November 02, 2022

To paraphrase Forrest Gump, a great beard and great hair go together like peas and carrots!

And making both your beard and hair look great requires commitment …and great grooming tools for the job.

While the main thrust of our Rugged Blog is about beard care and grooming, we definitely don’t want to forget about a man’s mane up top. 

When you get a sweet new look from your barber, you want to keep it looking fresh and sharp. But there are so many hair styling products to choose from. It can get mighty confusing, especially when you hit a store and see rows and rows of hair pomades and hair gels almost blurring into each other. Pomades and gels are the most common hair care products you’ll see on the shelves. Because they’re displayed and mixed up together, it’s easy to think that the two products are essentially the same. But they’re not. Far from it.

Here we’ll look into the differences between hair pomade and hair gel. We’ll examine their advantages and disadvantages. And we’ll discuss the different looks, textures and finishes each product can create.

What is Pomade?

Hair pomade is a thick styling product for holding your hairstyle in place without making it rigid or crunchy. Pomade provides firm hold but with flexibility (so you can restyle after applying) - along with volume and a more natural texture. It’s also versatile enough to use for a wide variety of hairstyles. 

You should know, there are two main kinds of hair pomade…

1. Water-based pomade:
  • Washes out easily.
  • Feels good to the touch in your hair.
  • Flake-free texture.
  • Can maintain a more natural matte finish on dry hair - or add shine and sheen to damp hair.
  • A quality pomade is alcohol-free, so it won’t irritate your scalp.
2. Oil-based pomade:
  • Takes several washes to remove it completely.
  • Provides lots of “wet look” shine.
  • Stays greasy to the touch.
  • It’s a more “old fashioned” product based on pomades used by previous generations, especially “greasers” of the 1950s and 1960s. 

Want to know more about the differences between water based and oil-based pomade? Check out this blog: Oil Based vs Water based Pomade - Which is Better?

What is Hair Gel?

While gel is also a hair styling product that provides firm hold, it differs significantly from pomade in that it dries stiff and “locks” hairs into place. This is great in some cases where immovable all-day hold is required, like spiked styles. But gel does not provide the opportunity to restyle after applying because it dries to a stiff, rigid, even crunchy texture that can sometimes become flaky. Many cheaper gels tend to develop a white crust to them when they dry in the hair.

When applied to wet/damp hair, gel can look glossy and wet, but it will still dry stiff.

Many gels are alcohol-based, which can dry out hair and remove some of its “life”.

Gel usually washes out quite easily with shampoo and water.

How Do You Choose Which Would Be Best for You?

    • Need a firm hold that’s still pliable and flexible? Pomade.
    • Need a super-powerful, immovable hold for your hairdo? Gel. 
    • Want a more natural-looking style? Pomade (water-based).
    • Want a more messy style? Pomade.
    • Want a “wet” or shiny look? Pomade or gel applied to damp hair.
    • Want a drier or matte finish? Pomade (water-based) applied to dry hair.
    • Want to avoid dry and/or irritated scalp? Pomade.
    • Want to be able to wash product out easily? Water-based pomade or gel.
    • Want a pompadour look? Pomade.
    • Got curly or thick hair and want it to stay looking healthy and movable? Pomade.
    • Want moisturizing properties to keep your hair healthy? Pomade.
    • Want to style the product with a hairdryer? Pomade.
    • Got fine or thin hair? Pomade. It’s way more nourishing with essential conditioning ingredients. It won’t dry your hair out or make it brittle like gel.

How To Apply Hair Pomade

Pomade is dead easy to apply.

Scoop out a small amount, like maybe a dime-size dollop, but no more than a quarter-size. 

Warm and soften it by rubbing it across your hands.

Work it into hair that’s dry or damp. For a natural kind of look, apply it to dry hair. For a shinier, “wetter” look, apply it to damp hair.

Style with your fingers or your brush and hairdryer until you achieve the look you want.

And that’s it. Like we said, dead easy!

How to Apply Gel

Pretty much the same as above.

And that pretty much covers the differences between hair pomade and hair gel. We make no secret of the fact that we favor water-based pomade in a big way. It’s extremely versatile and wins in just about every head-to-head matchup with gel. The only thing it doesn’t do is set hard and immoveable, but there aren’t too many hairstyles that require that. Otherwise, water-based pomade is healthier for your hair and scalp, leaves no flakes, and provides you with the opportunity to restyle all day long. And then it washes away easily.

Ultimately, the choice is yours, bro. We just hope you’ll be as discerning and wise with your hair products as you are with your beard care products. As a famous advertising campaign has said… because you’re worth it!

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