Pomade vs Wax (Useful Guide)

I have been using Gatsby Moving Rubber, Grunge Mat Wax to style my hair. It keeps my hair in place during gym and workout sessions and does not stand out because of its matte finish.

Deciding to use wax or pomade? The two main difference between wax and pomade is shine and hold. Wax has a stronger hold, a more detailed and matte finish while Pomade has medium hold but gives a slick, shiny appearance to the hair

However, more and more wax and pomade have been using ingredients interchangeably which has made the difference somewhat unclear. 

So, continue reading to find out more about the differences!

Pomade vs Wax Useful Guide


Here is a rundown on the basic definition of each product:

Hair wax is a heavy hair styling product containing wax, used to hold and style hair. Hair wax remains flexible and dries out slowly. The texture and consistency of hair wax vary from product to product which also determines their holding strength and shine.

What Hair Wax is made of

Hair wax usually contains water, oil-based substances like wax and oil, water-based substances, and emulsifiers.


Source: https://www.amazon.com/Gatsby-Hair-Styling-Matt-Hard/dp/B005OS2JZ2

On the other hand, Pomade is a hairstyling product that could be made of a petroleum or a water-based substance. With water-based and petroleum-based being the two main categories of hair pomade, every pomade differs in shine and holding power.

Pomade gives the hair a slick and shiny appearance that lasts a decent amount of time. However, the ingredients in pomade result in multiple washes to completely remove.

Fun fact: Pomade was made with bear fat or lard in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries

What Pomade is made of

Pomades are usually made with Lanolinbeeswax, and petroleum jelly, jojoba oil, shea butter, and/or some essential oils. Water-based pomades come in a variety of formulas too, offering a wide selection of holding strength and shine.



Source: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B000X2DMEG/ 


Types of pomade

There are two main categories of pomade, water-based, and petroleum-based.

Petroleum-Based Hair Pomade

Petroleum-based pomades contain a traditional ingredient such as petroleum, grease, paraffin, and other waxy materials. Petroleum-based pomades give the hair a shiny and slick look. However, the ingredient used to make petroleum-based pomade harder to wash out, needing multiple washes.

Water-based Pomade

Water-based pomades are the modern version of the petroleum-based pomades. Water-based pomades are washable and are a great choice if you do not like the oily feel and build-up of petroleum-based pomade. And since this pomade is water-based it dries up quickly. But water can be used to re-style throughout the day if necessary.

Key Differences

Let us compare hair wax, petroleum-based, and water-based pomade with the four factors I consider most important in everyday use. I will compare them in general as their attributes vary from product to product.


Source for Petroleum-Based Pomade: https://www.pomade.com/products/uppercut-matt-clay


Both hair wax and water-based pomade will give you a matte finish. On the other hand, a petroleum-based pomade will give you a shiny finish because of its ingredients. Hair wax will give a more detailed look while pomades will give a slicker and shinier look. The difference between pomade and hair wax for shine has become unclear as pomade has started to include beeswax. But in general, pomade for shine and wax for matte is a good start.

Holding Strength

Hair wax has always been known for its holding strength. Pomades on the other hand come with more flexibility. Water-based pomades for example can be restyled with some water at the cost of some holding strength. Petroleum-based pomade is comparable to hair wax in terms of holding strength. If you always need absolute holding strength, I recommend using hair wax or petroleum-based pomade. Water-based pomade can be considered if you require flexibility or want changes in your hairstyle throughout the day.


For certain brands, water-based pomades are more costly as compared to petroleum-based pomades. Although prices do differ from brand to brand.

For example, Gatsby's water-based pomade and hair wax prices (both the same volume) are about the same. My opinion is to choose the one that has attributes that you prefer or need.


Source: https://www.google.com/search?ei=5LX1XpjzEunCz7sPwbuWwAs&q=+gastby+hairwax&oq=+gastby+hairwax


Washing off

The best benefit of using a water-based pomade over a petroleum-based pomade or hair wax is that it can be washed off with water once you are done for the day. 

This is because water-based pomade does not contain waxy material as compared to the others. Also, acne breakouts are reduced as the level of greasiness is not prominent. If you have sensitive skin or want to have an easier time washing your hair, a water-based pomade should be in your consideration set.

Advantages and Disadvantages

We will examine each hair styling product in more detail over here!

Hair Wax


  • Flexibility in styling. Hair wax can be applied all over the hair or on specific points here and there. Which allows it to make a detailed expression. It can also be used on all hair lengths, from short to long.
  • Shine. Hair wax will give you a nice matte look, which many prefer then the unnaturally glossy shine of pomade.
  • Holding power. Hair wax is known for its holding strength.


  • Look greasy. If overapplied, the hair will look greasy.
  • Extra washing. Hair wax must be washed properly out of hair to avoid build-up.
  • Hair damage. Hair wax is known to be safer than other products but could still cause damage and breakage to scalp and hair overtime. Give your hair and scalp breaks whenever possible. Also, some hair waxes may contain alcohol which will damage the scalp and hair

Petroleum-Based Hair Pomade


  • Flexibility in changing hairstyle throughout the day. As petroleum-based pomades never dry, you will be able to continuously change your hairdo.
  • Great holding power. Petroleum-based pomades offer great holding power as compared to water-based pomade because of petroleum properties.
  • Last for an extensive amount of time. This traditional type of hair pomade consists of oil which is not dissolved by sweat or water. Allowing for extensive usage. 
  • Shine. Certain oils give off superb shine while the shine finish in alternatives tends to be more subdued. 


  • Difficult to wash off. As mentioned before, petroleum-based pomade requires multiple washes to get rid of completely. This is a downside if you do not want or like the feeling of pomade residue in your hair for a day or two
  • Potential to trigger an acne breakout. Acne is another problem to be considered.  You may be more prone to breakouts especially if you are not used to petroleum-based pomade or have sensitive skin.
  • Hair looks greasy if used excessively. Ingredients used in petroleum-based pomade might give a greasy look. Additionally, over-application of pomade is common as you may over-apply pomade if the hair is styled on consecutive days. Thus, it is important to note that there is no need to apply a large amount of pomade on the following day since there is still a pomade residue in your hair.

Water-based Pomade 


  • Easy to wash out. The main benefit of using a water-based pomade over a petroleum-based pomade is that it can be easily washed off with water once you are done for the day. 
  • Great holding power. Like petroleum-based pomades, water-based pomades offer a variety of options ranging in hold and finish. 
  • It does not make hair greasy. Water-based pomade does not contain waxy material thus hair does not feel oily.
  • Less prone to cause acne. The occurrence of acne breakouts are reduced as the level of greasiness is not as prominent as compared to petroleum-based pomade.


  • Less shine than petroleum-based pomades. Because of the different ingredients used, water-based pomade is not as shiny as compared to petroleum-based pomade and has a matte finish.
  • Expensive. Because of their more complex formulations and the presence of more chemicals, water-based pomades are more expensive petroleum-based pomades. Prices do differ from brand to brand, but petroleum-based pomades are set at a more affordable price.

Tips for application

With everything said, proper application for pomade or hair wax should be followed to ensure maximum effectiveness of the product in styling your hair. And allow for an easier rinse off later. 


Source for Petroleum-Based Pomade: https://whiskeyinkandlace.com/blogs/whiskeynotes/looking-fresh-how-to-use-pomade

Here are the steps for pomade:

1) Coin-sized blob on to the finger. Always start small as you can always add but never remove.

2) Warm it up by rubbing between your fingers.

3) Massage pomade all over hair, root to tip, left to right and front to back.

4) Blow-dry if you need the extra volume.

And here are the steps for hair wax:

1) Coin-sized blob on to the finger. Always start small as you can always add but never remove.

2) Rub hands and spread hair wax evenly

3) Massage hair wax all over hair, root to tip, left to right and front to back.

4) To get a detailed look, pinch loose bunches of hair together.

Go ahead and play with your hair! Hairstyling products give you the flexibility to try on different hairstyles from the slick pompadour to the wild-looking mohawk.


With all the factors listed, I hope you can make your selection! Do comment below on your thought on this matter! Share some of your suggestions too!


Team, E. (2020, April 24). The Pros And Cons of Hair Wax. Retrieved June 24, 2020, from https://hairinstructions.com/the-pros-and-cons-of-hair-wax/

Wax Vs Pomade Vs Clay Vs Gel - Choosing The Right Product For Your Hair. (n.d.). Retrieved June 24, 2020, from https://suavesmith.com/blogs/news/wax-pomade-clay-gel-choosing-the-right-product-for-your-hair

Pomade. (2020, June 18). Retrieved June 24, 2020, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pomade

Hair wax. (2019, October 29). Retrieved June 24, 2020, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hair_wax

Elegance. (n.d.). All You Need To Know About Hair Pomade. Retrieved June 24, 2020, from https://www.elegancegel.com/blog/all-you-need-to-know-about-hair-pomade/

Thepanicroom.com.sg. (1970, September 15). The Difference Between Oil-Based & Water-Based Pomades. Retrieved June 24, 2020, from https://thepanicroom.com.sg/blogs/hair-styling/the-difference-between-oil-based-water-based-pomades

Pod, T. (2018, July 10). What is pomade and why you should buy one? Retrieved June 24, 2020, from https://medium.com/@axhuehuecas/what-is-pomade-and-why-you-should-buy-one-eb131aed5d61

What is hair wax: GATSBY is your only choice of men's hair wax. (n.d.). Retrieved June 24, 2020, from https://www.gatsbyglobal.com/en/technique/abouthairwax/

How To Use Hair Wax. (2018, November 30). Retrieved June 25, 2020, from https://manforhimself.com/grooming/hair/styling/how-to-use-hair-wax/

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Daniel Oon
Daniel Oon is an enthusiastic 21-year-old nursing student living in Singapore. His range of interest varies from gardening to video editing. His passion and insatiable hunger for learning and writing can be seen in his articles. Daniel love writing articles as much as he loves his plants.
You can follow Daniel Oon on his blog (https://dozyr.blogspot.com/)!
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