Pomades are called everything under the sun these days. They can have names such as wax, paste, or putty. A pomade by definition is any waxy or greasy substance used for the purpose of styling hair.
Pomades date back centuries with original recipes using ingredients like bear lard and petroleum jelly. These heavy ingredients give lasting hold, which sometimes could last for days. That is why many modern pomades have elected to have a water base rather than an oil base. In this post we will explain the differences, and which pomade is best for you.
There are a few key differences in terms of the makeup, ideal use cases, price, and hygiene. Here are a few of the key differences to consider before deciding on a water or oil based pomade.
This is the obvious one. One is made with water-soluble materials and the other uses an oil based ingredients. Check your water based pomade and the first ingredient is likely water or aqua with a host of other ingredients. The list of ingredients for water based pomades is usually quite extensive.
Oil based pomades on the other hand have an oil based material as the main ingredient. The first ingredient on your oil based pomade is usually one of the following: petrolatum, beeswax, or paraffin. That first ingredient is usually followed by a short list of others.
Here is the difference in ingredients between our water based pomade and our oil based pomade. In summary, water based pomades have more ingredients and no oil based ingredients like petroleum or petrolatum.
Both types of pomades usually cost roughly the same. Sometimes oil based pomades cost slightly less due to a smaller ingredient list. The difference is associated cost actually comes from how you use each, or more specifically how much of each you use.
Water soluble products easily wash out in the shower. This means that you will need to reapply product every time you soak your head. On the flip side oil based pomades can and will last through a shower. Unless you really try to get oil pomade out, it will linger in your hair beyond a single wash. This is good or bad depending on how you look at it.
This lasting power is off-putting to some but many actually like that it means they use less product, and many will seek out very heavy oil based pomades for this reason. They apply the product less over time which cuts their overall hairstyling costs.
The look you are trying to achieve is an important aspect to consider when choosing a water based pomade or an oil based one. Generally water based pomades are more forgiving and easier to work with, making them a better option for new pomade users and hair enthusiasts. However, water based does not always do the trick.
A water based pomade is great for many barbershop classic cuts like a side-part, an undercut, and most business cuts. It is not effective for creating looks that defy the natural movement of your hair such as pompadours and extreme slick backs.
Oil based pomades also usually provide a higher shine as they never fully dry. Again this is appealing to some and a hindrance to others. A good oil based pomade will remain moldable all day, meaning you can constantly re-work it or re-comb it. Think Elvis with his comb in hand.
The final difference between the two is related to your skin care. If you have acne prone skin, you are better off using a water based pomade than an oil based one. This is because the heavier oil products will clog up your pores more than a water based ones.
Oil based pomades have been known to produce acne at the hairline on your forehead. If you are the type to get breakouts, you may want to reach for a water based pomade. Even if you are extremely careful upon application of oil based pomades, you will undoubtedly have product residue on your pillow case, towels, and other areas around your house.
As mentioned before oil based pomades have some lasting power. If you are susceptible to acne breakouts, you are better off using a water based product.
As I am sure you can tell from this article, there is no one pomade that is best. The best pomade for you really depends on a multitude of factors. I for one prefer to use a water based pomade because I don’t personally like the feeling of having the product survive a shower.
That said, I do like the look of oil based pomades for some hairstyles I like. That is why I usually find myself owning both at the same time, and using the next product for each individual job.
Written By: Alex McEachern