What is pomade?

Hey guys. I have gotten a lot of emails and messages regarding this topic so I figured I would make a whole post about it for everyone. This is a pretty talked about topic on Addicted to Pomade and other Facebook groups as well as face to face conversations. Sometimes people can get pretty heated over it too! Rest assured I won’t be getting heated in this post. All I am going to do is list some facts, research notes I have acquired in the process, and my personal opinion on the things we are talking about today. So, what is pomade? What is a water based? What is a vegan pomade? And what are the differences between them? Well that’s what we are here to find out. After getting countless emails on the subjects I decided I had to make this post. I mean I know the differences but not everyone does so I felt the need to help y’all out. I will also put a link to this post in my FAQ page once I get it up and going. Let’s dive in shall we!

Here’s the different definitions I’ve found of the word “Pomade” and its origins.

Wikipedia says that pomade is “-a greasy and waxy substance that is used to style hair. Pomade makes hair look slick, neat and shiny. Unlike hair spray and hair gel, pomade does not dry and often takes several washes to remove. It can easily be removed using a high-detergent shampoo or other de-greasers such as dishwashing liquid and/ or using olive oil or oily shampoo and rinsing with warm water.”

Webster’s and Dictionary.com said pomade is “-a scented ointment, especially one used for the scalp or for dressing the hair.”

I also looked up the definition of pomade in my encyclopedia and it said pretty much the same thing Wikipedia did.

The origin of the word pomade is actually French, their word pommade, meaning “an ointment” came from the Latin pomum (fruit, apple) via the Italian words pomata from pomo, meaning “apple”, because the original recipe contained mashed up apples in it. I bet their hair was a hot mess back in the day! Apples are sticky as all get out! Now it’s not know for sure what all was used back then in the said “ointment” they made, but I would imagine oils and maybe even beeswax. I did some research on ancient “hair dressings” and most of the romans and greeks used perfumed oils to dress and condition their hair. Egyptians also used oils and sometimes mud in the hair of the living. In their dead they would use oils and then coat all the hair with fat to seal the oils in for the afterlife. So I would imagine when they started making “pommade” they would have put oils in them as well.

Here is a little history on “Pomade” for you guys.

In the early 19th century bear fat was a common pomade ingredient, but by the early 20th century petroleum jelly, beeswax, and lard were more commonly used. I don’t think I would ever put lard in one of my pomades, but I do remember my great grandma telling me that her father would use that with his boars hair brushes to straighten his hair and make it shiny.

Pomades used to be a lot more popular than they are today, although they have made somewhat of a comeback especially with the creation of and market for water bases and other washable products. Pomades are mainly associated with the slick men’s hairstyles of the early to middle 20th century. Other more modern hairstyles involving the use of pomade include the Ducktail, Pompadour, and Quiff. Sometimes nowadays kids use them for wedges, mohawks and other hairdo’s similar to those.

Here are some examples of very popular pomades that have been around since the early 1900’s. Royal Crown Hair Dressing, originating in 1936 and is owned by J Strickland Co. Murray’s Superior Pomade, originating in 1924. Dixie Peach Hair Pomade was a popular pomade in the USA from World War II through the 1960s. Black and White, first came on the market in 1922 and has been used ever since, because it’s that awesome(buy a tub soon!). The oldest company that I know of that is still around and being used is Morgan’s Pomade which originated in 1873! Yeah its that old, and they are still making pomade from what I have seen.

Above I mentioned that there has been a recent market for water bases and other washable products. From what I have researched the reason for their invention is people not wanting greasy hair and the effects of having greasy hair. They wanted heavier hold, but something that wouldn’t leave their hands, clothes, pillow case and hair greasy. Enter the hair spray and hair gel. Now we won’t be talking much about those as they don’t pertain to this post. I will refer back to gel though.

So what is a water based you ask? Well there is no definition of the words anywhere I could find so I will just have to do my best to define it, some people also refer to them as “ringing gels” by the way. Water bases are thickened gels that allow you to style your hair like you would with a pomade and have similar holding effects to pomade, but that harden unlike pomade. They generally leave your hair with a matte finish unlike most pomades that have shine to them and are washable with just water.

Now most of the current water bases on the market, ie Layrite, Cool Grease, Suavecito, etc etc have only been created in the past decade. Layrite is the oldest I could find having been founded in 2001. All of these companies have taken older stiffened/ringing gel formulas from the 80’s/90’s and made them their own. My mom and her friends used to use Redken’s Water Wax and other salon products like that along with hair spray for their “big hair” days. I tried the Redken water wax back in like ’96 and it was basically the forerunner to the current water bases out there. By the way they still make that stuff, I saw it the other day and was taken back to my middle school days when I used it. More and more of these companies are popping up due to the popularity of these products. Murray’s being one of the most recent ones to hit the market. They put out their “Edgewax” earlier this year. However they don’t call it a pomade like Suavecito, Layrite, Shiner Gold, Grant’s, and Uppercut do, they call it a “premium gel.” Why is that you ask? Well because it is in fact a gel not a pomade, so are all the other ones out there. And being as Murray’s has been around for 89 years making hair care products, I think they know what they’re talking about. Why do the others refer to them as “pomade” and not gel then? Simple. Marketing. If you were creating a product that styles hair similar to the way a pomade does and wanted pomade users to use it you wouldn’t call it gel. What do most of us think when we hear gel? DEP, La Looks, that big tub of soft goo that you buy at walmart. Those gels are the most common among the general public. So what’s the difference between those and the water bases out on the market? Well in terms of chemical make up, not too much. They both have water as the main ingredient as well as other common ingredients like, propylene glycol, polysorbate-20, hydrogenated castor oil, methlyparaben, propylparaben, dmdm, hydatoin, fragrance and color. There are only two or three ingredients that differ from gel to gel and gel to water based. So essentially water based “pomades” are actually gels not pomades at all. However, there are a couple water bases out there that have real wax, lanolin, and essential oils in them and still wash out with just water. The most common one is Layrite’s Super Shine, so that one is actually a water based pomade in my opinion.

Now on to vegan pomades. These are relatively new as well with the growing popularity of veganism. So what is a vegan pomade exactly and what makes it vegan? Well that I had a little bit of a hard time with because vegans have different rules as to what they can use person to person. I will do my best to distinguish what separates regular pomades from vegan pomades and both from all natural pomades for you guys.

Vegan pomades generally contain nothing that is chemical, coming from animals or from petroleum. They mainly are made up of soy wax, castorlatum, and essential oils. Soy wax is a derivative of soy bean oil. Castorlatum is an all-vegetable substitute for petrolatum/petroleum jelly. Its made from castor oil, which comes from castor beans. Essential oils are oils that come from directly from plants, often they are distilled to be made. Vegans generally only use things that come from plants or the earth. However, a few that I know are ok with using pomades that contain petrolatum. But the general consensus from the vegans I have asked is, if a pomade contains petrolatum, lanolin, beeswax, paraffin wax, or microcrystalline wax it is not a vegan pomade. But if you’re not a vegan it probably doesn’t matter to you what’s in it. If you are a vegan you know what you can and cannot use, just read the ingredient list and see what’s up with it. As far as all natural pomades those mainly consist of things that are naturally found, ie no chemicals or chemically enhanced ingredients.

I think I have covered everything and hopefully I did so in an unbiased way. If you guys still have any questions or comments, feel free. Thanks for reading!




8 comments on “What is pomade?

  1. NOAM says:

    thanks, I read it and I knew pretty much everything

    • jchmotox57 says:

      Thanks Ken I appreciate that.


      • ken sadko says:

        kind of interesting about the macassar oils, not sure i am familiar with edwardian or victorian cuts for men…i know there was the classical part in the center, but were their any cuts resembling a pomp in those days….glad pomades are making a come back its really a good product for a sharp looking style for men. Another thing i noticed is shaved side parts for a clean parted line..they really work!

  2. vincent says:

    Good review. But I think you should have put the combability of “water based” pomade compared to gel. We use it because there is a difference and that is; we can still comb it, right? I find that to be a big difference. No matter the similaritites. Love this blog though!

    • jchmotox57 says:

      Hey Vincent,

      Thanks for the reply. I kind of put the comparison in there by listing the most popular types of soft gels and explaining that water bases are stiffened gels. They have never recombed for me. All of them, save for one or two, harden up just like gel does. You can recomb them if you wet your hair first, but you can do the same with soft gel as well. If you give me a more specific comparison you’d like to see in the post I can update it if it works well and flows with the post though. Thanks for the kind words about the blog, I’m glad you like it man!!

      Take care,


  3. Tom says:

    Do you know about macassar oil and antimacassars? This is indirectly related to pomade itself, but I still find it interesting. Macassar oil was the most common substance to use in the hair in Edwardian and Victorian times. It was called macassar oil because it was made from ingredients found in Macassar, Indonesia. Ylang-ylang oil (the y is pronounced like the i in “it”) was the main ingredient used to perfume it. Ylang-ylang oil can still be found in essential oil stores. It’s very flowery with vanilla overtones and some of it comes from Indonesia. It’s strong smelling, but pretty. Antimacassars were used to protect furniture from getting the macassar on it as it would gradually ruin it from the oils and the scent.

  4. GestaltZe says:

    Some vegans (and some nonvegans) avoid non-natural ingredients because of perceived health risks. However, this is unnassociated ajth veganism itself. Vegan simply means to avoid all animal products: flesh, dairy, eggs, honey/beeswax/other insect ingredients.
    It also means to avoid products tested on animals. Many products have vegan ingredients, but have been tested on animals- therefore they aren’t vegan.

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