Oil-Based vs. Water-Based Hair Pomades: Which Is Better?
(Photo : Vecteezy / Ai Graphic)

Styling men's hair often involves the use of pomades, a type of styling product that holds hair into position. It can come in an oil-based or water-based formulation.

What is pomade?

Pomade is a hair styling product primarily for men, often made from lanolin, beeswax, or petroleum, giving it a greasy or waxy texture. It's ideal for achieving a sleek, long-lasting hairstyle, making it suitable for professional settings. Despite its old-fashioned reputation, pomade has a long history and was originally used as an ointment before transitioning into a popular hairstyling product.

Which formulation is better?

Two formulations commonly used by men are oil-based and water-based. 

Oil-based pomade offers high shine and coats hair to reduce split ends and lock in moisture, but it doesn't hydrate. It's best for slicked-back styles. Water-based pomade, easier to wash out, provides a strong hold but may make hair less flexible to comb. It's suitable for simpler styles like comb-overs and quiffs.

Greaser Look: Oil-Based

Pomade, a staple in classic '20s to '40s hairstyles, offers a heavy-duty solution for grooming hair. The greaser look, popular in motorcycle, skateboarding, and music scenes, often features a hard part and a pompadour, requiring a durable, shiny product that won't give up easily. This need led many to oil-based pomades, known for their shine, hold, and durability, though they can be challenging to wash out.

Flexible Styling: Water-Based

Water-based pomades emerged as a solution to the issue of washing out. Unlike gels, which can leave hair dry and crunchy due to alcohol content, water-based pomades offer malleability throughout the day without the hard, stiff feeling. They blend the best of both worlds, offering easy washout and styling flexibility.

Strong Hold: Oil-Based

Oil-based pomades typically contain waxes, butters, and oils, which can be natural or synthetic. Traditional pomades used beeswax, petroleum jelly, and cocoa butter or lanolin. Modern versions, like the Natural Pomade, opt for plant-based ingredients like castor oil, candelilla wax, and coconut oil, which wash out better and are healthier for the hair. These options can give a strong hold to your hairstyle all day.

Matte Hold: Water-Based

On the other hand, water-based pomades, like the Uplift Matte Clay Paste, primarily consist of water, which needs to blend with oil for the pomade to work. Plant-based emulsifiers help bind these ingredients together. This blend holds your hairstyle in a matte finish.

Hair Type Recommendation

Choosing between oil-based and water-based pomades depends on your preference and hair type. Oil-based pomades are ideal for a relentless, heavy-duty hold with a shiny finish. They can stay in your hair for days. On the other hand, water-based pomades offer less maintenance, easy styling, and quick washout. They are lightweight, making them suitable for thinner hair types and voluminous hairstyles.