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Pomade vs Wax

Pomade vs Wax

A Completely Unbiased Look at What Makes Pomade Superior

With so many styling products out there, it can be difficult to know what’s best for the style you want to achieve or if there’s even a difference. Pomade and wax are two such products. They’re similar, but perform best for different styles and have different effects on your hair, so it’s important to consider what you want out of your styling product before making a choice.


Both wax and water-based pomades have a heavy beeswax component that gives them their basic structure and hold. Both are applied by working a small amount between the palms to warm it up and applying it gradually to the hair, building up as needed. The only difference is that wax should always be applied to completely dry hair whereas pomade can be applied to hair with varying levels of wetness, depending on the shine and hold you want to achieve.


In addition to beeswax, hair styling wax is typically made with candelilla wax, carnauba wax, castor wax, emulsifying wax, Japan wax, paraffin wax, and lanolin. The lanolin (a fatty substance found on sheep’s wool) makes the wax thinner and easier to apply but dries down to a matte finish that can’t be restyled after a few hours.


Wax Benefits

  • Flexible until dry
  • Works on a variety of hair types
  • Matte
  • Works for spiky and stiff styles


Wax Drawbacks

  • Weak hold
  • Not flexible once dry
  • No natural shine
  • Takes more time to style
  • Can feel sticky
  • Difficult or impossible to wash out



There are two types of pomade: oil-based and water-based. We’re going to focus on water-based pomades for two reasons. First, because it’s more similar to wax than oil-based pomade and could therefore use a bit of differentiation. Second, because we recommend staying away from oil-based pomades anyway. They can cause buildup and clog follicles, leading to hair thinning and loss. Not a good look.

While the original, oil-based pomades of the ’30s created the classic, high-shine “greaser” look that would stay slick and malleable all day, today’s water-based pomades offer more control with less grease and can even dry to a structured finish.


Pomade Benefits

  • Lasting flexibility
  • More resistant to sweat and humidity
  • Strong hold
  • Adjustable shine
  • Nourishing composition
  • Washes out with water

Pomade Drawbacks

  • Petroleum-based pomades can cause skin and hair issues
  • Doesn’t work well for spiky or stiff styles


Hybrid (Operator Pomade)

There are also products that are formulated to provide the best of both a wax and a pomade. Our Operator Pomade is designed to combine the high-strength hold of a wax with the flexibility of a pomade. It can be applied to dry, damp, or wet hair, depending on the level of shine you’re going for. It has a totally matte finish when applied to dry hair and will remain malleable all day. The best part is it rinses clean with just water.


Operator Benefits

  • High hold
  • Flexibility/malleability
  • Style and hair type versatility
  • Adjustable shine
  • Nourishing composition
  • Washes out with water

Operator Drawbacks

  • We’ll let you know if we find any.


What’s best for your style?

There’s no right answer here. It just comes down to how you want to style your hair. You probably already have a product in mind after reading the pros and cons. If you want a flexible style with a strong hold and a natural shine like a dapper pompadour, you should probably check out a nourishing pomade. If you’re more into a matte spiked look that sets in a couple of hours, wax might be better for you. If you need a strong hold that’s still flexible, you should check out Operator Pomade. However, if you have priorities other than your style, you might want to consider the following comparison before making a choice.

What’s best for your hair?

When it comes to caring for your hair and maintaining the fullest possible growth, there’s no contest. A nourishing, water-based pomade that can be washed out frequently is going to encourage much better growth than a wax that suffocates the hair and scalp, clogs follicles, and is difficult to remove. If your primary goal is to prolong the life and lusciousness of your hair, pomade is your best bet. This category includes the hybrid Operator Pomade, which is water-based and can be rinsed clean.

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