Pomade: How To Use And Style Your Hair The Right Way

August 16, 2021
by Dan Skewes

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Pom-Aid For The Product Impaired

If there’s one hair product in the dudes’ arsenal you should know how to use; it’s pomade.

Without it, Bruno Mars would have no pomp in his pompadour. Mad Men’s Don Draper would devolve from a sophisticated gent who likes a cocktail to a disheveled looking drunk. Brad Pitt would probably look homeless.

And although pomade has been around for eons, nobody is born knowing how to use it. So if you’re going to achieve the style you want, best take a few tips from the experts.

A quick lesson may save your hair from turning into an oil slick. Or keep your spikes from drooping.

I mean, nobody wants a droopy spike, do they?

So let’s get down to business. First, we’ll connect you with the right pomade for your hair type. Later, we’ll tell you how to use it.

Old School Pomade vs. New School Pomade

man putting pomade in his hair

Traditional pomades are oil-based, have a stronger hold, and give a shinier look to your hair. And while your slick back will last through a marathon, this type of pomade will not wash out with just water. You’re going to have to get in there and give your hair a serious scrubbing with serious shampoo to get it out.

On a daily basis, that kind of treatment can dry your hair out. And if you don’t get it all out, you’ll end up with product buildup. And you know who doesn’t like product buildup? Your hair follicles!

Clogged follicles may, in fact, stop producing hair after a while. Scary, I know. But you needed to know. So it may be best to save oil-based pomade for those days when you absolutely need a strong hold.

Like when you’re getting married in a hurricane.

That being said, the current trend is toward water-based pomade. The hold is a little less strong, but it’s generally enough to get you through the day. Plus, it’s flexible and easily washes out with water.

Should You Go Matte Pomade or Sheen Pomade?

Matte pomades have less shine, while Sheen pomades will give your hair (you guessed it) more shine. You can choose between them depending on the look you’re going for.

A couple of tips, though:

If your hair gets greasy quickly, you may want to choose a matte pomade. Unless you’re going for the John Travolta in Grease look. Then go right ahead.

Sheen pomades tend to be good for dry hair and will help it look less dull.

Somewhere in between? You can mix the two.

It’s okay to go bi-pomade.

Light, Medium or Strong Hold - Wrestling With Choice

Pomades come in different strengths. Picking the right one is crucial to giving you the hold you want without weighing your style down. It all depends on what type of hair you have.

If you have thick hair, first give thanks to your follicles. Then go with a medium to strong hold.

Finer hair is best with a light hold. You don’t want it to look limp. Nooooo.

Is your hair medium? Guess what? They made one just for you. It’s called medium hold.

Related: The Top 11 Colognes For Men [That Endure The Test Of Time]

Pomade. Let’s Get It On.

Variety of pomade products
Matosh / Shutterstock.com

Now that you have the right pomade let’s get it into your hair. Here’s the step by step breakdown:

  1. Pomade works best in clean hair. So be sure to suds up before you style.
  2. Leave your hair very slightly damp. A lot of pomades are waxy, and that small bit of water you leave in your hair will help activate the product. Translation: It’s just easier to put in, dude.
  3. Now put a small amount, we’re talking dime-sized, into your palms. With pomade, less is more. Once it’s on your head, you’re committed, bro. You can add more later if you need it. If your pomade is super hard, point a blow dryer at that mother. It’ll warm up in no time, and you can go in for the (dime-sized) scoop.
  4. Now we’re going to activate the pomade. Translation: rub your palms together. Make sure it gets all over your palms and fingers, and there are no clumps left. This is also called emulsifying the product. In case you want to bust that term out at your next cocktail party.
  5. Now, this is an important step. Pros always put their pomade in starting from the back of the head (where your hair is thickest) to the front of the head (where it is less thick.)  So unless the back of your hair is close-shaven, remember: back to front. Pulling all of your hair forward as you work the product through. You’re going to want to pull your hands through your hair, starting near the root. But not at the scalp. You want to avoid getting pomade on your scalp, so your hair doesn’t look greasy.
  6. Now that you have all of your hair pulled forward (a la Cousin It from the Adams Family), you can put a tiny bit more pomade in your hands and emulsify it. Because you know what emulsify means now. And if you don’t, pay closer freaking attention! Now take this warmed up pomade and work it through your hair from the front towards the back. This is called a Topper.  If your hair is kind of thin, skip the extra pomade on this step and just run your hands through your hair as you pull it back and work the product through.

And Now The Fun Part: Let’s Play

Okay, now you have the right amount of pomade in your hair — time to play.

If you want a slicked-back look, you can use a comb to pull it all your hair towards the back of your head. Look at you all sleek and dapper now.

Want it, spikey? Use your thumb and forefinger to pull up small bits of hair into a point. You can always add a tiny bit more of pomade to the tips if necessary. But go easy. Too much and your spikes will punk out.

You can also do the side comb-over. You just have to figure out if you’re a righty or a lefty.

Faux Hawk? Push your hair up from both sides towards the middle. Ooooh, dangerous.

Going for Bed Head? Hard to go wrong here. Just get in there and mess around until your hair has that I’m too sexy for this pomade vibe.

For a pompadour, you’ll need a wide-tooth comb to pull it up and shape it. This is a true test and may take time to master. But hang in there, and one day you’ll make Elvis proud.

One more tip: to hold your style better, you can give your hair a shot of cold air with your blow dryer on a LOW setting. Let’s not destroy your hair sculpture, you budding artist.

Ready. Set. Style.

Well, there you are — time to score some pomade and get your hair under control. We’re sure with this handy guide; you’ll be turning heads in no time — nothing like a little pomade to pump up your hair and your self-esteem.

Now get styling!

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