

Your first step is to pick a pomade that can help you pull off the look you want. You need to consider the hold, shine, and its base.

Hold

Pomade holds vary from light, medium, to high. Your hair type, desired look, and prior experience with pomade all factor into the hold you’ll need.

  • Stronger holds are best if you have thick hair, want a structured look, and you’re experienced with using pomade.
  • Lighter holds are best if you’re new to using pomade or you want a softer look.

Shine

You can get pomades that have low, medium, or high shine. Some products may simply say they’re matte or sheen. If you can’t find what you want, you can combine pomades for the perfect level of shine.

  • Higher shine works well if you have dry hair and if you want a shiny finish.
  • Lower shine works well with naturally oilier hair or if you don’t want a lot of shine.

Base

Understanding the differences between bases can also help you pick out the best pomade. Below, we’ll go over oil-based and water-based pomades.

water based vs oil based pomade

Oil-based

Oil-based pomades typically have stronger holds, look shinier, and are less expensive than water-based pomades. They’re also more difficult to wash out since they’re not water-soluble. 

You’ll need special shampoo to wash it out to avoid washing your hair multiple times. Excess washing can dry out your hair. Improperly washing your hair can leave it dirty or lead to scalp acne.

You should give oil-based pomade a try if you want a long-lasting classic look or a structured style. It’s also a great option if you don’t mind the extra care needed when washing it out of your hair.

Water-based pomades

Water-based pomades are easier to wash out than oil-based and are also easy to work into your hair. You can touch up your style throughout the day by wetting your fingers and fixing your hair with your hands. Water-based pomades tend to cost more than oil-based products.

Picking a pomade sometimes requires you to try a few products before finding the right one. Ask around for recommendations from friends and family with similar hair types. You can also use tester sizes so you don’t waste money on the full-size product. Your barber or hair stylist is another great resource for recommendations.

2. Wash hair

Clean hair is the best hair to work with when using pomade. Make sure you’ve washed out any pomade and other styling products from your last hairstyle. Product buildup will make your hair feel greasy and heavy.

3. Towel-dry hair

Towel-drying is the best way to dry your hair before using pomade. You want your hair to retain a little moisture since most pomades activate with water. It’s hard to spread most pomades with dry hair, especially pomades with high hold or low shine. But if your hair is too wet, the pomade won’t have as strong of a hold.

However, the best way to work with pomade depends on the product’s formula. Read the label for instructions if you’re unsure of how you should prep your hair.

4. Prep the pomade

Each style requires different levels of product and each pomade has different instructions. If you’re not sure where to start, kick off your styling session by adding a small pea-sized drop of pomade on one of your fingers.

Rub it evenly between your fingers to emulsify it and make it easier to spread. You may need to break out a hair-dryer or rub more vigorously if it’s hard. Applying the product on your fingers first makes it easier to apply to your roots.

Starting with a small amount is better than putting too much in your hair. When in doubt, follow the instructions on the label, watch a video if you’re trying a new style, or call or see your barber or stylist for tips.

man holding pomade

5. Apply to the roots

Always apply pomade first to your roots while avoiding your scalp. Your roots are the base of your style and should get the pomade first before the rest of your hair. 

6. Apply throughout your hair

The next step is to work the pomade throughout the rest of your hair. You can use the palm of your hands to apply and more evenly distribute the pomade throughout your hair. Don’t forget to apply it to the sides and back of your head. Some styles may not need a lot of hold, but you may still want to have shine all over. 

If you’re going for a neat and combed-through look, use a comb to get the product more consistently spread throughout your hair. You can also achieve a similar effect by combing the product through the rest of your hair with your fingers. 

7. Add any finishing touches

This second to last step is your opportunity to style your hair with your fingers or a comb to get the look you want. We’ll go over styling tips later in the post.

8. Dry your hair

Blow-drying your hair secures your style, helps it last longer, and gives your hair some volume. A little lift can help if the pomade flattened or weighed down your hair. You can quickly blow-dry with cold air afterward to help lock in the style. 

Not a fan of heat or not worried about your style holding throughout the day? Feel free to skip the blow-dryer and let your hair air-dry

blow dry your hair with cool air at the end to lock in your style

Tips for using pomade with short hair

With short hair, you can easily style your hair with just your fingers or a comb. For example, you can get a textured and piecey look by pulling sections of your hair apart. You can use your fingers to comb the pomade through and push your hair in one direction for a tousled look.

Tips for using pomade with medium-length to long hair

You can still use pomade if you have longer locks. Use a light amount of pomade to slick back your hair when tying it up in a ponytail, bun, or any other updo. You can also work some pomade throughout your hair and your ends to tame frizz and split ends. If you have layers, you can lightly work some pomade into your layers for more texture and volume.

Does pomade work with all hair types?

Pomade can work with all hair types and hair textures — it all comes down to picking the right pomade for your hair. For example, if you have curly and dry hair, a pomade with strong hold and high shine may work best for you. A pomade with low shine and high hold can be the best choice for long and oily hair.

Does pomade thicken hair?

Some pomades are specially formulated to help hair look thicker and fuller. Many pomades also come packed with nutrients that are great for healthy hair. However, pomade alone isn’t a quick fix for thicker hair.

If you want to naturally grow and thicken your hair, start with eating nutritious foods, staying hydrated, and getting regular haircuts. There are also many hairstyles that are flattering for men with thin hair and women with thin hair.

Can I use pomade every day?

You can use pomade every day if you’re diligent about washing it out and keeping your scalp and hair healthy and clean. It also depends on the type of pomade you use.

Using oil-based pomade every day can strain your hair’s health if you’re aggressively washing it out each time. Water-based pomade isn’t as hard to get out, but still needs to be washed out like any other product.

how to avoid product buildup when using pomade

Applying the least amount of pomade possible and keeping it off of your scalp can make it easier to wash off. Clarifying shampoo and other hair cleansers are great for removing excess product from your hair and scalp. Deep conditioning is a good idea if you notice your hair drying out from the excess product and washing routine.

If that sounds like a lot, give your scalp and hair a break every once in a while from pomade and other hair products. You’ll still need to keep your hair and scalp clean, but you’ll have less buildup since you’re using less product.

Does pomade dry out hair?

Poorly formulated pomades can dry out your hair. Your hair may also become dry as a result of excessive washing. To avoid the woes of bad pomade, read reviews on pomade products and ask for recommendations. Switch to high-quality water-based pomade if you’re having too much trouble washing oil-based pomade out of your hair.

Hairstyles using pomade

The beauty of pomade is that the different holds and shines available can help you achieve different styles. You can use pomade to create a slick comb over or a high-volume quiff. Below are just a few examples of these styles. 

Quiff

man with quiff

Don’t confuse a quiff with a pompadour. The main difference is that quiffs have short backs and sides, but the top is long enough to create a pompadour-esque look. You can follow the same steps for getting a pompadour to give yourself a voluminous quiff. If pomps aren’t your thing, you can also push your hair over to one side.

Comb over

man with comb over

A classy comb over is a great choice if you’re not a fan of high-volume looks. It also takes less steps to achieve. You just need to define your hair part and comb your hair over for a neat look. 

Spiky

man with spiky hair

You can add spikes to a quiff and other short men’s hairstyles. When you use pomade, you’ll create spikes that are soft and flow naturally in your hair. Gel and other products are responsible for the defined (and sometimes bleached) spiky hair of the early 2000s.

Faux hawk

man with faux hawk

A faux hawk works best if your hair is cut with the intention of styling it as a faux hawk. Your hair is ideally short on the sides and long in the center, with some hair that hangs over your forehead.

To style a faux hawk, start by working pomade through your hair. Then you’ll use your hands to push your hair on the sides and back either forward or down. You’ll form the faux hawk in the center by pushing the longer hair up and toward the front. 

Pomade should be your go-to product if you like intricate styles without the added weight of other products. Picking the best type for your hair and properly applying it is key to getting a long-lasting look. If you’d like to first see what a StyleSeat Pro can do with your hair and some pomade, look through our community of stylists and barbers to find someone near you.