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What is the Difference Between Hair Styling Wax and Hair Pomade?

Tricia Christensen
Updated May 21, 2024
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Defining differences between hair pomade and styling wax are challenging. Some brands are called pomade waxes, and a few hairdressers suggest there is very little difference between the two. There are actually are a few differences between these hair products which can help people decide which one is most appropriate to use.

Hair wax may be primarily composed of some form of wax, and it can be applied to wet or dry hair, although it's much easier to apply on wet hair. It’s often best used on short to medium hair lengths. It may be a little difficult to distribute pure wax through the hair, and people may need to warm it up with their hands.

Hair wax will provide medium hold, but can deflate as the day goes on. Gravity defying hairstyles usually need stronger hold hair products, but wax can provide a few spikes. Another reason to use this product is to clump hair together or to add points to textured hair at the bottom of cuts. A textured bob could have better articulated points on it, with judicial use of wax.

Hair pomade usually contains wax, which creates some of the problems in defining it. Yet it normally also has some form of oil, often things like petroleum based oils. There are pomades that have more natural oils, which may be a little healthier. People tend to apply hair pomade to wet hair, and when applied in large amounts it makes the hair look wet and glossy all day. It can be a good moisturizing treatment for hair, especially when it is comprised of natural and organic oils.

Hair pomade can be used on short, medium or even long hair and may be used in only sections to create some hold. Both wax and hair pomade offer about the same degree of hold, but many people find they don’t like the semi-greasy or shiny look of the hair that has pomade in it. Pomade can also be challenging to wash out of the hair and it may take more than one washing to get the hair clean.

Another point of confusion between wax and hair pomade is that in the 1990s, pomade began refer to many things that were once thought separate. People may say pomade and mean wax or styling cream, and it’s hard to know what the definition means in all cases. True pomade should always contain oil, wax, and usually fragrance. Anything lacking these ingredients may deserve another name, and these alternate hair styling products could offer different holds or appearance.

BeautyAnswered is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Tricia Christensen
By Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a BeautyAnswered contributor, Tricia Christensen is based in Northern California and brings a wealth of knowledge and passion to her writing. Her wide-ranging interests include reading, writing, medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion, all of which she incorporates into her informative articles. Tricia is currently working on her first novel.
Discussion Comments
By anon136105 — On Dec 21, 2010

depending on how nature the product is, and if you have african american thick hair. You can leave the pomade in your hair. African american hair loves natural oil. But on the pomades base in petroleum jellies, those tend to be very messy even for african americans. If you have dread or locks the waxed base pomades are excellent.

By wecallherana — On Jul 21, 2010

Both of these products should be washed out of your hair after the night is over or before you go to bed; they have a tendency to become quite messy the longer they are in your hair and can leave your hair follicles clogged. Of course, this is true with most styling products and most products should also be washed out at the end of the day, but because these two are so thick it's best to wash them out once you're done with them.

By doppler — On Jul 21, 2010

As the article says, hair wax tends to deflate throughout the course of a day. The reason is because wax is so malleable, even in its solid form. Also, if you live in a hotter climate, expect this to happen doubly fast as wax melts in direct heat.

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a BeautyAnswered contributor, Tricia...
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